California, USA — January 30th, 2013
Who wants to go to heaven?
The entire material cosmos is really an enormous detention center, or more accurately, correctional facility. This prison complex is divided into fourteen planetary systems (planes of consciousness or existence), with inmates segregated according to the severity of their crimes: those most eligible for parole are confined on the highest planet, Brahmaloka, while the most incorrigible are incarcerated in the lowest, maximum security wing of Patalaloka.
These fourteen plane(t)s can be collectively grouped into the 'three worlds' we know as heaven, earth, and hell: the upper, middle, and lower worlds, respectively.
The more your consciousness or attitude evolves, and consequently, the more your behavior reforms, the higher up you go and the more freedom you enjoy. Conversely, the more brutish your consciousness, and therefore, behavior, the more brutal your punishment and the more restrictions you suffer on each consecutively lower plane.
So being a 'model prisoner' has its rewards. But here's the rub: this so-called 'heaven,' with all its vaunted perks and amenities, is really just the minimum-security section of a huge prison complex...
Now don't get me wrong: I'd rather be in heaven with the more-or-less harmless petty thieves and drunks than in hell with the brutal rapists and axe-murderers(!) — but the ultimate goal of a prisoner is to get out of gaol, not become so accustomed to the conditions that they want to extend their stay.
When I was growing up, my somewhat dubious conception of heaven (gleaned from my catechism classes, mostly) was that it was a wonderful place of enjoyment, a reward for being good, where I could live for eternity.
Heaven is a wonderful place of enjoyment; it is a reward for being good... and that's the problem. It is this proclivity for enjoyment, this willing participation in, and yearning for the benefits and rewards of the prison system, that keeps us incarcerated.
The privileges and relative freedom of a minimum-security prison are only attractive to prisoners within the system; no law-abiding citizen envies these wretches enough to consider trading places with them.
And another thing: although life in heaven may seem like an eternity, after a few hundred thousand years — less than a handful of sand, in terms of eternity — the cycle of birth and death begins once more.
That's because even on the topmost planet, recidivism is high. Unless we have a revolution of consciousness and acknowledge our wrongdoing, admit that we are 'guilty as charged,' we shall inevitably repeat our criminal offenses and, well, you know what they say: when you're on the top, there's no place to go but down...
The few conscientious criminals who do reform are paroled to a halfway house of sorts, Shivaloka, where they face one final test: the ministrations of Maya. If they succeed in demonstrating a desire to serve rather than be served, they are finally allowed to enter the spiritual world proper: the lower hemisphere of Vaikuntha.
In Sri Guru and His Grace, Srila Guru Maharaj ominously warns us that even in the spiritual world, "if we mix with so many sadhus in Vaikuntha, then we will be hurled down to Vaikuntha."
If the 'lower hemisphere' of the spiritual world is viewed with such obvious distaste by Krishna's pure devotees (because the ecstasy of the vatsalya-rasa of Mathura and the madhurya-rasa of Vrindavan are absent), then what can be said about the upper, heavenly hemisphere of this material world, which is below (and outside of) Vaikuntha? "Heaven is for really shallow thinkers"?
Heaven is wonderful place — an oasis in the desert of this material world — but weary travelers will be dismayed to discover that it is an all-too-brief brief stopover on the long, arduous journey to Vaikuntha.
Tags: Making Progress
Layout by iMonk — January 30th, 2013.