“When one is above the directions of the Vedic ritualistic injunctions for attaining different allurements and is fully absorbed in transcendental thought, which means thought of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in devotional service, one is in the position called buddhi-yoga, or samadhi, ecstasy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.4.20 Purport)
You would be surprised to know that the highest platform of living is not determined by material objects. In Vedic philosophy there are indeed the concepts of heaven and heavenly enjoyment. The heavenly region is a planetary system, where there are different standards of living. Just like in the earthly realm there is the concept of upward mobility, which is determined by economic success, there are different ways to enjoy in heaven.
trai-vidyā māṁ soma-pāḥ pūta-pāpā
yajñair iṣṭvā svar-gatiṁ prārthayante
te puṇyam āsādya surendra-lokam
aśnanti divyān divi deva-bhogān
“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20)
The four kinds of enjoyment in material life are eating, sleeping, mating and defending. If I’m eating oatmeal and porridge every day, I might envy the person who eats eggs benedict and steak and potatoes. If my only beverage is water, the person who drinks expensive wine may think they have it better.
The same comparison is there in sleeping, where the expensive mattress with a firmness set electronically is superior to the sheet laid on the bare ground. Once a person reaches the heavenly realm, the enjoyment gets enhanced to a level unimaginable.
How do you get to heaven? Be pious. Be a good person. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Follow prescribed rules and regulations, which might include rituals done for the satisfaction of higher authorities. In Sanskrit these authorities are known as devas. The English equivalent is demigod, because the devas all work for a single authority, who is thus the highest person.
The wise person, who has buddhi, or real intelligence, understands that the highest platform of living is not necessarily in the heavenly realm. The reason is that the residence is not permanent. It’s like buying time on a card that allows you to play at an arcade. Once your card runs out of time, you have to do something to refill it. In the same way, once the pious credits you’ve amassed expire, you have to leave heaven and go back to earth.
Moreover, traces of heavenly enjoyment can be found everywhere. The person who sleeps comfortably on a plush mattress experiences a kind of heaven. The same is true for anyone who has a life-threatening situation and somehow lives through it.
The highest platform of living is reached through consciousness. This means that you don’t have to worry about going to heaven. You don’t have to worry about getting moksha, or liberation, after experiencing the rewards of dharma, artha, and kama, which are religiosity, economic development and sense gratification respectively.
If you miss a ritual relating to sense gratification, it’s not the end of the world. Things will be okay. After all, the animals get their share of enjoyment and distress. They don’t know anything about religion. They never perform sacrifices. They don’t even know what dharma is.
In the same way, good and bad come through the course of karma and the passage of time. The proper objective for the living being is to advance in consciousness. Through meditation they can prepare for taking up an eternal engagement, one that matches the advanced consciousness. Meditation begins on the person who is not controlled by anyone else. That is the answer to the question of, “ Who is God?” He is the one person who is not controlled by any other controller. He is Parameshvara, to stand above all ishvaras.
After properly meditating on Him, the individual is ready to serve Him. This service is known as bhakti-yoga, which is synonymous with buddhi-yoga, as the most intelligent person acts in a way that maintains a connection between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. The occupation of bhakti-yoga continues forever. It creates a situation far superior to heaven, and it does so without relying on external objects. Rather, through even a simple life a person feels like they are extremely blessed, having the wealth of the Supreme Lord’s association. The meditation in this day and age starts and continues with the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
For the highest platform to achieve,
Not dependent on objects to receive.
Of life in heaven can already tell,
And some experiences also like hell.
Of missing a ritual no need to fear,
Since through mind to Lord become dear.
Even in simple life bliss to be found,
Bhakti-yoga bringing joy abound.