Heaven can be defined in three ways. One way is the conception of creeds, as for example in Arabia, when the Bedouin people came to the Prophet and asked him what is Heaven, he said, “Heaven is a place where there are rivers of milk, tanks of honey, and emeralds and pearls and rubies and diamonds to be found, and all that is good and beautiful is to be found there.” They said, that is the place we are looking for. And the Prophet said, “That place you will only enter if you will do good. But if you lie and thieve and rob, you will go to the other place.” Then he showed the other place with all kinds of torture. That is the place which is taught to the ordinary man.
Then there is a Heaven which is reached above; what is above us is Heaven. The plane where we stand is the earth and the plane which we look upward to is Heaven. And we all look upward to something, not only the human being, but also the earth is reaching upwards in the form of mountains and hills. The water is reaching upwards in the form of rising waves. Birds reach upwards by flying and the animals try to reach upwards by standing on their hind legs. In this way every creature is trying to reach upwards, though he does not know where he wants to go and what he wants to reach. And when we look upwards, what do we find? We find stars and the moon and the sun. And it is more pleasant to look at it than to look at the earth with all its beauties.
In the Western countries the climate does not allow us to look at Heaven, but in the tropical countries you can sit for hours looking at it. That is the only thing which can lift you up and make you free from all the worries of this dense earth. What do we see? We only see light. The light inspires us, attracts us and gives us such a feeling of upliftment that nothing else can give. It shows us that light is the thing that we seek after, even light in its visible form as we see in the Heaven. But that is a symbolical Heaven; the real Heaven is where there is no light that our eyes can see, but there is light that our soul can see. And that light is the Grace of God, that light is the soul’s unfoldment, that light is wakening to the secret of life, and it is that wakening which is Heaven.
And there is a third description, which is a description of Omar Khayam: that the heaven of each person is what gives him a joy. And in the Vadan it is said: ‘Whether you are the top of the mountain or at the foot, if you are happy where you are, that is all that matters. If you are at the foot, you are as much in Heaven as when you are at the top. And if you are happy at the top you are just as much in Heaven as when you are at the foot.’ It is the soul experiencing something, awakening to a certain consciousness, which gives one joy. That joy comes as a fulfillment of life, and it is that joy which can be called Heaven.
There is a story of the Beni Israel, that a very pious man was one day grieved over the injustice of life and said: “Well, all through life I have been a good person and I have done all that seemed right to me, and I have lived a religious life. And now I would like to know what will be the end of it all. Moses, will you ask God this question for me?” Moses said, “Yes, when I come back from the top of the mountain I shall give the answer.” This man, as busy as ever in his prayers and vigils, was waiting for Moses to come and give him the tidings. And as Moses went a little further, there was a man sitting with a bottle and a glass by his side, and he said: “Moses, come here, come, where are you going? I know you are going to ask for that man, will you not ask for me, where is He going to put me? Has He any place for me somewhere?” Moses was very astonished by the manner of his asking, but he was enjoying his little glass.
Moses went on the Sinai and came back with the answer. Moses told this man, the pious man, “For you there is a good future to look forward to, and therefore your prayer is granted.” He said: “Well, that is something. After having done all this, if I look forward to something, that is something.” Then Moses comes to the other man, who said, “What answer do you have for me?” And Moses said, “For you the worst place in hell.” The man said, “Yes!” He got up and began to dance with his bottle and glass and said, “Thanks, Lord, that You have remembered me, for You to remember a wicked person like me. I thought that God, Who is the greatest, would not remember a wicked person like me. I do not care where you put me. If it is in the worst place, I am only glad that God knows of me. That is what gives me the greatest delight.”
The result was contrary. And Moses wanted an explanation from God, why was the result contrary. And the answer was, “No piety nor goodness can be equal to our gifts. You cannot buy them by piety and goodness and spirituality. It is Our Grace. That man wanted to buy Heaven. It is too precious for all the piety that one can give for it. The other man, he was content, he was resigned to Our will. That is the way to come to Us. It is they who attain to it.”
It is a great lesson: in the first place, that our goodness and our piety cannot buy for us God’s Grace or spiritual upliftment. It is good for us, that is all, but we cannot buy with it anything. It is too small a price for any great gift. It is a lesson also of resignation and contentment, and to be conscious of one’s own smallness and faults and humbleness. If there is anything that brings upon us Divine blessing, it is that which brings it.