|"in the joy of others lies our own" -- Guru Swamishri|
Everything you are is expressed in everything you do. We are merely the product of history and a series of unfortunate decisions.
As much as it may feel like it, we are not isolated and walled off from the universe and people around us. In fact we exist in a continuum with the rest of the world, everything we are - all of our unconscious mind - is continually shaped and formed by our experiences and interactions. Similarly everything we do shapes and influences the world and people around us.
Even our physical being, down to our genetics, is the product of external reality - ultimately the earth and then the wider universe is the source of who we are. Our genetic makeup and our psyche is shaped completely (at least initially) by everyone who has come before. We are not self made.
Psychological and physical reality are therefore contiguous, since psychological reality was formed out of the earth. Humanity was shaped incrementally, and chaotically, via the process of evolution. (Ultimately my argument will be that this implies - or at least permits - that psychological reality pre-existed humanity. Or to say it another way, psychological reality (including our shared consensual reality) emerged alongside humanity out of the chaotic potential that already existed. But this must remain an aside for now.)
So everything we are is a product of everything else. It therefore doesn't seem so strange to suggest that who we are persists beyond the end of our physical being. Everything we are has come from, and continually existed in continuum with, everything else. The remaining question being: does personal agency persist beyond death? I'm sure many of you have very strong opinions as to the answer to that question. Interestingly Buddhism teaches reincarnation, but *also* teaches that the sense of individual self is actually an illusion - an artefact of ego trying to understand itself. I've never managed to reconcile those teachings.
Everything, and everyone, that has come before exists in part in us - having made us - and we in turn, through what we do, exist in everything else.
As cheesy as it may be I really enjoy the way that the movie Avatar portrays our connection to those who came before us and the communal unconscious. Both Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett explore this theme in interesting ways: Iain Banks in "Feersum Endjinn" (with a Jungian influence) and Terry Pratchett, If I Recall Correctly, in "Thief of Time" (more Taoist).
My own personal musing reconciles Christian teachings with my own instinct that we ultimately judge ourselves, that God does not condemn us. When illusion is stripped away and we are confronted with the reality of who we are, and what we've done, we have two choices. We can either run, until we are completely alone. This is hell. Or we can face who we are, accept what we've done, but recognise love. If we know love (and if love knows us), if we are able to love despite who we are, then we can face ourselves. This is a truth as applicable to life as it may be to death, and I know the reality of hell because I've lived there.
Coming face to face with perfect love is what strips away all illusion, seeing reality as it really is. This is how God can be judge of all things, yet not condemn us, we condemn ourselves.
As for heaven, the teaching of The Christ on the kingdom of heaven, teachings which are so potent, is that we can do it now.
"A huge part of personal growth is to stop blaming other people for how you feel and who you are. No matter how hard that is."