“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)Download this episode (right click and save)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes conditions for attaining devotional service to Him. As defined by Arjuna, and supported by the authority of great saints like Vyasa and Narada, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the supreme abode, the home of homes. His physical home is one thing, but that place derives its nature from Him. Krishna is the actual home, and so wherever one can find Him, they can feel safe and secure.
Since He is the Supreme Lord, the person behind the commonly used term of “God,” when He says how to take up devotion to Him, He speaks of how one can go to Him. The conditions He stipulates are not sectarian. He does not state that one has to be a Hindu first. He does not say that one has to belong to a particular religious organization. He does not say that one has to have been born in a specific land. He does not even say that one has to pray a certain number of times a day.
He says that one should be Brahman-realized. Though Brahman is a Sanskrit word, it is simply a sound vibration representing something tangible. In English I call the liquid that falls from the dark cloud in the sky “water.” In Spanish they call it agua, but the difference in name does not matter. The object is the same in both instances. And so Brahman is to be understood by all. It means spirit. It means the vital force that animates a living creature. It does not refer to only the spirit of a specific creature or set of creatures. The ant is Brahman. So is the cow, so is the elephant, and so is the wise head of state.
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
To realize Brahman is to see this spiritual equality in all beings. Krishna then says that on the Brahman-realized platform, there is no more hankering or lamenting. Not that desire stops entirely, but these things cease having an effect. If I wear a heavy winter coat, it doesn’t mean that I will never feel cold again. It just means that the cold winds won’t be able to influence me. In the same way, the Brahman realized soul transcends the pendulum known as desire and hate, on which we constantly swing.
Without hankering and without lamentation, and equipped with the Brahman vision, such a soul then takes up devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. That is the ticket to heaven and beyond. From Krishna we also learn that what we consider to be heaven is merely a temporary residence. It’s like visiting the mansion of an oil mogul from centuries prior. We could live there for a while and try to enjoy, but the existence isn’t that different from what we have now. We still get a temporary body that must eventually leave us. The same goes for residence in heaven, and hell as well.
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.16)
Krishna is the supreme abode, and His home is a different kind of heaven. It is reserved for those practicing bhakti-yoga exclusively. In a nutshell, anyone who wants to go there gets to. The desire has to be sincere. It does not mean that one has to make a huge show of their devotion, for in fact displaying too much religiosity in public is often a warning to others of a lack of genuineness. A sincere desire lives within the consciousness, which gets measured at the time of death.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.6)
Based on this scientific understanding, we see that any statements to the fact that one can only get to heaven if they belong to a particular religion are absolutely silly. This thinking is like the bogus caste system by birthright or the social status based on heredity that was prevalent in Europe for so long. Does only the Christian feel the heat of the summer? Does only the Hindu feel satisfaction from eating? Does only the Muslim die? Does only the Jewish person take birth?
The soul transcends all designations, and so its residence is not determined by one’s particular faith. One is not banned from any area in the afterlife based on which religion they profess allegiance to. The requirement for Krishna’s abode is the Brahman vision and a lack of hankering and lamenting, things which get their support from devotional service. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada very nicely translates bhakti-yoga to mean “Krishna consciousness.” The mindset determines whether or not one is eligible for going back to the transcendental abode, the only place where there is no birth and death. No one can stop us from thinking anything, so if we want we can think of the all-attractive Krishna today and secure our entry to His beautiful land.
One who knows Krishna only as His plenary expansion of the Supersoul residing within the heart also gets an auspicious birth in the next life. The same goes for the soul who is Brahman realized, who only knows of God as a supreme energy. And those who are pious, who may not know the existence of a Supreme Lord who is behind everything that we see, get to enjoy in the heavenly realm for a time commensurate with their good deeds. Thus the desire is what matters most, not the religious affiliation.
Only the Christian to heaven to go?
How possibly this can be so?
Does only the Muslim eat?
Does only the Hindu happiness meet?
Brahman realization the described condition,
Heavenly abode not excluded for any tradition.
No longer hankering and no more to lament,
In devotion to transcendental land then sent.