Heaven and Hell

October 12, 2015 08:52 pm | Updated 08:52 pm IST

Verse ten of Andal’s Tiruppavai talks of ‘svarga.’ But what is svarga? There is a beautiful explanation of what svarga is in the Ramayana, elaborated M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse. Rama tries to dissuade Sita from accompanying Him to the forest. He says forest life is full of hardships. Forest life, in short, is like being in hell. Sita then asks Rama to explain what He means by Heaven and Hell.

Rama says that that which gives one joy is Heaven and that which gives one sorrow is Hell. Sita thereupon points out that if joy is heaven, then Her joy lies in being with Him. And if hell is sorrow, then to be parted from Him is sorrow and separation from Him is hell.

Sita’s argument is valid for all of us. Proximity to Him is joy and distance from Him is sorrow.

In fact, the Azhvars have referred to this earth as a hell worse than the one over which Yama lords. Yama’s hell is the place where we pay for our sins, but this earth is the place that paves the way for more sins! So this earth is worse than hell, and that is why we seek liberation.

Svarga or heaven is not used in a limited sense in this Tiruppavai verse. Heaven is the joy of being beside Him.

The Gopika who is being woken up in this verse is a girl whose sleep is well earned. She is peaceful and is able to sleep without any worries, because she is fortunate. And the good fortune she has is that she has surrendered to Lord Narayana and therefore enjoys bliss.

In her mind, She is able to visualise the Lord and is happy. She is like one who has done her duties and is therefore carefree.

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