“‘There are two states for man–the state in this world, and the state in the next; there is also a third state, the state intermediate between these two, which can be likened to dream. While in the intermediate state, a man experiences both the other states, that in this world and that in the next; and the manner thereof is as follows: When he dies, he lives only in the subtle body, on which are left the impressions of his past deeds, and of these impressions he is aware, illumined as they are by the pure light of the Self. Thus it is that in the intermediate state he experiences the first state, or that of life in the world. Again, while in the intermediate state, he foresees both the evils and the blessings that will yet come to him, as these are determined by his conduct, good and bad, upon the earth, and by the character in which this conduct has resulted. Thus it is that in the intermediate state he experiences the second state, or that of life in the world to come.’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:3:9)
We are either embodied in this world, or disembodied and living in the astral realm. But between the two is the dream state in which we experience both material and astral conditions. For example, we fall off a cliff and experience falling just as we would in the waking state. But when we hit the ground we do not die–it does not even hurt. That is how it is in the astral world. And that is why little children are so fearless and will go right into a life-threatening situation without hesitation–in the astral world it is not threatening at all. It may even be fun.
One of Yogananda’s monastic disciples once explained to a group of people that they should not be impatient with the intense reactions of children to pain and frustration. For in the astral world they get anything they want just by wanting, and they can go anywhere and do anything without pain. So when the situation is different in this world they are terrified and angry. They are also miserable in realizing that they are now in a world in which uncertainty is the only certainty.
A friend of mine was once found by her father sitting in the midst of the floor crying bitterly. (She was two years old at the time.) When he asked her what was wrong, she complained that she could not fly. Luckily, he was a metaphysician, so he explained to her that although she could fly in the world she had come from, in this world people could not fly. “Then it’s a dumb world!” she said. “I agree. So do your best not to come back,” was his counsel.
When we leave our bodies we gain a great deal of understanding. We comprehend the life that has just ended and realize its deeper meanings. We analyze it, actually, and learn from it. Sometimes we have helpers in doing this. So even though we underwent things on earth with complete non-comprehension, now then see clearly their roots and their purpose.
Those who do not know this often ask what good it is for infants and children to reap negative karmas and die young, for they cannot understand. Indeed, in this world they cannot understand, but the moment they are freed from the body they can and do understand. Also, it was their karma to suffer uncomprehendingly. It all works out to perfection, however it seems at the present moment.