Attachment is a vice, it subtly ties one in bondage to the object of one's attachment
Most of us have listened to these stories of hell & heaven in our childhood days. The moral of all these stories has always been that ‘Those who perform good deeds go to heaven, and those doing bad deeds would go to hell’. But, how does one actually describe Heaven? Well!! To put it in simple words, heaven is a place or time of complete happiness with no trace of sorrow. So, when did it exist or does it still exist somewhere at present? Many people believe that heaven is a world apart from the earth we inhabit. That is why people are said to ascend to heaven after death.
Mythological stories also describe angels coming to escort virtuous souls to heaven. Similarly, hell is believed to be the nether world, to where one descends if one has led a sinful life. However, the fact is that heaven and hell exist on this very earth at different points of time, hence they are not two different places, but different periods in the cycle of world history. The world we live in as of today was heaven during the Golden Age, when humans possessing divine virtues ruled the earth. These souls were complete in all virtues and free of vices. It is a world of total purity where all humans are aware of their true identity, that they are souls, not bodies. Because they are viceless, souls in heaven lead a life of unalloyed happiness. But for majority of us such a world might seem like a fantasy when we look at the world we live in at present. So, if at all heaven existed on this very planet then how has it turned into the chaotic, violent place that it is today? It’s simple, blame it on the vices that turn the world from heaven to hell, wherein souls forget their true identity, which is that of a soul, and start identifying themselves as bodies that they inhabit. Hence, with body-consciousness come all the vices like lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego and others creating deep sorrow for us. These vices rob us of our happiness, purity, peace and powers.
To begin with, lust, the biggest vice, robs us of purity and honor. The honor that comes from chastity is evident even in today's world, where celibate priests are respected by the society. In contrast, those who trade in vice are looked down upon by everyone and they live as social outcasts. Similarly, anger robs us of peace and gives pain to oneself as well as others. It also impairs the intellect, whereby one is unable to take right decisions. An angry person disturbs the atmosphere wherever he goes, making others feel uneasy too.
Majority of us do not recognise attachment as a vice, but we must understand that it subtly ties one in bondage to the object of one's attachment, be it a person, thing or place. It makes us hold on to and identify ourselves with other people or things that give us some joy. Our happiness then becomes dependent on that object or person to whom we are attached. Hence, if that object or person suffers any harm or is taken away from us, we suffer pain. Unlike attachment, ego is easily identified as a vice because of the hurt it causes everyone. The more one’s ego the lesser one respects others, thereby losing respect for others. This hurts all the more because an egoist expects others to show him respect, and when that does not happen, he feels insulted. Ego makes one rigid and spoils relationships. Ultimately, it repels others and makes one unloved and isolated. This is how the world turns gradually into hell. When viciousness reaches extreme proportions, the Supreme Almighty himself comes to this world to turn it into heaven once again, by making souls aware of their true identity. and their relationship with HIM. When souls remember HIM with this awareness, they get all virtues and powers from HIM that enable them to get rid of their vices and regain their purity, thus making way for an entry in heaven once more.
(The writer is a spiritual educator and a popular columnist; views are personal)