Friday, May 25, 2007

Out of Africa... some more after-effects

When I wrote about the trek Out of Africa lately, I was complaining about my ancestors. I was not quite done though, and feel that I can’t have this unsaid. They planted my genes up here… so bloody far north! We’ve got something called midnight sun up here. We cannot escape the sun no matter how the earth spins for part of the year. The sun is of course not a bad thing! The midnight sun is a very exciting phenomenon among tourists… What they failed to tell you about in the travel brochures though is the midday darkness the other half of the year. No matter where you look, the angle or the spin… you have no choice but to put up with total darkness! In the northern parts of Norway at this part of the year, people have to look very far to find any light… far into outer space to be exact. Seek and you will find they say… and we did find it! We call it Aurora Borealis, northern light or polar light. Now that’s a tourist attraction too! Can’t they see that it’s actually tragic though??!! I can only admire the Norwegian tourism industry though for making this into something worthy of a visit.

Just to give you an idea about Norway and sun… Svalbard, the island, also belongs to Norway. God forbid, we couldn’t just stop on the mainland. Although cold, Philip Pullman makes it sound like a fairy tale in his book; "The Golden Compass". Svalbard sees light for only half the year, and has in effect got only one sunset and one sunrise a year. That's Norway in a nutshell!

On the milk cartons in Norway they always give you some information about nutrition and some entertaining stuff. This is stuff that you read in a few seconds during your breakfast or lunch or whatever. It’s one of my last days before I go back to South Africa, and this morning I’m drinking my low fat milk… actually extra low on fat. 1,5%, but with added D-vitamins! I’m reading about the reason for the added D-vitamins! Us folks that live so far north are apparently unfortunate to live all the way up here (They said it, not me!). The sun transforms some stuff under our skin to D-vitamins. Because of the lack of sun-hours during winter, we have a deficiency of D-vitamins. I want all my vitamins, and now I’m even more pissed with my forefathers. I’m not even looking for the arguments, but find that people are exchanging them all the time, and in any possible medium… like the milk carton!! Amazingly, the Norwegian population is growing still... in the dark and cold and with all the vitamin deficiencies.

Still – on the 17th of May, the constitution day in Norway, people are waving their flags and sing about how much they love Norway (national anthem). Back here in South Africa now, I’m enjoying my own-brewed D-vitamins. I can almost feel them sizzling right under my skin under the African sun… and this is winter here!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Religion Decision Aid (RDA) – Hinduism update

I just had my Bengal Spice Tea and remembered some Hinduism stuff that I read on the plane back to South Africa recently. Since I gave Hinduism such a low rating I thought it appropriate and fair to consider this new piece of information in the Religion Decision Aid (RDA) rating. Some of the reason for the low rating was of course the complexity of Hinduism as explained and the multiple times you have to go through hell before you can get out of the eternal life cycle of rebirths. All this is of course a very tiring process to go through over and over again. Some clever Hindu god though, because I Assume that it was one of the gods, came up with the idea of making the river Ganges holy. The great thing about Ganges is that if you have a bath there it will take 7years off your karma! It’s a shortcut in other words. You get less hassle with the heavens and hells before your up and coming rebirth… or if you’re lucky to be already high up on the ladder it might be your ticket to moksha, or Nirvana in other words. I think it’s really great to have a shortcut like this.

My assumption about the creation of this shortcut is only partly true though. It was a wise man of flesh and blood that started it. He had such a good karma that he could ask the gods for a favor. The river Ganges was originally running through heaven only. The wise man Bhagiratha obviously had a very good memory from one of his earlier lives and time in heaven… and remembered the Ganges. His wish was that Ganges could flow on earth. Shiva granted him this wish and let it flow right past the place he was living. So it wasn't just about making it holy, or doing a simple redirection of a stream from one valley to another. He needed a godly favor fir sure. Millions of Hindus are now doing their pilgrimage to Ganges. Of course the karma thing is important. If it was me though, and me being a Hindu of course, I would make an extra effort to track down the wise man Bhagiratha in his reborn and present shape to thank him of all my heart. I assume of course that his karma was pretty exhausted after he redirected Ganges to earth. After spending all the credits from his karma account he must still be among us… as a pig or a monk depending on his initial karma balance and the cost of Ganges of course. Really generous of him I must say. In my mind the wise man is like Jesus who took on all the responsibility for all us sinners. Bhagiratha made it possible for everybody to escape quite a few hells along the way.

This will of course increase the Hinduism rating on my RDA! Hinduism is obviously not a static religion either… they add new features when needed or when the gods have been extra kind. This is a big plus! It also means that my RDA one pager cannot be a finished and done project when I’ve worked my way through all the religions. It will be a dynamic and living document in constant development. My job will become a nightmare if every little wise man like Bhagiratha will knock on my door and apply for a reconsideration of his religion and the added features. I think the gods messengers on earth could be a good starting point. The pope would obviously represent Christianity then. If all the Hindu gods all have a messenger on earth, this will of course be unfair to Christianity and all the other religions with fewer representatives.

In any event this will be a lot of work for one man. I can see it growing into a big organization. Especially if Hinduism will come with all the gods’ messengers I will need quite a few consultants to take off some of the workload. The problem is that I could not employ a Hindu or a Christian for such a position. It would have to be someone totally unaffected with religion and unbiased in any way possible. Like me! I know we Stensby’s are unique. Maybe I should start looking for that specific Stensby gene that makes us impenetrable to religion and spirituality and thus an ideal candidate as a RDA-consultant? In any event I can see that this can be nothing but a family business. It’s like having all the production rights for food… a pretty basic thing for survival and at the very foundation of Maslows hierarchy of needs. Just a bit higher up in the hierarchy you find the need for beliefs and religion… and that’s the Stensby domain! The Stensby Klondike!

Although Hinduism has not figured out how to beat Christianity and Islam it’s quite a competitive religion still. Hinduism is to religion what Beckham is to football. Just check out the Om sign. Om is the holiest of all sounds to a hindu… even more so than the bellowing of the holy cow. If you have ever seen the Om sign though, it could just as well been printed on Beckhams shirt… or be the result of a football game. I always thought it looked like 30 or 3-0, but never dared to mention it to anybody. I was shocked to find that it’s true though (3 for the trinity of creation, preservation and destruction, and zero for the quietness of the amalgamation with god)… or 3 to Hinduism and zero for Islam.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Out of Africa - the first great trek!

I left South Africa for a little while recently for a short trip back home to Norway. I had the warm summer months behind me in South Africa and arriving after the long cold and dark winter months in Norway. In 2-3 weeks time I'll return to South Africa and a not so terrible African winter. The timing for me is perfect! Diving in South Africa in exchange for skiing in the cold is a good deal for me. As I jump off the plane in Norway though it's not the fresh and pleasant summer air that hits me. It's fresh by all means - damn cold!!

The following morning after I arrive in Norway, I wake up early. The grass outside is white! No snow, but frost. A couple of hundred meters further up the road I can still find some snow though. This is May. When I graduated from High School it was a custom... or more like a demand and a group pressure to have a swim in the lake before the 1st of May. That sounds pretty ridiculous and not very tempting right now. I did it back then... and a lot of other stupid stuff of course. I almost slip and cripple myself on the frosty and slippery stairs outside when I'm going to get the newspaper. I curse my own ancestors for settling down up here.A local character with a passion for nature, wildlife and geology has reconstructed a Mammoth. That's the kind of things that you find around here. The remains of the Mammoth was well kept and possible to rebuild. That can only happen at this latitude in ice or permanently frosted ground... so you can imagine what we have to deal with up here. They have put the Mammoth inside a big house now... can't leave it out in the cold of course. But why the hell did they have to travel so far north - my ancestors? They must have noticed how it was getting colder and colder further north, right?

I took my son for a stroll on a small road inside the woods here. We saw a hare that was in the process of changing from winter to summer fur. At first I thought it was a rock with some kind of white fungus growing on it. Then as the rock started jumping, I realized that the fungus was actually the ears that was still white and that the legs was also still white. The snow had evidently left only a short while ago. Later in the day as I walked downtown I noticed all the pale people! Natures way is truly incredible... they still had their full winter camouflage intact!
I went to Sterkfontein in South Africa recently, and the Cradle of Human Kind. If it's true what they claim, then South Africa is where the first humans set their foot. Mrs Ples and Littlefoot did at least. This was a long time ago of course. Probably back in the days when there was only one big super continent called the Pangea. The Pangea started splitting up and drift apart and became Africa and Europe and the rest like we know it today. The early humans started off in the south and obviously spread out across the one and only (still) continent. Then a few of them jumped over to Europe just in time for the European voyage. The same thing with the Americans and Asians. Australia was a different story - that was deportation and much much later!

Anyway, my theory is that all humans at this early stage was in fact black. Then as they jumped over to more appealing continents, nature helped them to adapt to their new neighborhoods. Obviously the northern settlers needed to blend in with the snow to sneak in on the animals. So nature bleached us, plain and simple. Charles Darwin forgot to mention this in his book; "Survival of the fittest". Pale as we are... we are fitter than most imaginable creatures up here in the ice and snow.

I can picture my own ancestors standing there on the northern edge of the African continent... around Egypt... some in Alger maybe. The gap to the other side was getting bigger, and they were forced to make a decision. Which side do they prefer? On the one side they had elephants, rhinos and springbok. On the other side they could see the mammoths, elks and deer. The elephants and rhinos were too scary... and the springboks too hard to catch. Except for the mammoth, it appeared to be a good trade. It was a moment of now or never... so they jumped over to the other side. A giant leap for man, a bigger one for mankind... and fatal for me! Neil Armstrong stole that line from my ancestors for his puny moonwalk. Proof of mankinds idiocy both. Well, on the bright side (back then - not now), the temperature must have been pleasant on the opposite shore of the Mediterranean stream/pond. The morons kept going and followed the animals into the snowy and icy mountains though, and settled down almost on top of a glacier. No bloody excuse for that!

I read this book recently about historys biggest blunders. My forefathers are not mentioned anywhere, although worthy of the first volume alone in my view. I mean, if they wanted a cool breeze and some occasional snow... couldn't they just climb up in the Drakensberg for a short while... or Mount Kenya... worst case Kilimanjaro??? No, they had to come all the way up here and sit down next to an eternal iceberg. In Norway we've got some rules for when you're walking in the mountains... and one goes; "it's never too late to turn back"!! I don't know if that applied back then... it should of course. Maybe the chief that was guiding his clan was just too bloody proud to do so... and didn't want to lose face. Considering that they came from the south, that is highly possible. I know a lot about "losing face cultures"! Not losing face brought me here... and through a Bangkok marathon!

The Boer people in South Africa made a "Great Trek" and called themselves voortrekkers, although it was a walk in the park compared to "our trek". My forfathers made a huge trek and a leap if that's anything to be proud of. My roots were planted up here... and now I have to deal with it. Slipping on the stairs is just one of the minor hazards around... although the mammoths are gone long time ago, domesticated or kept indoors - thank god(s). Now I've dealt with it though, and booked my ticket back to South Africa on May 20st.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Carlsberg and swastika

A while ago I was talking about the use of the swastika symbol during the Kavady... and discussing the meaning of the swastika with Tiffany... I know for a fact that it symbolizes something pure, and that it was a fitting symbol for Hitler when he wanted to promote his ideology, his party and the pure arian race.

Last night during a beer tasting get together, my friend Geir actually gave me some interesting information about the swastika that I did not know. Carlsberg... probably the best beer in the world actually used the swastika symbol in their marketing up until 1940. Obviously the pureness thing was a nice thing to associate with the beer to try and sell some more beer. Even today you can see other labels of beer telling you how nice and pure the brewing process really is... trying to convince you that this is the right choice of beer for you. Pure or clean seems to be important values to link to beer. Carlsberg had the swastika symbol obviously until Hitler gave the swastika symbol another meaning. They had to give up the swastika emblem... as Hitler had ruined their marketing... and the value of the symbol. Swastika was forever ruined as something positive in marketing.

I'm surprised Robert Mugabe haven't made use of the swastika symbol as yet also. He cleans out the white farmers from the country, then he wipes out all resistance... they must obviously be of a different breed. Then he demolishes some villages and slum areas and kill some random people on the street... By now he should have a pretty narrow and PURE genepool left. Worthy of a bold black swastika if you ask me.

Monday, May 7, 2007

South Africa - on my communist trail

As I'm visiting my home country now I'm staying with my old man. It's kinda nostalgic, coz I'm staying in my own room with my son. It's pretty much like I left it about 16 years ago, with all my books and comics and guy things. If this was in a big city or something my father would probably have moved a number of times and "my room" would have been history. This is possible only because this is in the middle of the woods on a farm that my father is very attached to. But my room IS history... or has some stories to tell. Among all my old things I've got an old bust of Lenin, the late communist. I bought it as a souvenir on vacation when I was 14years old! I also got a huge Russian flag that used to hang on my door - a gift from a Russian couple that I exchanged some favors (exchanging currency and bought international tobacco) with. Later I studied Russian language for two years and did a project on Marxism. What kind of communist was I really? I'm shocked when I think about it! I remember hosting a party once... and gave directions on how to get here. As a landmark we put the humongous Russian flag on the house wall... wonder what other people were thinking back then right after the cold war, LOL!

A few years ago... on the way down to South Africa, we stopped in London to visit some friends. I was busy telling Derek about the Norwegian society... the equal distribution of wealth, level of salaries and business life in general. Derek made his own conclusion - "so it's a f**king communist state then"? I was surprised and quite impressed at the same time, it was hard to deny the similarities. At the same time I remembered an attempt to merge two telecom companies from Norway and Sweden. When the whole merger collapsed, a Swedish politician called Norway the last soviet state - years after the Soviet Union collapsed. So maybe we are... and I was just showing signs of being a product of this communist state?

Now, years later again I live in South Africa. I live with my family and enjoy it big time down here. Many of the freedom fighters during Apartheid was in fact communists, or helped and funded by the communists in the Soviet Union. ANC has got some of it's roots in communism... and ever since the Apartheid, ANC has been in charge. Norway and South Africa has got something in common for sure. Maybe it's not coinsidential at all that I'm here... Maybe it's the communist inside me that unconsciously drew me here... and maybe that's why I'm enjoying it so much also? I'm scaring myself here now... what other dark secrets will I find within myself if I continue searching? I'm sure my wife will object to the communism theory though and give another story behind my gravitational pull towards South Africa. She is right of course! Evidence is sleeping right next to me here in his fathers old bedroom. We will gravitate back the same way soon - to South Africa!

ME - A Freelance Hinduism Consultant

Ok, I realize that my RDA (Religion Decision Aid) project is gonna take some time. It's not done just like that! Actually I think I could do a few doctorates along the way. In short - I am struggling big time on my first religion! Just getting an overview of the gods, what they can do for you and how you worship them is an exhausting task. I still remember the story about Shiva and his woman though... the juicy story about how she took on 9 different shapes to get him... and their 1300 acrobatic positions. If all the gods had equally interesting stories, I'm sure it would be like a breeze and be done in no time. Unfortunately some of these guys are quite dull and nothing much to write about... can't really understand their function in the complete Hindu picture either. What are they good for anyway? I'm sure they could erase a few gods/deities to make it... tidier for a novice like me. Imagine all the Hindu wannabes who just loose faith completely when faced with this chaos of gods?! I think I will contact the CEO of Hinduism and address this problem. That's obviously why they are lagging behind Christianity (2 billion) and Islam (1,8billion)... with a mere 950mill fans only! Christianity and Islam is just easier to grasp for people that's all.

With my insight so far I could offer my services to the board of Hinduism as a consultant. The first thing I would do is slash some gods... and make it say 2-6 gods as opposed to "I don't know how many" today. Even for a long time settled Hindu it's hard to keep track, so they drop out. And where do you think they're going... converting to Islam and Christianity of course. What is left is only the fanatics! For a sustainable religion though you need the broad masses... the average Joe's to stay and feel like they are capable and on top of their religion. If 950mill Hindus today are mainly the fanatics - imagine what a potential they've got! They will pretty much drain Christianity, Islam and the rest if they can just trigger the masses! That's where I come into the picture. With less gods and just commercializing the whole thing a bit, we should be there in a generations time. That's pretty short time considering how long they've struggeled for the 950millions. I think I can leave the RDA project and specialize instead... and still make big bucks. The future is bright indeed!! When I'm done reshaping and giving Hinduism a facelift with a new image as I picture it now, I might even convert myself.

Some of the figures used here and in my last post are taken from the book; God-101. The author Allan W Janssen sent me a copy of the book. I think he and I got one or two things in common. It's a damn good read! Amusing, Interesting and factual all in one! True to god - I promise!!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Religion Decision Aid - RDA!!

I've been unusually concerned with religions lately. Particularly Hinduism, since I've attended some Hindu festivals and functions lately. So, curious now, I took it one step further and did some research on what Hinduism is all about, ref Heaven and Hell. I found it quite interesting although I don't find all of the Hindu customs overly appealing. I guess it's the same with religions as with so many other things - you have to take the good with the bad. In any event I thought I can't be too judgemental. After all it's the only religion I know anything about by now... apart from Christianity, the Norwegian state church. I had this brilliant idea that I could do some comparative research on the biggest and most popular religions. In that way I could make a Religion Index... or score card to see the pros and cons clearly. People need this kind of thing as your choice of religion is not like buying groceries... or at least it shouldn't be, god forbid!

Lee Iacocca (Ex CEO of Ford and Chrysler) always said that any report should be funneled down to a one page summary for him to bother to read it. He refused to read exhausting long reports. I admired Lee Iacocca after reading his autobiography. So now, in Lee Iacocca's spirit, I want to make a one page comparative summary of all the major religions. It's a groundbreaking piece of work, I'm sure of it, and very important to people around the world. It actually amazes me that such a thing doesn't exist already. What the hell have all the religious people been doing all this time. They are so enthralled with their own beliefs and don't bother about anything else. But wouldn't it be a natural thing for a religion to try to claim a larger portion of the worlds believers, and in that way become more powerful? I know at least one religion that in my mind seem to have a quite aggressive approach... What bothers me is that the other ones don't seem to fight back. This could be like an american election... only worldwide and about your choice of religion for the coming year. Then my one page summary/score-card would come in very handy, no doubt about it. Well, even today I think it should be a human right, together with the rest of the "rights" from the UN or Amnesty International or wherever... to have this onepager to make your choice easier. I believe too many people are never presented with all the facts about other religions and therefore make a bad decision. I can help these poor souls! Maybe I can even sell it and make big bucks?! Religion has always been big business... and how ironic that this could be my highway to fame and riches. Me - a Stensby?! Hahahaha!!

I am quite happy about my reports about Hinduism so far... I just have to sew the Kavady festival thing together with the heaven and hell thing... and make it complete sort of. But my god... or I should probably say gods (plural!!!). It's a big mess! I haven't figured out where all the Hindu gods fit in yet. You've got Shiva, Brahma, Krishna, Hanuman (monkeygod), Ganesha (elephantgod), Vishnu and my favourite Lord Murugan - yet there are still many more. I thought it was a sin to have more than one god in this day and age... and that most up to date religions had boiled it down to one god only. Obviously I've been terribly mistaken! Even more reason for my one pager!

It could serve as a popularity index as well I'm sure. It's a well known fact that people don't want to make unpopular choices. So maybe it feels safer when you know that 2 billion other people around the world made the same choice as you. It's basic consumer behavior. After your purchase you're alert and looking for any kind of confirmation to tell you that you did the right thing. You want to know that all your neighbours also picked Hinduism, and they're gonna praise you for it! I know, only the weak loosers would choose according to such popularity factors, but get real. There are millions of loosers out there who needs exactly this thing, and I'm gonna sell my one-pager especially to that part of the market, hehe. I'm sure my religion-index would make some friction between some of the competing religions as well. If there are no election campaigns already, I'm sure my one-pager will change that quite soon. All the priests, bishops, ayatollahs and popes will fight for your membership to improve their ranking on my index. It's gonna be awesome!!!

I should decide on the most crucial factors when choosing your religion. Sort of key factors that I can rate each religion up against each other. Heaven(s) and Hell(s) are obviously very important. Your choice of god also I guess... or gods I should say. Are they nice... or strict... or will he/she/they give you some slack? Of course also, how often would you have to pray, attend services... and pull chariots and that kind of things? Anything that can add stress to your already tight schedule must be considered. A pain/no pain homage to serve your god(s)?? I could of course add more factors with time... I have something to start with at least - can't wait! Here is my first sketch... giving you an impression of how the one-pager score card is gonna look. I've named it RDA for now! Religion Decision Aid - RDA!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Heaven and Hell

I am an agnostic or atheist, although a member of the Norwegian state church - a Christian! A hypocrite in other words. It's the Christianity that has been closest (and put the most pressure to convert me), and where my natural mind frame lies... In Christianity we/they've got heaven and hell... used to pressure you to join... and the two somewhat different end stations are there waiting for you! Recently I've been so enthralled with Kavady festival in the Hindu community here in South Africa... and now I've been wondering about the Hindu concepts of heaven and hell.

It's really hard to choose religion when they are so very different. Even though I'm an agnostic/atheist (never remember which is which, but it's a pretty approximate description still), I've sensed the spirituality creeping in on me. So I thought in case I should want to pick a religion in the future some time, I might as well do some exploratory research. To make the choice easier of course. Obviously the choice of heaven and hell you'll be faced with are crucial factors when deciding on a religion and cannot be taken easily! Considering my track record so far... I'm most concerned about hell, so that's a natural starting point in my research. In any event I'll have to do some time there... long story!

I overheard this guy talking... and he had been to an astrologer specializing in reincarnation. The astrologer told him that he had been in hell in a past life, and this was why he was afraid of fire. From what I know, the reincarnation is totally a Hindu thing. They get reborn, hopefully in a higher level... social class or cast than in the last attempt. This guy had been in hell!! But hey... he got out of it, and now he's starting again with clean sheets! Only a short stop in hell... drive-through hell... or hell in transit sort of?! What kind of hell is that? Barely purgatory if you ask me... where you get blow torched a bit for past sins... and then you're off again. It would suit me fine! It's like the catholics. They confess their sins to the priest inside the little cottage... and then everything is well again... your crime register is wiped out. In countries where the catholic church is also the state church, they obviously synchronize the church crime register with that of the police. Thus you are properly off the hook and uncorrupted like a virgin angel again. I'd say the catholic way is very appealing... Much more so than the Hindu and the Christian protestant way. I mean, why not get over and done with it in your present life... off your shoulders so that you don't risk any health hazards... manic depressive caused by your own bad conscience or something ironic like that! Ok, that was a little Catholic detour, but enough about that.

The Hindu hell (and heaven) is a bit like tracking down Lord Murugan for my Kavady research... it exist... and then it doesn't after all according to another source. There are no concepts of hell (Narka) in the Vedas and Upanishads... but in the Puranas you do find it. In the Bhagvad Purana a number of descriptions of various activities, and the hells you will go to when they take place, are given. Note the plural of hell!! Furthermore is a long story about what kind of karmas will lead to what kind of births... This must be the reincarnation that are based on your track record. Wouldn't it be nice to combine some catholicism here to clean your record in advance to ensure a top reincarnation?! Although several hells are mentioned in Bhagvad Purana, it's a common belief that hell is a concept that crept into Hinduism from other cultures... Cultures with beliefs that were more inn (fashionable) at the time. I derive from this that the Puranas may have been fiddled with at some stage... or maybe some oral channels corrupted it before it was put down on paper. I will therefore take the Puranas with a good pinch of salt. In any event, who the hell would choose Hinduism with SEVERAL HELLS?! Hinduism is already low on my ranking. Hindus must be bloody masochists!!

Unlike in the Christian tradition where the words are taken quite literally... you can not do that in Hinduism. There are so many facets in between the lines that a tradition of teaching is needed to avoid misunderstanding. What you find in the one book/script is rejected in another. By the time you understand, you are in a serious state of schizophrenia. I'm just accumulating some keywords here... You know, pros and cons, to make the decision easier in the end. So far I've got; multiple hells, masochists and schizophrenia. I'm sure it will pick up!

If you where missing any blog posts recently, then it was because the following stuff was a bit hard to grasp for me. A lot of research... and consideration, doubts and reconsiderations of findings was going through my processor. To understand properly, you have to accept the various levels of conception of the individual. There is the gross physical level, the subtle mental level, and the pure level of awareness. The physical body is not going anywhere. Except maybe 6 feet under and you rot, or you burn on a raft... and that's the end of it. None of the hells are situated on earth either, so the physical part is irrelevant. Pure awareness, or Atman, is beyond the cycle of rebirth and death (as explained consistently in all of the scriptures). Shame - you overdid it in other words, stuck in a dead end and cannot travel anywhere, for there is nowhere for your Atman to go. I really hope that it's possible to make a u-turn and find your way back to the "subtle body" offramp though. Otherwise Atman must be just another hell altogether. Because it's the "subtle body" the scriptures are talking about travelling to heavens and hells after death, and then returning to earth to be reborn after discharging its collected karma. This reminds me of some computer games I've played where you need to collect a certain number of points or treasures or whatever to get to the next level. Maybe computer games could be a good way of marketing Hinduism actually... the real geeks would have no problem to fathom this. Reality series also maybe, but it would probably be hard to follow the "subtle body" to hell and back.

The subtle body is not going anywhere either though. What a bloody disappointment! It is just a collection of your mental instruments. These instruments include the mind (manas, not maƱana), the faculty of discrimination (buddhi), and the ego (ahankara). Heaven and hell are states of mind, not places you may go to for pleasure or pain. It is a state of mind upon death... and before rebirth... but also during life. Heaven and Hell are according to the puranas only temporary states to existence to exhaust karma, not at all a final and permanent locked up condition. So when someone tells you they are going through hell... that is Hinduistically speaking quite possible! Since Heaven and Hell are only temporary pitstops though, you might wonder what comes next. Beyond Heaven and Hell is the unconditional bliss of Nirvana - a sort of Super-Heaven. Nirvana (Moksha) is the true purpose in life for a Hindu. So there is a final stage in Hindu as well, they just make it a bit more complicated. You go to Heaven and Hell to get your rewards and punishments according to your life-record and the severness of the incidents. Only then, when you have served your accumulated time in both Heaven and Hell, you can approach Nirvana.

Summing up:
You can get out of Hell, only a temporary thing: 10 points!
Would like to stick around in Heaven for awhile longer though: -2 points
H&H pitstops through multiple lives -10 points!
Multiple hells, masochistic, schizophrenia -10 points!
Complex religion & philosophy - 2 points
Computer Game-like philosophy 10 points!
Nirvana Super-Heaven 10 points!
Total points: 6 points

Ok, the following definitions are not my own. "Somebody" made me go through all 7 hindu hells because of these definitions. I found them somewhere, I don't know where anymore, and thought it was a bit fun... so don't give me a hard time about these ones.

Definition of Hell:
If you're having an American wife, Indian salary, Chinese car and German food.

Definition of Heaven:
If you're having an Indian wife, American salary, Chinese food and German car.

Christian preacher/Hindu conversation:
Preacher: "You will go to hell (being a Hindu)"!
Hindu: "Dear Sir, why I should go to a Christian hell, when we Hindus have seven hells to go to."
The poor preacher is gaping in awe!