Near Death Experience (NDE) is perhaps the closest one can come to take a peek into the vast void beyond life. It is perhaps like the black hole of our mother universe. Worldwide there is a growing awareness about this esoteric experience that has happened to some individuals who were declared clinically dead for a short period of time after which they were resuscitated. The NDE phenomena include a wide range of personal experiences "after death" such as detachment from physical body, floating sensation, extreme fear, absolute security and peace, moving through a tunnel and the presence of a light.
When near-death experiences first surfaced in the 1970s as reported by Raymond Moody, people dismissed these as anecdotal and even as hallucinations. This even led to those who had such "out-of-the-body" experiences to shelve their knowledge of such occurrences for fear of being considered psychotic or "gone cuckoo." Lately these experiences are so widespread across countries and cultures that the possibility of NDE is gradually beginning to sink in and there is a whole body of scholars trying to explore its relevance and significance. The trigger for these experiences may also have been contributed by advancement in cardiac resuscitation techniques, where patients are brought back to life even after their heart has stopped beating for a short spell of time.
AdvertisementAccording to a Dutch study published in The Lancet on Near Death Experiences, a number of conditions can give rise to these experiences. The report says, cardiac arrest in myocardial infarction (or clinical death), shock due to loss of blood after delivery of baby or due to complications during surgical procedures , septic or anaphylactic shock, coma resulting from traumatic brain damage, electrocution, intracerebral hemorrhage or cerebral infarction, attempted suicide, near-drowning or asphyxia, apnea and serious depression are some of the clinical conditions reportedly associated with near death experiences. A 1992 Gallup poll found approximately eight million Americans who claimed to have had a near death experience.
Chennai Friends of IANDS
IANDS (International Association for Near Death Studies) is an international organization that promotes scientific research and education on the various ramifications of near death experiences. In a gesture of cooperation with IANDS, a Friends of IANDS group (FOI) was recently started in Chennai, South India, with fifteen members. This group proposes to function as a Support forum for interacting with IANDS. The objectives of the recently formed group of people interested in exploring near death experiences include:
• Identifying patients with a genuine near death experience
• Discussing the available information with psychologists and medical doctors at each FOI meet
• Sharing the findings with the IANDS in the United States
• Reaching the public through the media to discover more about the prevalence of NDE in India
Seeking to Consolidate Near Death Experiences
Dr. T.C. Gopalakrishnan, Convenor of NDE- Chennai chapter, is a member of the International Association of Near Death Studies, North Carolina, USA, since 2003. He holds a Master's degree from IIT Madras and a doctoral degree from North Carolina State University, USA and was a senior faculty member in both institutions. Dr. T.C. Gopalakrishnan has authored a book, "In Quest of the Deeper Self: Towards Enrichment of Life" and is actively engaged in networking among those who have had near death experiences.
Dr. T. C. Gopalakrishnan conveyed to the FOI group the "out of the body" experiences that occurred twice in Ms. Preethi Muthaiah's life. In 1983, when she was twelve years old and admitted to an army hospital for epileptic seizures, the doctors wrongly diagnosed and medicated her and she was considered to be dead. She said it was like "floating into a tunnel like tube" that reached a dazzling bright light and then she suddenly woke up to find herself on the hospital bed. Twenty years later she once again felt she was taken to a cave-like place with strange people chanting in a strange language before she came back to "life."
The FOI group discussed various near death experiences that they had heard from people who were hesitant to disclose their experience fearing social ostracism. NDEs that had cultural and religious imagery and overtones were discussed and the need to separate the grain from the chaff—the genuine from the delirious, was emphasized.
Towards Redefining Human Existence, Perhaps?
Experts in the field of psychology, parapsychology, psychiatry and hospital medicine are exploring NDE phenomena just as enthusiastically as some others who prefer to adopt a spiritual viewpoint. Those spiritually inclined, cite these experiences as proof for the existence of the soul and afterlife. However skeptics see NDEs as fallout of neurological and chemical phenomena that occur in the brain. In fact there is ongoing research to understand NDEs as emerging from purely physiological and biological mechanisms.
Extensive studies have revealed NDEs leave a lasting impact on those who had them. Typically, the NDE effect is reflected on their personality and outlook in life—notably seen as a paradigm shift from selfish concerns to a desire to relate well with others. The vast majority according to a Gallup poll prefer to keep their "momentary" dash into the unknown to themselves.
The knowledge of what happens after death continues to tease the human mind and even a brief but genuine glimpse, if decoded well, can enlighten all mankind. It can help us understand existence from a newer perspective and direct us towards a closer bonding with the cosmos in all its entirety. Such knowledge is bound to remove the fear of aging and death that lurks in remote corners of the human psyche.
The prospects of learning from near death experience are exciting because the knowledge can address our current lives in the most dramatic way. For that to happen, it is imperative that we evolve a matrix to centrally streamline and process NDE information received from around the world. Parallely we should help people with a NDE readjust to their practical living and not drive them up the wall. FOI, the South Indian Chapter of Near death experiences is a small step in that direction.
Dr. Dianne Morrissey who has experienced near death, recounting this experience says - "If I lived a billion years more, in my body or yours, there's not a single experience on Earth that could ever be as good as being dead. Nothing."