“Krishna sometimes played with His intimate friends by engaging in fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball, sometimes by playing chess, sometimes by carrying one another on the shoulders, and sometimes by exhibiting their expertness at whirling logs.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)Download this episode (right click and save)
Be good. Don’t sin. Don’t steal. Don’t go after your neighbor’s wife. Be a “God-fearing” person. Following the generally accepted principles of piety gets you to heaven. This is the standard promise found in practically every religious tradition. One group has a certain language, another group wears a certain outfit, and another prays a certain number of times a day. Despite the variation, they each have their belief in the Divine, something bigger than this world.
But who is God really? What is going on in the heavenly realm? It is supposed that He lives there, the destination for the pious, so what exactly is He doing? What is the influence of time? The Vedas fill in the missing pieces. A lot of the information is eye-opening, as well as comforting. A good way to understand is to review some of the things that God is not doing in the heavenly realm.
1. Punishing the sinners
Piety and sin are products of a land governed by duality. What is good for one person may not be so for another. Today it is cloudy, with the chance of rain. That is good for nature, since the area has been suffering from a drought. The same situation is negative for the commuters. A professional sports league has their main event of the year today, and the venue is outdoors. Rain threatens to wash away any chance of profit.
The Sanskrit words dharma and adharma apply here. The first is piety and the second is irreligion. Punya and papa is another pair of words of relevance. Punya is pious credits or pious activity, and papa is sin. According to Vedic teachings, God is not standing by in heaven waiting to punish the sinners.
That already takes place in the material world through the administration of Yamaraja. He is commonly known as the god of death, something like a Grim Reaper. He is also Dharmaraja, which means the god of justice. He decides whether a person will go to hell or ascend to heaven after death.
The real definition of piety is moving closer to the essential characteristic of the soul, service to the Divine. Sin is moving away. Getting hotter or becoming colder happen in the material world, of which the Supreme Lord, in His original, personal form, has no interest.
2. Looking down disapprovingly
The heavenly region is above. The Vedic description is “upper planetary system.” There are many heavenly planets, as well as hellish ones. The earth is in the middle region. God is obviously in the highest heaven, so the idea of Him looking down at the population of the earth is valid.
“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, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that from the highest planet down to the lowest, there is rebirth. This applies to the material world. There is no reason for God to look down disapprovingly. The descent to the material world took place when there was a hint of desire to enjoy separate from God. He still accompanies every individual as the Supersoul, residing within the heart.
The material nature operates essentially on its own, without direct supervision from the Divine. It is something like a person setting up a computer. There is intelligence in the construction, and the aftereffect of that intelligence is the autonomous operation subsequent to the creation. The material nature is something like that, the home for the fallen souls. They go through the cycle of birth and death, sometimes rising to heaven, sometimes falling to hell. The Supreme Lord has no direct interest.
3. Growing old
That is the picture of the Supreme Lord when relying on mental speculation alone. He is adi-purusha, after all, which means the original person. He must be old, then. He must have a long, white beard.
Actually, the Vedas describe Him as nava-yauvanam. He is ever fresh and new, like someone who has just become a teenager. Visual evidence is there in His descents to the material world in His personal form.
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)
The Supreme Lord came as Krishna some five thousand years ago. After being on earth for over one hundred years, He still looked young. When He delivered the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, there was no sign of old age in Him. The same transcendence of time is there in the eternal abode of the spiritual world. Krishna is known as Bhagavan, which means that He has the opulence of shri, which is beauty. Old age attacks beauty, and Bhagavan always retains beauty to the highest level.
4. Getting angry
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna describes the cause of anger. There are objects of the senses and then contemplation on them. Then kama results, which can be translated as “lust.”
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)
Kama is also desire. If I don’t have my desire met, obviously I will be upset. I’m going along my day, pretty happy and peaceful. Then there’s traffic on the drive home from work. I get angry because my desire for seamless travel is frustrated.
The Supreme Lord is not angry in the spiritual world because He is never frustrated in desire. There are no objects of the senses for Him since He does not have a material body. His kama is transcendental. He is atmarama, which means “satisfied in the self.”
5. Sitting around bored
The complete picture of Krishna includes His associates. For instance, you can’t have Krishna without Radha, His eternal consort. The Supreme Lord is never bored in the spiritual world since He has people who love Him purely always around.
Thus far we have looked at what the Supreme Lord isn’t doing in heaven. The answer to the question of what He is doing is always the same: enjoying. God is personal and He has many personal expansions that reside in different planets of the spiritual world, which is the real heaven. The heaven referred to in general conversation is actually a temporary residence in the material world reserved for those with many pious credits. Those credits eventually expire, which means the residence must change.
On the planet of Goloka Vrindavana, Krishna is always enjoying. There is Radha. There are the gopis. There are the sakhas, the male friends. Even the animals, such as the parrots, peacocks, and cows, are pleasant to have around. Krishna is always in madhurya, or sweetness. The pastimes in His home are eternal, and going back to Godhead means reentering those pastimes, returning to the company of the most compassionate, pleasant, and beautiful person, who also happens to be God.
For true nature of heaven to know,
To the negative one way to go.
Supreme Lord never growing old,
In full beauty, ever fresh to behold.
Not in punishing sinners delighting,
With friends in wrestling match fighting.
With gopis dancing and having a good time,
Transcendental bodies, in splendor of devotion to shine.