Part 9: Heaven And Hell are Equal
A devotee who genuinely aspires to attain God’s Divine Love sees no difference between Heaven and Hell. Celestial abodes may have far superior material comforts yet they are under the influence of material nature, and take the soul away from God.
Shree Kripaluji Maharaj in his keertan “jo piya ruchi mahaṁ ruchi rākhē”, summarized the essence of attaining Divine Love of God, which is the highest form of bliss one can ever achieve in this whole universe. Line after line, he gently explains the things we need to do or be wary of in order to purify our heart and receive the grace of God. Thus He goes further and states:
jo swarga naraka sama jānē rē
That person who considers celestial heaven to be equal to hell will get Divine Love.
Often, people question if earth is the only planet where life exists. But it is interesting to ponder that, if life existed only on our planet, what purpose would innumerable stars in the sky serve? If God has created such an immense universe, it is very likely that there is life on other planets as well.
Nobel prize winner George Wald, in his writing ‘A Universe that breeds life’, estimates that this Sun is one of the hundred billion stars in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is, one of the billion galaxies within the reach of the telescopes of the scientists. That means 1020 stars like our Sun exist in the known universe. So he says, "If we assume that life exists in even 1% of the planets of these stars, then life exists in so many places!
All this is, however, just guess work by the scientists. Our Vedas clearly tell us that there are different planes of existence. Above our worldly plane (Bhulok), there is Bhuva, Swaha, Maha, Jana, Tapa and Satya. Christians also have a reference to the ‘Seventh Heaven’, and Muslims talk about ‘Sātva āsmān’. The Vedas tell us in detail that there are lower abodes as well: Tal, Atal, Vital, Sutal, Tarātal, Rasātal and Patāl.
The Vedas inform us that the facility for material enjoyment in higher abodes is tremendous. It is similar to how there are gradations on our earthly planet. Developed countries like USA offer much more material enjoyment than developing or underdeveloped countries. So there are million times greater facilities for enjoyment on the higher planets, exceedingly more than we can imagine.
However, the fact that there is more enjoyment does not bring a person closer to God. Therefore, someone whose focus is Love for God, does not care for all these enjoyments because material enjoyment only brings darkness to the soul. A devotee naturally feels that a place without God consciousness is no better than hell.
The focus of this keertan is razor-sharp: God, and nothing else! It is like the common example of the numeral ‘1’ followed by a number of zeroes. Without the 1, all zeroes are completely useless, but if you have the 1, then you have everything! Similarly the goal of life is God alone. Therefore if we have God consciousness, we have everything. But if God is not the goal of our life, everything else is useless.
Shree Maharajji has explained it so amazingly stating that, for a devotee there is no difference between hell and heaven. The material facilities may be manifold times superior in celestial abodes – but just as anger, greed, lust, plague our earthly plane – these negative qualities exist in celestial abodes as well. Indra, the King of heaven himself is subject to negative qualities under the influence Maya.
In the realm of Maya, there are places that are dominated by Tamo-guna (the mode of ignorance). We call them hellish abodes. There are places that are dominated by Rajo-guna (the mode of passion), like our earthly abode. And then there are places that are dominated by Sattva-guna (the mode of goodness), which are the celestial abodes.
The Bhagavatam states:
na nāka-pṛṣṭhaḿ na ca sārva-bhaumaḿ
na pārameṣṭhyaḿ na rasādhipatyam
na yoga-siddhīr apunar-bhavaḿ vā
A devotee prays to God, and says:
My Lord, those devotees who are surrendered to Your Lotus Feet – if they were offered the throne of Indra, or the throne of Brahma or Vishnu – they would reject it if it meant going away from Your Lotus Feet!