The Concept of Heaven and Hell in Gurbani

People have been curious to know about heaven and try many devices to reach heaven or to get a seat reserved in heaven

From ancient times, people have been curious to know about heaven and try many devices to reach heaven or to get a seat reserved in heaven. People of different religions use different methods for this purpose. Some do good deeds in life aiming to reach heaven. Some read holy hymns from their scriptures when someone is on his death bed or when he has expired, and think that is a must for getting the deceased a berth in heaven. Some relatives of the deceased person perform Yaga, do Paaths or feed the Brahmans so that the soul of the dead person may rest in heaven. Some bathe the dead body with water from certain rivers while others drown the dead body in certain rivers which are holy according to them. Some fanatic people commit acts of terrorism and get killed for a seat in heaven. Everyone desires for heaven, but none knows its location or the way to reach there:

surg mukiq bYkuMT siB bWCih iniq Awsw Aws krIjY ] (Guru Raam Daass.SGGS:1324)
"Everyone longs for paradise, liberation and heaven; all place their hopes in them."
sBu koeI cln khq hY aUhW ]nw jwnau bYkuMTu hY khW ] (Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:1161)
"Everyone speaks of going there, but I do not even know where heaven is."

Heaven and Hell According to Gurbani

The issue of heaven and hell as given in Gurbani embodied in SGGS has not been analyzed by most of the Sikh scholars. Consequently, people think that Sikhism follows the philosophy of Hinduism on the issue of heaven and hell, but it is wrong. Let us discuss this issue according to Gurbani. Heaven and hell have been mentioned in Gurbani many times. It does not mean that Gurbani supports the existence of heaven or hell. These have been referred either allegorically or metaphorically.

Gurbani does not believe in heaven or hell. Guru Nanak Dev raises the question and also replies: From where does one come and where will one go?

jwqo jwie khw qy AwvY ]kh aupjY kh jwie smwvY ] ( SGGS:152)
"How can we know where we came from? Where did we originate, and where will we go and merge?"
shjy AwvY shjy jwie ]mn qy aupjY mn mwih smwie ]
"One comes (born) under the law of nature and departs (dies) under the law of nature.
From the mind one originates, and into the mind is absorbed."

According to Gurbani, the treatment given to body after death does not matter as it is not known where one goes after death:

iek dJih iek dbIAih ieknw kuqy Kwih ]
ieik pwxI ivic austIAih ieik BI iPir hsix pwih ]
nwnk eyv n jwpeI ikQY jwie smwih ] (Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:648)
"Some are cremated, and some are buried; some are eaten by dogs.
Some are thrown into water, while others are thrown into dried wells.
O Nanak, it is not known, where they go and into what they merge.

Importance of Good Actions

Gurbani states that there is no world after death where one will reap the benefits/punishment of what one has done in this world. Only good actions matter

mqu ko jwxY jwie AgY pwiesI ] jyhy krm kmwie qyhw hoiesI ] (GuruNanakDev.SGGS:730)
"Not any one should think she/he would receive honor hereafter - because s/he thinks so; she/he will be treated according to deeds."

jYsw kIcY qYso pweIAY ] (Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:1028)
"As he acts, so does he suffer."
glI iBsiq n jweIAY CutY scu kmwie ] (Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:141)
"By mere talk, people do not earn passage to Heaven. Salvation comes only from the practice of Truth.

AMqir mYlu jy qIrQ nwvY iqsu bYkuMT n jwnW ] (Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:484)
"With filth within the heart, even if one bathes at sacred places of pilgrimage, still, he shall not go to heaven."

 

Where is Heaven?

Gurbani says that singing the praise of God,meditation and the company of holy persons mean heaven

qh bYkuMTu jh nwmu aucrih ]srb Anµd jb drsnu pweIAY ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:890)
"Heaven is where the Naam is chanted. All bliss comes, when one obtains the Blessed Vision of the Lord"

jo ismrMdy sWeIAY ]nrik n syeI pweIAY ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:132)
"Those who meditate on the Master shall not be thrown down into hell."
caurwsIh nrk swkqu BogweIAY ] (Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:1028)
"One who turns away from Akalpurakh suffers the hell of 84 lakh life forms."

qhw bYkuMTu jh kIrqnu qyrw qUM Awpy srDw lwieih ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS: 749)
"That place is heaven, where the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises are sung. You (the Lord) Yourself instill faith into us."
mukiq bYkuMT swD kI sMgiq jn pwieE hir kw Dwm ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:682)
'Liberation and heaven are found in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; his humble servant finds the home of the Lord.'

bYkuMT ngru jhw sMq vwsw ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:742)
"The city of heaven is where the Saints dwell."
qh bYkuMTu jh nwmu aucrih ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:850)
"Heaven is where the Naam is chanted."
srb bYkuMT mukiq moK pwey ]eyk inmK hir ky gun gwey ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:290)
"Everything is obtained: the heavens, liberation and deliverance, if one sings the Lord's Glories, even for an instant."
bYkuMT goibMd crn inq iDAwau ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:1220)
"To meditate on the Lotus Feet of the Lord of the Universe is heaven for me."

 

Heaven Has no Value for Holy Persons

Holy persons do not care for heaven or hell. For them, the Lord's Lotus feet ( memory of God) and His grace is heaven:

keI bYkuMT nwhI lvY lwgy ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:1078)
"Myriads of heavens do not equal the Lord's Name."
dr drsn kw pRIqmu hovY mukiq bYkuMTY krY ikAw ] (Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:360)
'Of what use is liberation or paradise for the one who loves the Lord's Court, and the Blessed Vision of His Darshan? '
Dnu nhI bwCih surg n AwCih ]Aiq ipRA pRIiq swD rj rwcih ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:251)
"They do not seek wealth, and they do not desire paradise. They are immersed in the deep love of their Beloved, and the dust of the feet of the Holy."
surg bwsu n bwCIAY frIAY n nrik invwsu ]
honw hY so hoeI hY mnih n kIjY Aws ] (SGGS:337)
"Don't wish for a home in heaven, and don't be afraid to live in hell.
Whatever will be will be, so don't get your hopes up in your mind."
kvnu nrku ikAw surgu ibcwrw sMqn doaU rwdy ]
hm kwhU kI kwix n kFqy Apny gur prswdy ] (SGGS: Bhagat Kabir959)
"What is hell, and what is heaven? The Saints reject both.
By the Grace of my Guru, I have no obligation to either of them."
kbIr surg nrk qy mY rihE siqgur ky prswid ]
crn kml kI mauj mih rhau AMiq Aru Awid ] (SGGS:Bhagat Kabir1370)
"Kabeer, I have been spared from heaven and hell, by the Grace of the True Guru.
From beginning to end, I abide in the joy of the Lord's Lotus Feet"
nr qy aupij surg kau jIiqE so AvKD mY pweI ] (SGGS:Bhagat Naam Dev)
"Born of human flesh, I have conquered the heavens; such is the medicine I was given."
surg imrq pieAwl BU mMfl sgl ibAwpy mwie ]
jIA auDwrn sB kul qwrn hir hir nwmu iDAwie ] (Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:676)
Paradise, the earth, the nether regions of the underworld, and the globe of the world - all are engrossed in Maya. Meditate on the Name of the Lord to save your soul, and to liberate all your ancestors.

Conclusion

In Gurbani heaven and hell are not known. One is born and dies under the Laws of Nature. The benefits/punishment of good and bad deeds is rewarded in this life not in any other life or in any other world. The final message of Gurbani is to make best use of the present life since there is no other life after. It seem scientists and rationalists have the same view. Guru Arjan Dev has summed up:

Awgwhw kU qRwiG ipCw Pyir n muhfVw ]
nwnk isiJ ievyhw vwr bhuiV n hovI jnmVw ] (SGGS:1096)
"Look ahead; don't turn your face backwards.
O Nanak, be successful this time, and you shall not be reincarnated again."

Gurmat does not recognize any places or regions as heaven and hell. That is because Gurmat does not accept that the Creator condemns any one permanently to hell. Forgetting the One is hell, remembering one's true identity and feeling at One with the Creator is heaven - eternal peace. Entry to heaven or hell does not depend on the faith one belongs to or the way one's body is disposed of; it is the deeds which count. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness, not places one goes to..

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