“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)
ते तं भुक्त्वा स्वर्ग-लोकं विशालं
क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्य-लोकं विशन्ति
एवं त्रयी-धर्मम् अनुप्रपन्ना
गतागतं काम-कामा लभन्ते
te taṁ bhuktvā svarga-lokaṁ viśālaṁ
kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti
evaṁ trayī-dharmam anuprapannā
gatāgataṁ kāma-kāmā labhante
Friend1: Have you heard that saying about the difficulty the rich person encounters in trying to reach heaven?
Friend2: What is that, exactly?
Friend1: Something about it being more difficult to thread the eye of a needle with a large object than it is for a wealthy person to reach heaven.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: They don’t give justification.
Friend2: Who is “they”?
Friend1: The people putting forward the saying. They claim the truth is based on a sacred text, of their particular faith.
Friend2: Oh. But no logical foundation, otherwise?
Friend1: They don’t seem too interested in logic or understanding. Faith in the savior. Belief in the book. That is the way to heaven.
Friend2: Says who?
Friend1: I guess their faith.
Friend2: Who represents their faith?
Friend1: Maybe the institution. I see where you are going with this. If the institution is flawed, if there is bias based on insider-status and politics, then the followers should insist on more than just faith.
Friend2: Not that there shouldn’t be representatives. You need parampara. A disciplic succession is how you reach the original person. In fact, if the representatives are qualified and true to the mission, it is like you are connecting directly with the person who is supposed to grant every wish.
Friend1: And the wish here is salvation. Life in heaven, after death, though the achievement can’t be confirmed until later.
Friend2: Why not?
Friend1: Umm, because heaven is the afterlife. In other words, after this life is over. How can you confirm otherwise?
Friend2: The followers are helpless, then? They have to believe in a hope and a prayer?
Friend1: I think so. Should it be any different?
Friend2: Of course. If I can realize so many other things right now, with the senses given to me by nature, why shouldn’t it be the same with the highest concept of all?
Friend1: Never thought of it that way. What exactly should be realized? Heaven? But isn’t that a destination?
Friend2: There is a difference between ascending to heaven and realizing God. You can take that lesson right away from association with the Vedic tradition.
Friend1: Isn’t heaven where God is? Don’t I realize God by reaching heaven?
Friend2: Physical proximity is not the qualifier. I could be living next to the most important leader for decades. They are my neighbor. I might get a glance at them periodically, when they are entering and leaving. This doesn’t mean I have any sort of relationship with them.
Friend1: Whereas I could know someone intimately who lives thousands of miles away. This is because I communicate with them on a regular basis.
Friend2: Thus you have invalidated the concept of heavenly residence automatically involving realization of God. From Bhagavad-gita we learn that residence in heaven, as we know it, is not fixed.
Friend1: Why not?
Friend2: Because it is an achievement. It is the result of following piety, dharma. Heaven is part of the material world. You enjoy there for a longer period of time and with a greater degree of indulgence, but you cannot remain there forever.
Friend1: What about realizing God?
Friend2: That can take place anywhere. Such realization is known as yoga, the genuine kind. If you are in yoga, you have no desire to change location. I can be completely in union with the Divine right now, in fact. While speaking to you, describing His glories, quoting from His teachings in sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, inviting others to follow the same imperishable path of devotion, I can be associating with Him directly. Then I won’t mind heaven or hell, pebbles or gold, sickness or health, or cold or heat.
After faith in savior to affirm,
Still heaven not now can confirm.
Faith the only way,
The Sunday leaders say.
But truth not based on ascending,
Realization through that descending.
Knowledge towards transcendence shown,
Through guru the Supreme is known.