AMRITA – ETERNITY
BY: SADHU SUNDAR SINGH
From: Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh.
Seeker: Sadhu-ji, you say that one day all suffering will cease and that we will enjoy eternal unity with God. What can you tell me about our eternal home?
Sadhu: We are never satisfied with one thing for long. We always want to change our circumstances and environment. This restlessness stems from our deep inner awareness that the fleeting things of this world can never satisfy our souls, can never give us a sense of stable and unchanging fulfillment. Only when we turn to the Master will our desires be transformed, and perfect peace, the gift no one tires of, will reveal itself as the deepest longing of our hearts – indeed, the soul’s only quest.
There are many unhappy people who rejoice in the thought of entering heaven after death, yet who do not realize that heaven must begin here on earth. How will they ever enjoy being in a place to which they are not accustomed? I see so many people, even among the devout, who cannot live together in harmony during this short earthly life. How will they ever live together during the whole of eternity? I do not believe in a religion that offers a heaven only after this life is done. It is true that our dwelling place is not here; our real home is elsewhere. But many of those who wait for heaven will find the spiritual realm strange and not at all to their liking.
In the spiritual realm, heaven and hell are two opposite states of being. These states develop already now within each person’s heart. We cannot see these two states of the soul any more than we can see the soul itself. But we can experience them just as clearly as we can feel physical pain or taste the delicious flavor of a sweet fruit.
The injury caused by a physical blow may fester and worsen until it causes tremendous pain or even death. And we know that fruit may nourish and sustain us beyond the mere enjoyment of its sweet taste. Similarly, each sinful act carries with it painful consequences, just as each good deed carries with it wholesome consequences. Though we may not yet fully perceive the pain or pleasure of those consequences, we will when we wholly enter the spiritual realm.
Sometimes we experience a sudden sensation of spiritual peace or pain, something that comes to us from the spiritual world without any thought or desire of our own. This sensation is the beginning of heaven or hell. It may recur and vary, but gradually one or the other prevails according to our spiritual orientation. By repeatedly fostering one or the other, we determine our spiritual destiny. So the foundations of heaven or hell are laid within our hearts long before we pass on to the next world. When our life in this world ends, we enter into whichever spiritual state our desires or passions have prepared.
Seeker: If we ourselves choose our eternal destiny, then surely no one would choose eternal death, would they?
Sadhu: God has indeed created the human heart with an inclination to accept his living Spirit. But many have developed such love and devotion to material things that their hearts are unable to turn to spiritual things. Think of the charcoal. It has a natural inclination to receive fire within itself, but without oxygen the fire cannot enter it. If we drown ourselves in worldly distractions, the living fire cannot be kindled and we remain in darkness. Only if we turn to the Master will the temple of our hearts be cleansed. Only then will we be ready to accept his spirit into our hearts. Only then can we experience true bliss and lasting peace.
The fitness of our hearts and thoughts to receive God’s spirit is like that of violin strings. If they are properly tuned, in harmony with one another, then the touch of the bow produces beautiful music. If not, then there is only discord. Whenever our hearts are truly ready to receive God’s spirit, they will produce heavenly airs and joyous harmonies—both in this life and in the spiritual world.
When the Master gave his own life on the cross, there were two thieves executed beside him. To all appearances, the three men suffered the same fate, but from a spiritual perspective there was a vast difference. One remained cynical and irreverent, even mocking the Master as he suffered. The other thief felt deep pangs of remorse and recognized the great injustice of the Master’s execution. Opening his heart thus in love and in union with the Master, he heard the comforting words that he would that same day enter paradise. Paradise does not only exist beyond the grave; it already begins in the human heart. Some glorify the womb of Mary that housed God Incarnate. This pales in comparison to any heart into which the Master is invited, transforming it into heaven itself.
Once in a vision I saw a man arrive in the spirit world. He was in great distress, for in all his life he had never given a thought to anything but earning his daily bread. At the same time I saw another man die and enter the spirit world. He was a doubter, obstinate in his opinions. In love and compassion, saints and angels met both of them and tried to guide them toward the heavenly light. But again and again they turned back toward the shadows, because sin had so warped them that they doubted and discounted everything. As I watched, I wondered what their end would be. One of the holy ones turned to me and said, “God may yet have mercy on them.”
Then I saw another man enter the world of spirits. He had led an evil life. When the angels and saints went to help him, he cursed and reviled them, saying: “God is altogether unjust. He has prepared heaven for such flattering slaves as you and then casts the rest of us into hell. And you call him Love!” Just then the magnificent voice of a high angel called out, saying, “God gives this man permission to enter heaven.” Eagerly the man stepped forward. When he reached the door of heaven, however, and saw the holy, resplendent palace with all its glorious inhabitants, he began to feel uneasy. The angels encouraged him to go a little further to see the Master sitting on his throne. But when he did, the light of the Sun of Righteousness revealed the impurity of his sin-defiled life. He turned away in an agony of self-loathing and fled in such haste, that he cast himself headlong into the bottomless pit.
Then I heard the voice of the Master saying: “Look, my dear child! I forbid no one to enter my kingdom. No one forbade this man, nor did anyone ask him to leave. It was he, with his impure life, that fled this holy place. Except you be born of the spirit, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Seeker: Is eternal bliss available to everyone?
Sadhu: Many long for it, but miss it through their own foolishness. Once a poor beggar sat for twenty-one years on top of a buried treasure without knowing it. He burned so hotly with desire for money that he even hoarded the pennies he received. Yet, he finally died in utter poverty. Because the greedy man sat so long in that one spot, a rumor arose that he had hidden something valuable there. So the governor had the place excavated and the hidden treasure chest was found, filled with precious gems. The greedy beggar died in ignorance of the wealth that lay a few inches under him, and in the end the riches went instead into the royal treasury. God’s promise of bliss is very near to us—in our mouths and in our hearts.
Many have died of thirst though surrounded by the ocean. Its salty water simply could not quench their thirst. Just so, there are many people who live in the midst of God’s boundless love, but die of thirst because sin has turned the sweet water of God’s love into bitterness for them. Those who turn away from sin and seek spiritual life from the Master find fountains of living water arising from that sea of love. They find full satisfaction and enduring peace. This is heaven.
Once a faithful follower of the Master was tortured until he was at the point of death. But he was filled with such spiritual joy that he turned to his tormentors and said, “Oh, that I could open my heart to you and show you the wonderful peace I have found.” Amazed at his inner peace in the face of such suffering, those foolish people tore out his heart hoping to find something precious inside it. Of course, they found nothing. The reality of heavenly bliss is known only to those who open their own hearts and accept it.
Occasionally our sense of inner peace and spiritual bliss fades. This may be because of some disobedience or because the Spirit departs from us for a time so that we recognize anew how empty and restless our souls are without God. In this way, God can reveal again to us our utter weakness and teach us that without spiritual life we are nothing but dry bones. God wants to protect us from the pride and complacency of thinking that we have achieved something out of our own human strength. God trains and educates us so that we turn ever anew to the Master and so find never-ending spiritual happiness.
Sometimes those who are filled with God’s spirit are overwhelmed by divine bliss and fall into a state of faintness or even unconsciousness. This is a reminder that flesh and blood cannot inherit the glories and blessings of the spirit world. Only when our souls are set free from these mortal bodies shall we experience the fullness of spiritual peace where pain and suffering, sorrow and sighing, woe and death cease forever.
ETERNITY [Sadhu Sundar Singh] 1