Condt. From: Isn't our personality beginningless?
Bhagavan, indeed, discouraged preoccupation with such questions since they merely distract one from the real task of realising the Self here and now.
Devotee (D).: They say that we have the choice of enjoying merit or demerit after our death, that it depends on our choice which comes. Is that so?
Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi (B): Why raise questions of what happens after death? Why ask whether you were born, whether you are reaping the fruits of your past karma, and so on? You will not raise such questions in a little while when you fall asleep. Why? Are you a different person now from the one you are when asleep? No, you are not. Find out why such questions do not occur to you when you are asleep.
On occasion, however, Bhagavan did admit of a lower, contingent point of view for those who could not hold to the doctrine of pure non-dualism.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna first says to Arjuna in Chapter II, that no one was born and then in Chapter IV, 'there have been numerous incarnations both of you and me. I know them but you do not.' Which of these two statements is true? The teaching varies according to the understanding of the listener. When Arjuna said that he would not fight against his relatives and elders in order to kill them and gain the kingdom, Sri Krishna said: 'Not that these, you or I, were not before, are not now, nor will be hereafter. None was born, none has died, nor will it be so hereafter'. He further developed this theme, saying that he had given instructions to the Sun and through him to Ikshvaku; and Arjuna queried how that could be, since he had been born only a few years back, while they lived ages ago. Then Sri Krishna saw his point of view and said: 'Yes, there
have been many incarnations of me and you. I know them all but you do not.'
Such statements appear contradictory, but they are true according to the viewpoint of the questioner. Christ also said "Before Abraham was, I am."
Just as in dreams, you wake up after several new experiences, so after death another body is found.
Just as rivers lose their individuality when they discharge their waters into the ocean, and yet the waters evaporate and return as rain on the hills and back again through the rivers to the ocean, so also individuals lose their individuality when they go to sleep but return again according to their previous innate tendencies. Similarly, in death also, being is not lost.
D.: How can that be?
B.: See how a tree grows again when its branches are cut off. So long as the life source is not destroyed, it will grow. Similarly, latent potentialities withdraw into the heart at death but do not perish. That is how beings are re-born.
Nevertheless, from the higher viewpoint he would say:
In truth there is neither seed nor tree, there is only Being.
Source: Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own words by Arthur Osborne, Chapter Three