As one performs their dharma, they earn karma, which is the cause and effect aspect of Hinduism. Karma explains good actions bring good results, and by obeying this principle and dharma, one can experience rebirth into a "better" life that puts one in a stronger position to achieve moksha. The ultimate goal for any Hindu soul is to achieve moksha, which is the liberation from samsara, the cycle of life and death (Chidester: 85). The critical aspect of Hinduism is realizing when the body dies, the Self (Atman) does not die. The Self is carried from life to life, through reincarnation, and the secret to death is to realize the Supreme Self hidden in the heart through meditation and grace (Kramer: 30). Realizing Self in Hindu customs is required to achieve moksha, and be liberated from the endless round of birth, death, and rebirth of samsara. Only when the Self is realized can one truly achieve death.
The Buddhist concept of death is similar to Hinduism with respect to the idea of liberation. In Buddhism, samsara refers to the continuous flow of life and exposure to suffering. Buddhist understanding of death explains that all life is vulnerable to suffering, everything is constantly changing, what is born also dies, there is no fixed identity of Self that dies, and as long as one is consumed by grief one can not be released from the fear of death (Kramer: 44). Unlike Hinduism, Buddhists do not strive to achieve liberation in the form of moksha, but rather liberation by achieving nirvana through enlightenment. Nirvana is described as the "deathless place" but it is not a state, place, idea, dream, or future place -- it is a personal achievement that occurs as one no longer has desire or attachment, and life's illusions and ignorance are gone (Kramer: 53). The greatest difference between Buddhism and Hinduism is understanding of Self. Buddhists believe there is no Self to realize, there is an Awakening (anatta) in which a person is enlightened and removed from the ignorance associate with desires and attachment (Kramer: 53). This critical difference between the religions was offered by Buddha, and the teachings of Buddha and the sacred Veda texts in Hinduism account for the varying perspectives.
Like all world religions, Hinduism and Buddhism offer beliefs on death and its meaning. Both belief systems explore ideas of suffering and continuous life cycles. Both belief systems also support a form of liberation: Hindus are liberated from samsara and achieve moksha, and Buddhists are liberated from samsara and experience nirvana. The greatest difference between the religions is the sense of Self, whereas Hindus must realize the Supreme Self to achieve moksha, and Buddhists believe there is no Self, only an Awakening. Each of the belief systems offer their understanding of death based on either sacred texts or teachings, and live their lives accordingly to honor these perspectives.
All religions present attitudes or perspectives regarding death and the afterlife. One of the major concepts stemming from several dominate world religions is the idea of heaven and hell. Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim religions each offer ideas, perspectives, and beliefs regarding heaven and hell. Each of the three religions holds fundamental beliefs about the afterlife. The Jewish faith does not explore the afterlife to the same depths of Christianity and Islam, but the Torah focuses on the purpose of life on earth and explain the eternal destination for the righteous is heaven, while the unrighteous is gehinnom (hell). Christians explain heaven to be a place where followers experience eternal life in the likeness of the Creator (Kramer: 148). From the Muslim perspective, entering heaven requires a journey for the soul, and the ultimately goal for each person is to reach a vision of God (Kramer: 160). Christian and Muslim beliefs share many parallels, and both find their roots in Judaism; each religion consequently shares common themes regarding heaven, hell, and the afterlife.
The Hebrew perspective on heaven and hell are less defined in the Torah in comparison to the Christian and Muslim influences. When a person of Jewish faith dies and ascends to heaven for judgment, their soul is exposed to two viewings of their life: The life the way it was lived, and the way the life could have been lived. Based on their judgment in accordance with God's commandments, the soul is allowed in heaven or is doomed to gehinnom (hell) (Kramer: 135). Heaven is regarded as a place where the Jewish soul experiences the most pleasure and closeness to God.
Heaven and hell are two concepts greatly explored in Christian texts, especially in the New Testament of the Bible. In the Catholic denomination of Christianity there are distinctions made between heaven, hell, and purgatory. Purgatory is viewed as a process in which one's soul is purified from venial sins prior to Christ's second coming (Kramer: 147). The idea of heaven as offered by the New Testament explains heaven as an eternal existence as an immortal entity created in the likeness of the Creator (Kramer: 148). When a person of Christian faith dies, they experience a transformation of self. The individual is no longer "who they were" but are reborn into an image of Christ, and therefore will achieve eternal life in heaven (Kramer: 148).
In the Muslim faith, death also marks a transition from this world to eternity (Kramer: 160). The Qur'an explains there is a barrier (barzakh) that separates the land of the living from those who have already died, and the deceased therefore have no way to return to earth or be reincarnated (Kramer: 160). This is when the soul enters a waiting period for the day of resurrection and judgment, and the soul begins a journey towards heaven. The goal of the journey is for the soul to achieve a vision of god, and once the vision is received, the soul returns to the grave to wait for judgment (Kramer: 160). On judgment day, Muslims will be judged according to the good and bad entries that are recorded into heavenly records. Those who are nonbelievers will be chained together, and cast into a roaring flame (Kramer: 161). Those who performed good deeds with earn paradise and live forever (Kramer: 161).
Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim faiths each present views on the afterlife, heaven, and hell. There is significant overlap between the three belief systems as they generally support the concept of hell for "bad" people and a place of heaven for "good" people. Although Hebrew beliefs on heaven and hell and less developed in their texts, Christianity and Islam have foundations set in Judaism practice. Christian followers are expected to have a transformation of sorts as they are "reborn" into an image of the Creator before experiencing eternal life in heaven. Muslim souls experience a journey while awaiting judgment and a good life will be rewarded with immortality in paradise. The three religions share common elements regarding heaven and hell as…