Garuḍa Purāṇa 12
Garuḍa Purāṇa now proceeds to explain how the subtle bodies of sinners are tortured by the messengers of Yama. On the eighteenth day from the date of death, the subtle body, dragged by the messengers of Yama reaches the kingdom of Yama. The subtle body (subtle body is often referred as soul. Soul is the Brahman. Soul is not put to any suffering. None can hurt Soul. For the sake of convenience, the subtle body is called soul) on reaching the land of Yama is able to see other subtle bodies there. Immediately, on reaching the kingdom of Yama, the subtle body is advised to take a rest. A subtle body can remember its past actions, as the subtle body includes the impressions of the subconscious mind. While taking rest, the subtle body thinks over its past actions. It recollects how it was so attached to his spouse, wealth and other relatives. It feels for having failed to spend at least a part of his wealth for the needy. Messengers of Yama tell him that he alone is responsible for his pathetic state.
The subtle body lives only on the piṇḍa-s offered by his sons every month. Up to three fortnights, the subtle body is able to eat whatever is offered by his relatives in the earth. The kingdom of Yama consists of several cities and each such city is ruled by different kings. The subtle body has to pass through all these cities. The subtle body survives only on the piṇḍa-s and water offered by his or her son every month. He is dragged by the messengers of Yama from one city to another city. Only at the end of the sixth month, when the sixth month piṇḍa is offered, the subtle body is allowed to take rest. While undergoing torture, the subtle body realizes and repents for all its mistakes. It is said that unless a cow and its calf are gifted by his son, the subtle body finds very difficult to cross a river called Vaitraraṇī in the world of Yama. The cow and calf should be gifted only to a Vedic scholar, who also pursues a virtuous life. While crossing the river Vaitraraṇī, the subtle body realizes the need for benevolent deed when he was alive in the earth. It also realizes its mistake for having not followed a true religious path.
The messengers of Yama treat the subtle body with anger. They beat the subtle body for not carrying out any good deeds while he was alive. Unable to bear the extreme pain and extremities of climate, the subtle body cries for help. Messengers tell the body loudly that only his own good deeds can save him and that nobody will come to his rescue. The subtle body curses its fate. Fate is nothing but one’s net karma. Finally, just before the end of one year, the subtle body reaches the place where Yama lives. Yama is also known as the king of dharma-s. He never fails from his duty and never punishes anyone without valid reasons. In the place of Yama, there are celestial musicians and heavenly nymphs. There several subtle bodies live either in human or divine forms. The place of Yama has thirteen main gates and each one of them is heavily guarded. Within this place live eight Śravaṇa-s, sons of Lord Brahmā. They have the ability to move at their own will. They travel between the heaven, the earth and the hell. They have the ability to know all the details of a person and their actions. They also have the ability to know the thoughts of a person. One seeing the subtle body of a person at the place of Yama, they report to Citragupta, Yama’s assistant who records a man’s good and bad deeds. The net karma of a person at the end of his/her life cycle is determined by Citragupta. When a person is alive, he or she should worship these Śravaṇa-s. If they are worshipped, they make the process of death easier.
Further reading: Even a person is alive, pleasure or pain is realised only through his mind. Mind is a subtle component of a human body and distinguishes men from animals and birds. A man has three types of bodies. Gross body or the external body; the subtle body consisting of antaḥkaraṇa or the inner psychic organs; and the causal body comprising of tanmātra-s; and the Self is posited inside the causal body. Self is the cause for all the three bodies. At the time of death, the subtle and causal bodies with the Self still inside the causal body is pushed out of the gross body. Garuḍa Purāṇa talks about the journey of the subtle body along with the causal body and the Self. The Self always remains as the Self and whatever the torture inflicted on the subtle body does not affect the Brahman within. If the Brahman, often called as the Self or the Soul or soul is not there, even the subtle and causal bodies cannot exist.
If one has good thoughts and performs good actions, he accumulates good karmic account. On account of good karmic account, his subtle body does not undergo torture in the hands Yama’s messengers and on the contrary, they are treated with dignity and respect. When they are born again, they are born in a wealthy and religious family and enjoy the fruits of his actions in his previous life. If he commits more sins, not only his subtle body undergoes untold miseries in the hands of the messengers of Yama, but also suffers physically during their next birth.
The only remedy available is to think good and act without selfishness. Thoughts are more powerful than actions. A bad thought is capable of doing irreparable damage than bad actions. Going by the narrations of Garuḍa Purāṇa, for good deeds both subtle body and gross body enjoy and for misdeeds, both the subtle body and the gross body suffer.