On heaven and hell

To a more harmonious state: step. Photo: Special Arrangement  

As I was having lunch with a student and friend, he mentioned a question that was on his mind. The question was about heaven and hell. The answer he got earlier was that when one dies one can go into seven planes of consciousness according to their karma and then one is reborn accordingly. He had asked this question to a person he had taken as his guru and was now disillusioned by his guru's activities. That was creating a mini hell for him.

I have seen that one need not die to see heaven and hell. One can create a living hell in one's life. More than the external situations, the interpretation and internalisation of situations can create a living hell. Or one can create a heaven where one is in tune with cosmic order, fairness and grace.

I love the quote about a religious and spiritual person. “A religious person is one who believes in and is afraid of going to hell and a spiritual person is one who has been to hell and back”

When one gets pulled into or falls into lower planes of consciousness, then sadhana or spiritual practice and the goodness of people helps one slowly climb out of the pit. That is what the whole yogic sadhana (physical and mental practices that focus on the ultimate reality) is about.

Nara and Naraka

In the Yogic viewpoint, Nara is the word for misalignment of the koshas (sheaths, coverings, layers/dimensions of our being). We have pancha (five) koshas and, due to various thoughts and activities that are out of alignment with the bliss consciousness or the harmonious consciousness, one can get out of alignment. This manifests as disappointments, accidents and a general feeling that things are not falling into place. Even a mechanical device like a car needs its four wheels to be aligned. We, being multidimensional, need much more.

Another name for man is also Nara. So this implies that, as humans, we are essentially misaligned with the divine and also there could be a misalignment between the body, emotions and mind. I am sure all of us have been in situations where the head and heart are in conflict and, if the conflict is not resolved, it can cause much loss of energy and further misalignment.

The term for extreme misalignment is Naraka. This means if we are under constant pressure, abuse our systems or allow another to abuse our systems, then we run the risk of extreme misalignment or naraka. Naraka also means hell. It is no coincidence and you can speak to many abuse victims to know the living hell they have been through. Of course the inflictor is in a greater or deeper hell to even think of inflicting that naraka on another.

Emotional attachment

The yogic viewpoint is that unhealthy attachments cause us to go off balance or out of alignment. I have seen this first hand especially if I am attached to a person with a pattern of life that is unhealthy or out of alignment. The more subtle one is, the more painful the experience of being pulled in a direction that is against one's grain. It is important to become aware of what and who we are unconsciously attached to. This can be our biological families, friends or spiritual families as well. Hence it is important to keep in mind to be involved and loving yet detached. People can be vehicles of the divine and we must be aware not to get attached to their personalities or other aberrations that can also come through. In fact this friend whose guru turned out to be not-so-straight was told that one is a guru drohi (traitor) if one questions what the guru says or does or does not have gratitude. I told him to be grateful that he got this hard knock and to be more discerning next time. It is very easy to take a concept and misuse it. When one is discerning one can stay away from those who have an innately desensitised or restless nervous system. This discernment is cultivated by cultivating a refined life.


It is interesting to see the effect of sound vibrations on matter. Masaro Emoto has documented it on water. Though he has faced criticism for inaccuracy, the gist of what he is trying to convey is that positive and soothing words and thoughts have a positive effect on water and therefore us. This can also be seen in simple experiments where grains of sand or rice flour are exposed to frequencies and this forms patterns that are both symmetrical and look harmonious.

The yogic viewpoint is that everything is vibration. The AUM is the primordial vibration and, hence, when one resonates with this they feel whole or start resonating with the completeness of this sound. This sound - like all sound - has the capacity to influence matter and us.

That is why we loosely use the term ‘I like this person's vibration or energy' and ‘I don't like that person's energy'. We sense something that is not just apparent like social class or dress sense but an intrinsic sense of what that person holds. The more sensitive we become the more buried layers we become aware of ourselves and others.

When we feel good, positive and light we are less likely to snap or pull someone down. However on days when we are down, overworked and in extremely misaligned states we can pass on our depressing feelings onto others. Even if we did not say anything, just one's presence is enough. This means the vibratory state of our being can be passed on to another.

The more the person is attached to you the easier it is for them to absorb it. The reverse is also true. This means if we are on a lighter and more alive vibration then that also impacts others. Our being is enough to make others feel all is well. Our being is enough to make them feel loved and be love.

That is how positive music, people, thoughts and emotions can uplift us.

I came to Chennai for the music season and felt the emotions rise and dissolve as I was watching a good classical dance performance. When the mind is absorbed in another one can feel the emotions that are generated. Dance, especially Indian classical dance, offers the space for all these emotions to come to the surface and consciously be expressed. Thus it is not only a great catharsis for the dancer but for those immersed in and watching the dance as well.

One can shift one's vibration by the thoughts one thinks as well as being aware of ones feelings. Even dark feelings can be processed and released to take us to higher vibrations. The tools and awareness in yoga help us consciously generate this higher thinking and lighter sparkling emotions. Thus all of yoga impacts the vibration of our being.

Planes of Consciousness

The yogis have classified seven hells and seven heavens on a broad basis (though other sub divisions are listed), depending on the vibratory states of the plane. Now this corresponds to the vibration of the person. Hence there is a vibratory match between the person and the place of consciousness. This, as you can see, is not a physical place but a vibratory state that reflects in external circumstances. Thus it is fascinating to see how by shifting one's vibratory state, one can change one's external circumstances.

We don't have to literally die to see this. We can figuratively die to an old state of being and rise to a place of consciousness that is more harmonious. This can be done through the practice of yogic principles and practices. Or if we get attached to habits, people, principles or practices that are of a lower vibration we can get pulled into states of hell even as we live.

A living hell or paradise on earth

Do we want to create a living hell or paradise? Just as with any other science, this also has a step by step methodology. That is the whole yogic journey. One learns to savour it and smell the flowers along the way, to commune as well as hibernate when needed. One learns to do what is necessary to be in alignment.

The Technique

The entire yogic process takes us to higher vibratory planes. However this specific set of jyothi or light kriyas helps one to resonate more with the light or harmonious vibratory states.

Stand with a straight yet relaxed back with open chest, relaxed shoulders and gentle deep breathing. Hold the intention or say internally: I resonate with and radiate light

Breathe in and bring your arms up softly imagining your arms to be wings. Let your arms be above and as far back behind as they can go

Breathe out and softly bring your hands down in front

Be aware of not just the movement but the space around you as well

Do nine rounds and repeat as per your needs

Yogacharini Maitreyi is a practical mystic who teaches yoga and creates conscious community around the world. E-mail:;

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 11:45:54 PM |

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