I am often asked whether there is life after death. Certainly there is. There is also death after life, and life before death, and death before life. It goes on forever. There is just no stopping it.
You will live forever, and die forever. In fact, you already have.
As for Heaven and Hell, they are right here on Earth, and it is up to each of you in which one you choose to reside. To put it simply, Heaven is living in your hopes and Hell is living in your fears. In the traditional image, where hell is down and heaven is up, one escapes from hell by digging a hole in the ceiling. Though in an age of downers and uppers down and up no longer make sense, it is still possible to think of in and out. Think of Hell as in and heaven as out. To get out of hell you expand your soul until it is pushing on all the walls from the inside all the way around. If you just maintain a steady pressure, your soul will gradually filter out into limitless heaven beyond.
One problem with the notion of Heaven and Hell, however, is that, although they are exact opposites, an astonishing number of people seem to be confused about which is which. For example, all over the United States on this very evening, commencement speakers are standing before audiences not greatly unlike yourselves, describing Hell as if they were talking about Heaven.
Their speakers are saying things such as, “Graduating Seniors, you have reached the golden threshold of maturity; it is time now to go out into the world and take up the challenge of life, time to face your hallowed responsibility.” And if that isn’t one Hell of a note, it’s certainly one note of Hell.
Growing up is a trap.
As for responsibility, I am forced to ask, “Responsibility to what?”
To our fellow humans? Two weeks ago, the newspapers reported that a federal court had ruled that when a person’s brain stops functioning, that person is legally dead, even though his or her heart may continue to beat. That means that 80% of the population of the Earth is legally dead. Must we be responsible to corpses?
No, you have no responsibility except to be yourself to the fullest limit of yourself, and to find out who you are. Or, perhaps I should say, to remember who you are.
Because deep down in the secret velvet of your heart, far beyond your name and your address, each of you knows who you really are. And that being who is the 'true you' cannot help but behave graciously to all other beings - because it is all other beings.
Commencement Speech excerpt