India

More evidence emerged from several studies which were carried out in India. One of these was carried out by Satwant Pasricha and Ian Stevenson (Pasricha and Stevenson 1986). This was based on 16 cases of NDEs in India. The authors observed that experiences were characterized by the meeting with Yamraj, the King of the Dead, or his messengers, called Yamdoots, or 'the man with the book', Chitragupta. Curiously, NDErs were often 'sent back' to life because of a mistake in the identity of the person. An example quoted in their study is that of Vasudev Pandey, who was interviewed in 1975. This boy was considered dead and taken to the cremation ground. At this time, some signs of life aroused the attention of those present and Vasudev was removed to the hospital where doctors tried to bring him back to life. He remained unconscious for three days. When he regained consciousness, he told the following story to those who were present:

Two persons caught me and took me with them. I felt tired after walking some distance; they started to drag me. My feet became useless. Then there was a man sitting up. He looked dreadful and was all black. He was wearing no clothes. He said in a rage [to the attendants who had brought Vasudev] 'I had asked you to bring Vasudev the gardener. Our garden is drying up. You have brought Vasudev the student.'

(Pasricha and Stevenson 1986: 166)

The day after, his gardener, who was also called Vasudev, who was present when Vasudev told his NDE, died.2

Once again, the content of an Indian NDE differs from those reported in Western societies where NDErs are not usually able to give a reason for their recovery and if they do so, they are more likely to say that they were 'sent back' because deceased relatives or friends told them that their 'time has not yet come'. A different interpretation of the phenomenon has been given by Susan Blackmore who placed an advertisement in The Times of India on 2 November 1991 in order to find potential Indian NDErs. Although she had

19 replies, she was able to interview only nine of them. Her findings differed from Pasricha and Stevenson, who found no tunnel or OBE effects. In contrast, 3 of Blackmore's subjects encountered tunnels or a dark space, and their experiences were in general closer to Western ones. She believes that the cross-cultural similarity supports her contention that NDEs have a biological basis (Blackmore 1993b).

Another study was carried out in India by Osis and Haraldsson (1972-73) in order to determine the extent of cultural variations in death-bed visions in India. A similar investigation was carried out in the USA. They published their results in a book called At the Hour of Death (1977), which discusses a large number of cultural variations. One of these regards the vision of beings of light, or religious figure, during the experience:

The identity of the religious figure [in the vision] was also quite a problem in adult cases. If a patient sees a radiant man clad in white who induces in him an inexplicable experience of harmony and peace, he might interpret the apparition in various ways: as an angel, Jesus, or God; or if he is a Hindu, Krishna, Shiva, or Deva.

Although one might think that the interpretation given varies according to the religious backgrounds, the authors commented that this did not 'significantly affect the purpose' of the figure seen, and the sight of a dead or a religious figure was 'surprisingly similar on both sides of the globe -78% for the United States and 77% for India' (ibid.: 90-1). An important question about this study is whether these visions were the result of the administration of a particular drug, or if these were real visions. The answer is that the consciousness of over 60 per cent of the people was absolutely clear and no form of sedative had been administered (ibid.: 70). Only in 30 per cent of the cases was it moderately impaired. Although Osis and Haraldsson's research relates primarily to the phenomenology of death-bed visions, which are defined as occurring in the 24 hours before dying, rather than NDEs, the study presents a considerable amount of data able to reinforce later studies into the phenomenology of NDEs.

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