Soquel, California — Monday, November 7th

Going to hell

I got this email the other day, from one of the devotees in Russia who regularly visits our temple in Moscow:

Dear Akinchan Maharaj,

Please accept my obeisances. Today I happened to be present at the temple for the evening reading of the Srimad Bhagavatam, and had the strange luck to listen to this graphic description of the death and hell. This was quite a shock. Here are some slokas [from Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 3, Chapter 30]:

[19–20] At the time of death, he sees the Yamadutas, the agents of Yamaraj, the Lord of Death, come for him, their eyes full of rage, and he passes stool and urine out of fear. Just as a criminal is arrested by the constables of the state and taken for punishment, a person engaged in criminal sense gratification is similarly arrested by the Yamadutas, who bind him by the neck with strong rope.

[21–22] Dogs bite the criminal as he is dragged by the constables in the scorching sun along roads of hot sand with forest fires on both sides. He remembers the sinful activities of his life and is thus extremely anxious. He is whipped by the Yamadutas because he cannot walk, and he suffers from hunger and thirst, but there is no water to drink, no shelter, and no place to rest on this road.

[23–24] As he is dragged along the road to the domain of Yamaraj he collapses with fatigue and sometimes loses consciousness, but he is forced to get up and is thus quickly brought before Yamaraj, where the torturous punishment that he is destined to suffer at once begins.

[25–27] His limbs are set on fire; he is forced to eat his own flesh or have it eaten by others; while he is still alive, the Hounds and Vultures of Hell rip him open and pull out his entrails. He is subjected to torment by serpents, scorpions, gnats and other creatures that bite him; his limbs are lopped off and torn asunder by elephants; he is hurled down from hilltops...

[33–34] Thus he goes to the darkest region of hell... Having gone through all these miserable, hellish conditions, and having passed in a regular order through the lowest forms of animal life prior to human birth, and having thus been purged of his sins, one is reborn again as a human being on this earth.

How horrible it is! It is inconceivable!

And while this was being read I remembered, for some reason, the story when Krishna had a headache and only the Gopis were willing to give the dust from Their feet, in spite of the risk of going to hell.

It was a rather plain story for me, as I had no idea what hell can be like. Now when I heard this description, I was shocked. What kind of devotion and love one must have for Krishna to be ready to go into that realm of horror, to suffer so, that He may not suffer the slightest discomfort? Incredible!

I wish I could have such affection for Him...

I am amazed at her deep angle of vision. I remember how apprehensive I was (knowing how sinful my life had been) when I first heard these horrific descriptions of hell, but this young girl's initial reaction is not a selfish concern for herself, but rather a deeper appreciation for the self-sacrifice and devotion of the Gopis of Vrindavan.

And I am reminded how, in the Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Volume One, Chapter Nine, Srila Sridhar Maharaj says:

"Such narrations — like the story about how the Gopis were ready [to go to hell] to supply Their foot-dust as 'medicine' to alleviate Krishna's 'headache' — are very sweet to our ears, but to accept [such austerity for ourselves] is horrible!"

I still have such a long way to go. As Srila Guru Maharaj reminds us: "Surrender is not a lip transaction."

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Layout by iMonk — November 7th, 2005.