Karma, Heaven and Moksha

How every action leads to an effect and how bad actions will return to haunt you - Anil Bhanot conti

Hindus believe that God cannot be monopolised or limited to one way or the other. The Hindu concept of God is one of love, indeed God is considered to be beyond love and in Hinduism when a person reaches the state of Moksha or Nirvana the experience is one of utter bliss which no word can describe.

Moksha is the ultimate stage of salvation where the Atma, the divine body of Man, merges with Brahman, the ultimate reality. We have 3 bodies, Atma the divine body; Sthula the fine body of mind, intellect and ego; and Physical body. The physical body dies and the elements go back to earth but the fine body and the Atma live on and go to heaven until there is time for the Atma and the fine body to take rebirth on earth again to continue its journey towards the ultimate salvation of Moksha. Heaven is a transitional stage, it is not the ultimate one, and there is a higher sphere of the one God, Brahman, which is beyond words or descriptions.

Hindus have several commandments from the Vedas and many Shastras (Law Books), as those were the times of civilising the race. But those commandments are seldom highlighted as the Hindu way of life grew on that basis and as a result a deeper understanding of good v bad. The underlying concept that is woven through, this way of life, is that we are all connected, through the entire creation including animals and plants. Therefore the commandments became redundant as the emphasis shifted simply to the idea of “not hurting another soul” - even the plants have a soul in Hinduism.

There is an evolutionary element to the soul even in the Hindu creation story. The main guidance on how best to live your life now is taken through the theory of Karma, that every action will lead to an effect and that effect will become a cause for another effect.

It is a chain reaction with the proviso that your actions will in the end lead to having an effect on you so that if you do bad action their effect will return to haunt you but if you always walk on the straight and narrow, truthfully, which may take longer to achieve your goal but you will continue to evolve and perfect your soul towards God for the ultimate goal of Moksha.

The theory of Karma is intrinsically linked to the theory of reincarnation. It is not that there is an eternal heaven or an eternal hell – a Hindu God could never be so vindictive to Mankind or any of His creation. Lord Krishna says in the Gita that he sees all with an equal eye but those who worship me are dear to Him and he further says that even those who worship other Gods or worship Him by other names or forms, “they too will surely come to me” – this was when Krishna said, “I am Brahman”, i.e., the ultimate reality.

Krishna said that it is the substance of prayer that mattered to him, not the form, that it was the purity of the thought and actions that mattered to him not the methodologies, though he said he rewards those seeking paradise also but “verily they return on earth after exhuming the fruits of their actions”.

Hindus have a vast number of holy books. The first and foremost are the Vedas accompanied by the Upnishads, then there are the Puranas, there are epics like Ramayana and Mahabharta and the most complete spiritual compendium the Bhagwad Gita. There are Yoga treatises; there are six systems of philosophy, stretching the science of metaphysics to the limits. There are Shastras and Samritis like that of Manu and so on.

Equally there are several festivals. Every month of the year will have a few major festivals but in the UK the main ones being celebrated are Lohdi, Holi, Mahashivratri, Ramnaumi, various Rathayatras, Durga ashtami, Krishna Janam Ashtami, Rakhi, Ganesh Chauth, Dushehra, Vijay Dashmi, Diwali and so on.

Anil Bhanot read Actuarial Science at university but then qualified as a chartered accountant. He was one of the founding members of Hindu Council UK in 1994 and was first elected as general secretary in 2003.
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Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.