How to Pack for the Afterlife: Seven Steps to Eternity

If you’ve ever pondered what to pack for a long trip — and who hasn’t? — you may be wondering how to prepare for your longest and biggest adventure, the transition from this world to the afterlife.

My grandfather used to say, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” 

We all know we can’t bring anything physical along on that ultimate journey — but we do know, without a doubt, that we’ll eventually go. 

RELATED: What Will We Carry Into the Afterlife?

Of all the trips we could potentially take, this one is inevitable. We don’t know when, but we definitely know it will happen and that we won’t be checking or carrying on any baggage. After all, we enter this world without any possessions and leave it the same way — which means we each need to be prepared with all the non-physical character attributes we can muster.

In other words, our consciousness — the one thing we do get to take away from this material world — needs to be packed. With good traits, habits, and virtues. In advance. 

But how? We don’t know what awaits us when we die — so how do we get ready? What do we pack? What inner qualities will we need in the next world?

Since the afterlife remains an eternal mystery, we only have one way of accessing the information we need to answer those questions: the spiritual messengers and prophets who have brought us the Creator’s teachings over time. Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Muhammad, the numerous Indigenous teachers, and most recently Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith — they all gave us sage advice about what we’ll need in the next world. You can find that advice in just about every set of scriptures and holy books.

Helpfully, the Baha’i teachings offer an extensive explanation of what’s necessary for the next life. Multiple passages in the Baha’i writings from the Bab, Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha contain recommendations for the necessities of the next world, including this detailed one from a speech Abdu’l-Baha gave in New York City in 1912:

Therefore, in this world he [man] must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world.

What is he in need of in the Kingdom which transcends the life and limitation of this mortal sphere? That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that eternal life ready for him.

That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore, man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues, or perfections, must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit; in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of everlasting life; it must be attained during this vanishing existence.

Makes sense, right? In the womb we began to develop all of the physical attributes we would ultimately need for our emergence into this sphere of existence — our arms and legs, our eyes and ears, our heart and lungs. In the womb of this material reality, then, we’re each tasked with the development of our spiritual attributes — love, compassion, altruism, intelligence, justice, selflessness, and many more.

Developing those inner characteristics, and the permanent evolution of our consciousness they bring, is our job in this world.

RELATED: How Can Our Identity Survive Into the Afterlife?

Next in this important speech, Abdu’l-Baha identified seven necessary steps we can all take while packing for our eternal existence:

By what means can man acquire these things? How shall he obtain these merciful gifts and powers? First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness. Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal. But if he possesses the knowledge of God, becomes ignited through the fire of the love of God, witnesses the great and mighty signs of the Kingdom, becomes the cause of love among mankind and lives in the utmost state of sanctity and holiness, he shall surely attain to second birth, be baptized by the Holy Spirit and enjoy everlasting existence.

 This is no simple task — getting ready takes a lifetime. But since the journey waits for all of us, and none of us knows our departure time, it’s best to start packing now.

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