Justice in Heaven
I heard the following story from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Head (1973 – 2007) of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York. I have added material needed to set up the background of the story.
Taxi drivers make their living by transporting as many passengers as they can each day. For them, time is money. While this mindset helps the driver earn money, sometimes it also results in risky driving.
When I saw how taxis run on the streets of New York City, I remembered a description I had read in the Ramayana. The famous villain Ravana had a plane that was directed through his thoughts alone. The taxis in New York City are similar. If you are driving behind a taxi in New York, you may not know where the taxi will go. It always seems to me that the taxi will only go according to the thoughts of the taxi driver. The taxi driver may go to the right lane or the left, take a right turn or a left, and sometimes even take a complete U-turn.
One such taxi driver died and went to heaven. St. Peter looked at the driver’s life record and gave him a big mansion to live in while in heaven.
After some time, a religious preacher died and also went to heaven. St. Peter looked up his record of good deeds and gave him a simple hut to live in. After moving into his place, the preacher started walking around to see the different parts of heaven. He soon found that his next-door neighbor had a big mansion. He thought that whoever lives in this mansion must be a great religious preacher. However, to his surprise, he found that the mansion was occupied by a taxi driver.
The preacher was furious and went directly to St. Peter. He told St. Peter that he was really upset. He was expecting full justice in heaven. Instead, he found total injustice. St. Peter asked him to explain why he felt mistreated. The religious preacher said that he had taught the name of God to people for every day of his life. For this, he had come to heaven. However, despite this work, the preacher was just given a dingy little place while the taxi driver… a taxi driver… (The preacher’s voice choked out of anger). After controlling himself, the preacher finally finished his thought and complained that his neighbor was given a big mansion despite only driving taxis in New York City.
St. Peter seemed undisturbed. He told the preacher that there cannot be any injustice in heaven. He asked the preacher to calm down and listen to the reason for these rewards. St. Peter said that he had great respect for the preacher’s work of preaching God to people for his entire life. However, when he was preaching, people used to sleep. On the other hand, when this taxi driver was driving his taxi in New York City, the passengers were constantly praying to God! J
Preaching is a difficult job. Sri Ramakrishna once said that only those who have received God’s command could inspire people to truly love God. It is not the oratory skill or the knowledge of scriptures that can inspire people to love God.
Many preachers are great orators or well-versed in scriptures but they do not have God’s command. People who witness these preachers often say, “Wow! This preacher is such a great orator or how this preacher is so knowledgeable!” But, they forget everything the preacher had said shortly after meeting him/her. In these cases, the people unfortunately do not develop a true love for God through listening the lectures.
A sincere devotee loves God and lives a God-oriented life. He/she has no craving to teach people. If God makes a devotee an instrument to inspire people to love God, then the devotee will accept it as God’s wish. Yet, the devotee always remembers that it is God who is inspiring people. The devotee never develops an ego or a sense of doer-ship.
Almost all people need a human example to develop love for God. When we see someone who truly loves God and someone whose thoughts, speech, and actions have Godly-touch, we become inspired to love God. Through this person, we realize that God is not an abstract idea but rather as real as the core of our existence.
Heaven: People wish to extend their worldly pleasures after death and want worldly rewards for their good work. Thus, we find the idea of heaven that has been entertained in most of the religions. Swami Vivekananda says that the idea of heaven differs by the people. If people have been living in deserts and like to enjoy having lots of water, they imagine their heaven with rivers, lakes and lots of green land. People who lived in tropical countries where it rains most of the time imagine heaven as a dry place with occasional rain.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, heaven is like a resort where people go on vacation. People enjoy their money’s worth of pleasures in a resort and when the money runs out, they have to go back to their work place. They cannot earn money at the resort. In this metaphor, the “money” in the heaven is an individual’s good deeds. People want worldly pleasures for their good deeds after their death. For this reason, they have enjoyment in heaven and when they run out of the merits of their good deeds, then come back to earth and start all over again. Heaven and hell go together. There cannot be heaven without hell.
As I had mentioned in my earlier post, living a life for only body-mind enjoyments is a hellish life filled with lots of suffering. Living a God-fearing moral life and doing some good work is a life lived in heaven. Living a Spirit-oriented or Self-oriented life with no craving for worldly desires is a life lived in divine bliss – a life that is beyond heaven and hell.
(Thanks to Madhavi Jani for the illustration and Ronak Parikh for editing this post.)