What do we mean by ANYONE? Doesn’t Buddhism say that only Buddhists are rewarded in the afterlife?
According to Buddhism, where we go to after this life does not depend on our religion. In fact, there is no requirement to pray to, worship, or even believe in the Buddha to have a good afterlife.
What happens to us after this life depends on how we
conduct ourselves in this present life.
The path to Heaven is not by faith or worship,
but by doing good and avoiding evil.
The Buddha never said anything like ‘worship me and you shall be rewarded’. He also never threatened to punish anyone should they not believe in Him or follow His Teachings.
He said that there is nothing wrong in doubting or even questioning Him, as most people will take some time to fully understand His Teachings.
He stressed that everyone should seek, understand and experience the Truth for themselves, and not to have blind faith in anyone or anything.
Thus Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, and even atheists, are all able to enjoy a blessed afterlife. But of course provided, that they have been ‘good’ people!
What do we mean by HEAVEN?
Heaven can be said to be a place where we can reborn in after we die. It can also be a state of mind.
For example, a hot-tempered person may constantly be in a bad mood and fly into a rage easily. Such a person will cause those around him, himself included, to be miserable and upset all the time. On the other hand, take someone who is even-tempered, with a tranquil mind and always at peace with himself and others.
Because of his state of mind, the hot-tempered person’s life will seem like Hell to him and those around him. Needless to say, the even-tempered person, and those around him will enjoy blissful, Heaven-like lives.
The Buddha’s Teachings allow us the experience of Heaven on earth by showing us how to attain such blissful states of mind.
Apart from states of mind, Buddhists believe there are several realms or planes of existence in the universe, and these can be places of suffering or places of happiness. Traditionally the realms of suffering, (or Lower realms), include that of Hell; and the Happy (or Higher) realms are the Human realm and the Heavenly realms.
Which realm or plane we will be reborn in depends on the kamma which we have accumulated for ourselves in this life, as well the kamma accumulated in our previous lives. This kamma is the result of habitual acts and behaviour.
The size of the human population on earth is therefore not fixed or static as in a closed-cycle, as rebirth is not limited to only the Human realm. There are many other planes of existence in the universe apart from our own Human realm where we can be reborn in, or where rebirth can take place from.
More on the different realms of existence in the More Questions page.
If we end up in a Lower realm, will we be there for all eternity?
Buddhists believe that the length of time spent in a Lower realm will depend on the amount of negative kamma that has been accumulated.
There is no such thing as eternal suffering for anyone, no matter how much evil was done.
Even though it may take a very long time, suffering will come to an end once the negative kamma has been exhausted.
Thus Buddhism does not subscribe to any unjust concept of infinite punishment for finite wrongdoings.
Buddhism also does not ‘threaten’ the followers of other religions with any form of punishment whatsoever. Everyone has the freedom to choose different beliefs and paths for themselves.
Do we stay in a Heavenly realm forever? Is Heaven the ultimate goal?
Beings who have done much good and accumulated much positive kamma may be reborn in a Heavenly realm. If one is not yet able to achieve Nibbana, the Buddha encouraged all of us to lead upright and virtuous lives in order for us to be reborn in a Higher realm, and more importantly to protect ourselves from rebirth in a Lower realm.
While existence in a Heavenly realm may be for an extremely long time, it is still not forever. Beings in such realms will also eventually pass away and be reborn once their positive kamma has been exhausted.
As such, Buddhists do not consider rebirth in a Heavenly realm to be the ultimate goal. For most Buddhists, the ultimate objective would be to attain Nibbana.
It is said that Nanda, the Buddha’s half-brother, was discontented and told the Buddha he wanted to give up the holy life. The Buddha then brought him to one of the Heavenly realms and showed him all its delights. The Buddha promised him that he would be able to enjoy all these delights if he practiced the Dhamma well. This inspired Nanda and he practiced very hard so that he could be reborn in that heavenly realm.
While practicing, Nanda gradually realized that Nibbana is a far greater happiness than being in Heaven, and he then released the Buddha from his earlier promise.
What then is Nibbana?
Without already practicing Buddhism and being on the path laid down by the Buddha, Nibbana can be a difficult concept to grasp or understand. It is like trying to explain colours to the blind, or sound to the deaf. Conventional language cannot adequately describe Nibbana. It has to be experienced to be understood.
However, in short, Nibbana is the total absence of all craving and suffering. It is achieved by one who has eradicated all aspects of greed, hatred and delusion. It is a state of permanent bliss and happiness from which there is no more rebirth.
The Buddha has taught us how to reduce, and eventually put an end to greed, hatred and delusion in all their various forms. And this can be done by cultivating the positive qualities of generosity and kindness, patience and compassion, morality and wisdom.
With the proper practice of Buddhism, it is thus possible for anyone of us to experience the peace and happiness of Nibbana, even in our present lives. Investigate, examine and try out the Teachings of the Buddha for yourself!
No need to wait for death,
experience Heaven while you are still alive.
Heaven right here and now,
is the taste of Nibbana in this very life.