“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
“You seem to be on this kick lately of downplaying the importance of heaven. The idea that reaching there, svarga-loka, isn’t so great, that the achievement can be surpassed in other ways.
“I must say a few words in defense of the other side. I think our society needs a little more attention to dharma. Never mind the motives. If someone maintains fidelity in marriage in order to accumulate pious credits, isn’t that a good thing? Does not the community benefit? Shouldn’t we be encouraging householders to worship the devas, the demigods in the heavenly region?
“After all, rain doesn’t appear out of nowhere. We think that it does, but there is intelligence to the system of nature. This explains why some places are devastated with hurricanes and others are spared. We have out of control wildfires burning down a specific area, and someplace else the homes are safe year after year.
“Yes, I acknowledge that the motivations may not be pure. Someone wants good health. They want money for the family. Children want to do well on upcoming exams. But isn’t it good that they look for support from higher authorities, that they do not foolishly attribute success to human effort alone, paurusham?
“Let’s be clear about one thing. People do enjoy in the heavenly region. It is for a significant amount of time, enough that they forget they will be forced to one day leave. Why would you deprive people of that enjoyment?”
To understand, we can study the situation of a person working in the technology field. They are in charge of one of the most expensive pieces of hardware in the company: the database server. While the general policy at the firm is to tackle performance issues with improvements in memory and disk space, lately the application using this server has been getting slower and slower.
The person in charge of the database decides to seek outside help. They hire a consultant to come in, look at the system, and make recommendations to solve the problem. The person at the company tells the consultant that the database is rather large, that there are certain tables which host a considerable amount of data.
When the consultant learns of the actual size of the database, they laugh out loud. Since they work with so many companies in emergency situations, they have seen every kind of problem. They have also seen databases that are ten and twenty times as large based on disk size. They tell the person who hired them:
“Moving forward, instead of using words like ‘large’ and ‘big’, just provide an estimated number in terms of size. The person working on the issue can then judge for themselves if that is significant or not.”
The acharya of the Vaishnava tradition could be considered a kind of consultant to fix the emergency situation of repeated birth and death. When they hear that a person wants to enjoy in svarga-loka in the afterlife, because of the many years of material enjoyment, they can only laugh at the proposition.
This is because even a million years is nothing in comparison to the timeline of this specific creation. A person actually understands time when they consider the one day of Lord Brahma, the creator.
अहर् यद् ब्रह्मणो विदुः
ते ऽहो-रात्र-विदो जनाः
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)
A thousand ages together is only a single day for Brahma, who lives for one hundred years according to that calculation of time. This means that so-called enjoyment in heaven is nothing. In a split second you are back on earth, the place known as martya-loka, subject to the spinning wheel of suffering, the samsara-chakra.
The better proposition is to go for full and complete transcendence. Reach a place from which you never have to return, that provides enough satisfaction, bliss, excitement, encouragement, enthusiasm and overall enjoyment that you will never be worried about falling back to the land of birth and death.
There is such a place, and it is known as Vaikuntha. We reach it through consciousness, which the human being has the unique opportunity to shape and purify. We begin the process through connection with the personal side of the Divine and we hopefully conclude with a link to Him that never breaks: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
If eager for spot in heaven to earn,
First of Brahma’s day learn.
That thousand ages to take,
A single day for him to make.
So enjoyment flickering to be,
Since earth once again to see.
Better on the path of bhakti stand,
Where in transcendence to land.