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Highway To Heaven

Early Hindu Belief

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Our desire to live in this world drives our life. And we all seek heaven on earth. But what happens after we die? Where do we go? Many of us today don't believe in the concept of heaven and hell. So did the early Hindus! To them heaven was not a preferred destination after death.

Back to Nature

The early Hindus never believed in heaven, and never prayed to attain a permanent place there. The earliest concept of afterlife, say Vedic scholars, was that the dead reunite with Mother Nature and live in some other form on this earth — just as Wordsworth wrote, "with rocks and stones and trees." Going back to the early Vedic hymns, we find an eloquent invocation to the fire god, where the prayer is to assimilate the dead with the natural world:
"Burn him not, scorch him not, O Agni,
Consume him not entirely; afflict him not…
May your eye go to the Sun,
To the wind your soul…
Or go to the waters if it suits thee there,
Or abide with thy members in the plants..."
~ The Rig Veda

The concept of heaven and hell evolved at a later stage when we find such amendments in the Veda as "Go thou to the heaven or to the earth, according to thy merit…"

Idea of Immortality

Vedic folks were satisfied with living their life to the fullest; they never aspired to attain immortality. It was a common belief that human beings are allocated a span of hundred years for earthly existence, and people just prayed for a healthy life: "…Interpose not, O gods, in the midst of our passing existence, by inflicting infirmity in our bodies." (Rig Veda) However, as time passed by, the idea of eternity for mortals evolved. Thus later in the same Veda we come to read: "…Grant us food, and may I obtain immortality through my posterity."
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