What provoked me to think and write about Heaven and Hell is the current story of an ordained priest of Christianity who was killed in an accident, pronounced dead, went to heaven and returned after 90 minutes to tell his story. He said he met his grandfather at the gate who was there along with other friends to receive the new arrival in the most cherished place. The book that the Heaven returned priest has written is a best seller in New York and the rest of America.
A PUZZLE INDEED
It is a story for a fiction. To a man or a woman who wishes to analyse the scenario on Earth and in Heaven, the narrative reads like a bed-time story to lull you to sleep with a pleasant thought. No one wishes to have nightmares and, therefore, no reading of a horror story or an account of a battle lost or a fleeting thought of Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships. Here is a story that may take the reader to Heaven in dreams and enjoy the pleasant aroma around. Of course, one may meet the dead and departed and the loved ones from the days of the mundane world. That is it. You cannot expect to see more pleasant faces or hear heavenly music in just ninety minutes.
What about the Houris and the virgins with drooping eyes who serve wines to the faithful followers of Islam who have been admitted to another type of Heaven on Cloud Seven that is different from the one narrated by the Christian priest after his short visit to Cloud Four. Indeed the concepts of Heaven differ in description given in scriptures of Christianity and Islam. What about the concept of Heaven and Hell given in the scriptures of the Hindus? We will come to their Heaven a little later.
LIFE BEYOND DEATH
From time immemorial Man has been thinking, talking and writing about life beyond death. It is a never dying question that needs an answer that should be pleasing to the thinker and to the audience to whom he would narrate. There have been a few cases of children remembering their lives in the previous birth. Their narration only confirms transmigration or reincarnation of our souls in different bodies as per the KARMA in the previous birth. Such cases of remembrance of life before death and after rebirth have been few and far between. Some stories of birth, death and rebirth are narrated by children so convincingly that they sound authentic. A cross check on ground has proved the truth of the story of reincarnation of soul. However, in this scenario there is no trip to Heaven, short or long.
An interesting point emerges from such narrations. The priest from America made it to heaven and back to Earth in ninety minutes. There are other narrations of much shorter duration where the soul was returned by Chitragupt Maharaj saying that the Yamraj had made a mistake by bringing that soul prematurely. By the way, it is a Pauranic concept that the Arya Samaj does not subscribe to. Thus in this scenario the Heaven returned soul did not have much story material to publish in a book form and make it a best seller. The gullible readers just fall for such stories of the other world. One may mark that all such stories narrate what the Heaven was like and surprisingly there is no best seller about an authentic narration of the Hell. Poor Satan and Beelzebub are left pining for company of a human soul. Indeed to make the book on a trip to the world beyond Earth figure in the list of best sellers, the creator of the episode has to keep clear of the Hellish fire and all sorts of unpleasant scenes of the nocturnal journey, if any.
LIGHT OF TRUTH
The Vedic concept of Heaven and Hell has been explained in a book, Satyarth Prakash, (Light of Truth) written by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati in the 19th century India. The Reformer Rishi has opined that both Heaven and Hell are right here on Planet Earth. When you derive Anand or live in a state of blessed joy, you are in Heaven while still living on Earth. Of course, to achieve and enjoy the celestial joy, a soul has to travel on the path of righteousness and follow the Dharma and not partake of the forbidden fruit( proverbially speaking only). On the contrary when you are in misery, abject poverty and unable to sustain your family and lead them on the path of righteousness as per the Vedic Dharma and thus live a cursed life, you are in Hell on Earth. Your actions, KARMA, decide what path you should travel on.
What is Dharma? Manu Maharaj, the great Law giver of ancient Bharat, defined Dharma thus:
“Dhritih ,Kshama, Damo ,Styem, shaucham, Indriya Nigrah;
Dhih, Vidya, Satyam, Akrodho, Dashakam Dharm Lakshanam.”
A free rendering into English will be :
The Ten Commandments of the Dharm ( not to be narrowed down to religion) are – Patience, spirit of forgiveness, sublimating sex and other thoughts on mundane living, abjuring desire to steal, striving for cleanliness of body and mind, exercising the intellect, acquiring knowledge, following the Truth and not letting Anger have the better of you.
Living a life guided by the Dharm is bound to lead a soul to Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Thus it can be seen that the Vedic Dharm gives no credence to Heaven or Hell being places of existence away from our mother Earth. Perhaps lesser men with little knowledge of the VEDAS had put the fear of Hell into men’s minds as a place where souls with poor performance who indulged in criminal and sinful activities go to be tormented and burnt in fire of hell. Likewise the concept of Heaven emanated from denial of certain pleasures of life while living on Earth and the souls that carried out religious duties were assured of a place in Heaven. It must, however, be clarified that these concepts are mere figments of imagination. The VEDAS do not subscribe to these imaginary entities called heaven or hell away from earth.
The Vedas do not encourage feeling of fear at the mere mention of the word, Death. When a soul enters a human form in a womb and delivery takes place, it is called Birth. When a soul leaves the body and goes elsewhere, it is called Death. These are regular phenomena and there is nothing to be scared of.
The parting preaching from the Veda mantra is that we all should live life well as per the Dharm. When time comes for the soul to leave the present body for good, let it be so without any grief or sorrow. The soul and the body are parted like a ripe musk melon leaves its creeper and none grieves for none. That indeed is the Eternal Truth.
By Chitranjan Sawant