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!


Anonymous said...

You then score 2/4 on the heaven rating...not too bad!
For more information on how YOUR life can be a personal hell you should consult the Sevika Scriptures...seriously however, stick to what you know! This makes for an entertaining read which may result in severe referrals to more serious research from certain avid readers who tend not to realise that you aim to entertain through controversial statements and are not as shallow as you make yourself out to be. You have been warned!:)

wifey in sa said...

Good one! By your definition of heaven you are 50% there.

indren said...

Trust ME!
Been there.....Thank GOD I'm single now....haha


Jonny said...

Ok, the definitions of hell and heaven are not my own creation. I found it somewhere and thought it was quite fun.

Believe me Inu... this post sent me straight to hell also, lol!

Anton said...

I believe in Albert Camusism

Which basically is not a religion (yet but I will be his great profit, glory to me, and, um, him I guess).

Wait, how to do spell profit again?

Anyway, life is Hell, just less Hell for some people, and if you fuck over enough people, and in a smart way, you can get to Heaven.

Before Nirvana...

Which is Oblivion.

These are just thoughts, by the way, off the top of my head on reading your blog. But such a questioning of such a tight-fisted, mainstream Religion hell-bent (haha) on controlling what is and isn't moral and who is and isn't a good person based on a concept as asinine and childishly silly as "Original Sin" (you burn in Hell because of something your great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great etc grand dad was naughty because he was naughty by learning what being naughty was by a snake who was also naughty. BURN MUTHERF*CKER!! Well, unless you join our Church (ours and not the other 73,000 [estimated] churches similar but not quite close enough to save you from BURNING IN TERRIBLE AGONY FOR ALL ETERNITY MUHAHAHA oh wait, right, which won't happen if you join our specific church...and give us money).

Because, you heathen, obviously God may be all powerful, but the only way he can save your soul is by getting you to join a subscription based service.

Obviously he has a Greater Plan you shouldn't question (both Gabriel and Uriel have confirmed it involves installing Satellite in His office - with a widescreen TV. And how is that going to happen if you don't do your fair share of donating? You think saving Souls and getting access to the Sopranos is EASY??

Jonny said...

Hahahaha.... I don't think I dare not to join your church community! What does Albert Camusism crave as an entrance fee btw? I'm ready writing my cheque here...

AM I A HINDU? said...

You wrote:

, 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!

Amazing....This really happened to me at Times square in 1972.

I wrote about this in few web pages and in my book.

You have to imagine the face of the poor preacher...He did not know what to say.....hahahaha

By the way, except in Puranas, much imporatnce is not given for HEAVEN & HELL in other scriptures like Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Yoga Vashishta etc.

Since SELF REALIZATION [realizing one is the immortal soul] is the ultimate goal, heaven and hell are not that important in Hinduism, even though seven heavens, seven hells and, seven earths are mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam.

Jonny said...

Holy cow! You must imagine my face when I say your comment here also - it would have given you an equally good laugh... one that prolong your life quite substantially!!

I have obviously been on your website and thought it was brilliant! I remember it being very informative also and used much of it... I don't remember where I found it but if you can give me any link I'd be very happy to add a link to your site(s) and make a reference to your book! Feel free to send me an e-mail also!!

Ed Viswanathan said...

Namasthe Shri. Jonny Stensby:

Thanks for your very kind e-mail. I did not visit your blog after I wrote and that is the reason why I missed what you wrote after my visit.

I am very happy to see, you express a lot of ideas with very few words. Please keep up the good work. People like you are an asset to this world. Please go on writing.

I salute you. If possible, kindly write a review about my book at

My interaction with that priest happened in early 70's when "studio-54" & "discotheques" were very popular in NY. Even though I am joking, on his own right that priest was also doing a lot of good to society by advicing all the drug addicts and prostitutes roaming around TIMES SQUARE at that time.

On my part, I wrote this book strictly after an accidental conversation I had with a friend of mine in 1984 about Hinduism and world religions. I never ever thought any one will be interested in my book when it was intially published in 1988.

Today I see copies of AM I A HINDU? [ISBN 1-879904-06-3 HALO BOOKS, USA and RUPA PRESS in India, every where.

This book is translated to HINDI [ "Kya Mai Hindu Hai?" ]

Dr. Stephen Prothero Chairman of Religious studies, Boston university is recommending every one to read AM I A HINDU? in USA TODAY ...Thursday March 8, 2007 page 2D Life Section as well as NEWSWEEK

Once again thanks for putting a link from your blog to my web site. Please write a review about my book

I write a lot under Sulekha