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Sunday | September 22, 2002

Heaven or Hell

Anthea McGibbon, Staff Reporter

AS CHILDREN, most of us are taught to be good Christians in order to secure a place in heaven and to avoid being damned to hell by a loving yet punishable God.

In adulthood, we view heaven a bit differently, not as a reward for good deeds, but a special place prepared by God, for those who claim the birthright to be His children.

Bottom line: To inherit this "paradise" according to traditional Christian doctrine, you must accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, abiding by his principles.

However, there are other existing views on life after death. Rosicrucians, Rastafarians, Jews, Baha'is, Muslims, Hindus, Hare Krishnas and Sikhs all have different views on where their souls find eternal rest.

Classical Hindu metaphysics puts an end to the fear of death. It neither allows one to fear, nor look forward to death. Death for the Hindu is a mere transition, simultaneously an end and a new beginning, referred to as a mahahaprasthana, a "great journey".

Although Christians and Hindus both believe in the afterlife, Hindus do not believe the afterlife is based on a linear view of time, but rather is cyclical. In other words, when a person physically dies, his soul is reborn to live a new life through reincarnation.

And for the Hindus, karma determines where you are reborn, therefore to increase your caste system you must increase your good karma while alive.

Duncan Hughes, a member of the Krishna society since the 1970s explains the Krishna's viewpoint on the 'afterlife'. Krishnas, like Hindus, believe in reincarnation of the spirit soul. According to Hughes, the spirit soul which now resides in every living being, continues after death but is reborn and enters another form, human or otherwise.

This cycle of birth and death continues indefinitely and is dependent on the quality of life or karma (actions) of the individual whilst on earth.

The individual who is prepared to return to the spiritual world where Krishna (God) lives, does not come back to the material world. The spiritual world is "where some other religions call heaven."

Krishna consciousness is God-consciousness because the name God and Krishna are one," says Hughes. "All sinful reactions are cancelled if we live by the Krishna conscience and then we do not have to return to the material world (which encompasses some 84,000,000 species of life)."

The Baha'i believes that death is also a transition into another realm. There is no physical state for the soul, which progresses eternally after death. After death the soul grows according to God's mercy, though not all souls start in the same position. The state you start out with is determined by the way you lived your life.

Baha'is believe that heaven is a state of being close to God. Hell on the other hand is not being close to God, resulting in suffering and stress from this deprivation.


According to Ainsley Henriques, Director, United Congregation of Israelites, the Jews believe in life after death and resurrection of the spirit. Judaism however refuses the traditional concept of heaven and hell.

Life has been so rough for Jews, stated Wallace Campbell, another United Congregation of Israelites Director, that they had little time to worry about the afterlife, but rather focused on doing God's duties on earth.

Like, Moses Maimonides, the 12th century philosopher, who maintains that only the immature are motivated by the hopes of reward and fear of punishment, the reward for virtuous living was the good life itself. Rather than speculate on matters of after life, he urged that we should attend to our duties before God. For Mr. Campbell, a lack of resurrection is the hell. A soul delighting in a well-lived life, is in heaven; a soul in remorse is in hell.

Muslims believe that at death, the physical body is finished while the spirit remains, moulded by the individual's deeds - good or bad. The spirit is the seed from which the higher form of life grows within man, higher than physical life. Heaven and hell are not actual places in the universe, but conditions of the spirit resulting from these deeds.

The feeling of bliss and contentment is the heaven of one's heart while guilt, shame and greed felt by an evil doer, is the hell of one's heart. Heaven or hell developed in the heart, unfolds at death and becomes the world in which the individual lives with the spiritual body.

Dismissing the concept of reincarnation, Islam teaches that each person is born with a pure soul, free of any burdens from the past life. As such, the best person in God's eyes is the one who acquits himself best in the conditions he meets.

©Copyright Jamaica Gleaner

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