Who does not want to go to heaven ? Of course, after death only as there is no option otherwise. I had read once that an ambitious king ( can’t recall his illustrious name ) did want to go to heaven while alive. He approached Maharishi Vishwamitra to help him achieve his ambition. Maharishi Vishwamitra was a powerful sage, accomplished in tantra-mantra vidya but also an arrogant person drunk in his assumed powers. He agreed to the request of the king and using his tantra-mantra power managed to send him up the sky. He , however, had to contend with another arrogant devta -Indra who was incharge of Dev loka. While he and other gods could descend to the earth at will and even have sexual relations with women of his choice, like Ahilya, he could not accept the temerity of a a mortal to reach heaven while alive. So the tussle between Sage Vishwamitra and god Indra started in a divine play of one upmanship or rather one sageship and godship. The result was that the King could neither ascend heavenward nor descend earthward. It is said that the king was reduced to being ‘ Trishanku ‘. What fate awaited him is not known as scriptures have not followed up on this tale to its logical conclusion !

It is true that most of the established religions mention in detail about the existence of hell and heaven. Hell for those who have indulged in sin in their life on earth. Such wretched souls have to burn in the hellish fire and undergo various kinds of punishments about which there are only vague details. Those fortunate to be transported to heaven enjoy luxuries which they have never enjoyed while living on this earth irrespective of their economic status here. Some religions also tempt them with hoors ( dancing pretty girls ) which they can only dream of in their fantasy. I have a suspicion that this scenerio has been purposely created by well meaning pundits, priests or mullas to keep people away from mischief and stick to the virtues and morals prescribed in their scriptures. It is not clear as how the soul which is without a physical body can enjoy pleasure or suffer pain.

I strongly believe, though I have no cogent evidence to support this view, that hell and heaven exist very much on this earth itself. Heavenly reward or hellish retribution is given here itself on this mother earth. If I act kindly to a living being I get pleasant feeling instantly. In an act of charity the giver and the given feel nice instantly. If I offer a sweet , purposeless smile to a friend or even to a stranger their face lits up in sweet joy dissolving the gloom and a feeling of separateness. On the other hand, if I hurt a living being with cruelty in my heart either physically or in words, the reaction is bitter and revengeful. The person who hurts burns in the fire of remorse and the person hurt is wounded in the heart. Our Swami ji’s constant refrain in his discourses is to to be kind, compassionate and charitable- if not in deeds then , at least in words. To be in heaven is to live in peace and bliss. Good deeds done , at least, ensure peace, harmony and inner joy. In my view, paap ( sin ) and punya ( I am unable to find an equivalent term in English for punya -roughly it may be virtuous deed ) are simply an act of causing hurt intentionally and and an act of kindness , in that order. We reap what we sow.
It is possible that I am going against the establlished religious tenets. But I take heart from Gautam Buddha’s words that , ” Believe nothing/ no matter where you read this or who has said it/ Not even if I have said it, Unless it agrees with your own reason/ And your own common sense “. Incidentally, Buddhism does not believe in the concept of hell or heaven and is ambivalent about the existence of God, though it does belive in re-incarnation or re-birth.