Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Our worldly existence is a mixture of joys and sorrows. Some experience
more joy than sorrow and some more sorrow. Then there may be a rare
individual here or there who can control his mind and keep smiling even
in the midst of sorrow. On the other hand, we do see a quite a number of
people who have much to be happy about but who keep a long face. If a
man lacks for something it means he is unhappy.
All creatures long for everlasting happiness. There are two abodes of
eternal happiness. One is devaloga, the world of celestials or paradise,
the other is Atmajnana, the state of awareness of the Self. The Atman,
the Self is bliss; it is the Brahman. To realise this truth is to attain
everlasting blessedness. But this state, this joy supreme, is not
experienced by the mind or the senses. It is the highest, the most
state and it transcends the senses and the mind; it is a state in which
man becomes aware that "the body is not I, the intelligence is not I,
consciousness is not I".
Paradise is the place where happiness is always experienced by the mind
and the senses. Music and dance - music of the gandharvas, dance by
Rambha and Menaka - Kalpaka, the tree that grants all wishes,
Kamadhenu, the cow that grants all wishes, the garden known as
Nandana: devaloka means all these. It is indeed a playground and there
is always joy. But a difference exists between the joy known in paradise
and the bliss experienced by the knower of the Self. It is true that
eternal happiness in paradise but not so far the man who goes there
because he will not be a permanent resident of it. If he has earned a
ideal of merit he will be able to reside there until he is reborn. When
has enjoyed the fruits of his meritorious actions, the Lord will send
back to earth. It is true that there are accounts in the Puranas of
who earn a great ideal of merit and become gods themselves to reside in
the celestial world. But the same Puranas also tell us that the gods
themselves are not permanent denizens of paradise. There are stories in
these texts of the celestials being hounded out of paradise by demons
like Surapadma and Mahisasura and of Indra, their king, himself being
pushed down to earth to undergo suffering there.
On a hypothetical basis, eternal happiness may be ours in svarga or
paradise. But there is no instance of anyone having actually lived there
permanently nor does it seem possible for anyone to do so.
Happiness gained through the senses is derived from external objects.
These cannot be ours for all time. There were occasions when Indra had
to suffer all by himself when he lost everything, including Kamadhenu,
the Kalpaka tree, Airavata and even Indrani. So the happiness associated
with paradise, which is dependent on external objects, can never be
enduring. "Sadananda" or eternal bliss is for him who has neither
anything external nor internal and who dwells in his Self as a
( a man of steady wisdom) as explained by the Lord in the Gita, one who
remains nailed to his Self. The joy experienced by Indra is but a
the vast ocean of Atmic bliss, so says the Acarya in his Manisa Pancakam:
"Yad Saukhyambudilesalesata ime Sakradayo nirvrtah".
According to Upanisads you will have external bliss if the senses and
mind are removed in the same way as you draw off the rib from a stalk of
corn and remain just the Atman. It needs great courage to pluck out the
body and the senses realising that “I am not the body. Its joys and
sorrows are not mine". Such courage is not earned without inner purity.
Conduct of religious rituals is meant for this, for cittasuddhi (purity
consciousness). There are forty samskaras to refine a man with Vedic
mantras and to involve him in the rites associated with those mantras.
These are the first steps towards the indissoluble union of the
self with the Absolute - it is Advaitic mukti, non - dualistic release.
We must strive to become inwardly pure by the performance of works.
Then, with the inner organs (antah - karana) also cleansed, we must
mediate on the Self and become one with It. This is the concept of
Sankara. If a man has such a goal before him and keeps performing
throughout (even without becoming a sannyasin) he goes to Brahmaloka
on death. During the great deluge when Brahma is absorbed in the
Brahman he too attains non - dualistic liberation, so says Sankara. But
man performs rituals for the sake of rituals without keeping before him
the goal of oneness with the Brahman he will be rewarded with paradise,
but not the paradise that is eternal. Though the stay be brief he will
greater happiness there than on earth. It is samskaras that earn a man