Question: What is the Hindu belief on reincarnation? How do hindus prepare for death? What do they believe happens after they die?

Thank you for writing with your question. Hindus believe in the eternality of the soul. In the Gita, Lord Krishna states:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah shashvato ‘yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sharire

“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”

The fundamental belief in Hinduism is that we are not our external bodies. Just as our clothes cover our body, in the same way the body covers the eternal soul. At the time of death the soul goes from one body to the next based on one’s actions in life and one’s consciousness at the time of death. Those situated in low ignorant consciousness go down to lower species of life; and those situated in higher spiritual consciousness go up to higher species of life. But those who are able to fix their mind on the Lord at the time of death return to His supreme abode, becoming free from the cycle of reincarnation.

Hindus prepare for their death by focusing their mind and actions on the Supreme Lord. It is believed that if one can remember the Lord at the time of death one will attain liberation. The scriptures state “ante narayana smritih”. The perfection of life is to remember the Lord at the time of death.

In order to remember the Lord, Hindu’s will surround themselves with devotional activities, such as recital of the scriptures, chanting of the Lord’s names, etc. In addition to this, Hindu’s will keep the sacred ganga (Ganges) water nearby so that they can drink it as they are dying. This sacred water is considered spiritual, and it is believed that it will protect us at the time of death.

After death, the dead body is cremated and the ashes are dispersed in the sacred Ganges river. By cremating the body, we hope to break any attachment the departed soul may have for that body, and by putting the ashes in the Ganges we hope to deliver them from any impious destination.