Explanation of Heaven and Hell in Hinduism
In Hinduism, the concept and form of heaven is very different to that understood in other religions. While some scriptures may describe heaven and hell as the final and permanent destination of the soul, in Hinduism, heaven (swarga) is perceived as an intermediate spiritual achievement. It is attained as a result of good karmas or meritorious deeds (punya), in the same way that those with negative karma or sinful deeds (paap) are destined for hell (narak).
Heaven and hell are not considered as any spiritual geographical locations but as states of existence or experiences of the soul, both whilst living and after the demise of the body. This means that enjoying the benefits of good karmas means dwelling in heaven and reaping the consequences of negative karmas means dwelling in hell. Hence, in heaven there is enjoyment and in hell there is suffering.
One ceases to dwell in swarga or narak when the cumulative count of good and negative karmas is utilized through enjoyment and suffering as a result of those karmas. One then takes birth in another body and proceeds through the entire cycle again and again indefinitely. This cycle will continue until the soul (atma) is completely detached from materialism and has acquired only good karmas. This cycle of birth and death (referred to as bhavsagar) can be broken only by the attainment of moksha which is liberation or salvation. Moksha is the ultimate destination of the spiritual journey and is considered as final and permanent. In that state, the atma (which is immortal) castes off all the limitations of karma and is united with the divine identity that we call God.
Thus heaven, in Hinduism, is a metaphysical state of freedom – that can only be experienced when we are completely cleansed of negative karma, where the soul becomes one with the Lord
Author: Tashmica Sharma – South African Hindu Maha Sabha Executive Member.