Q31. Is there a hell or heaven?
Man is judged according to his actions. If he has done evil deeds, he goes into lower forms of life; if he has done noble deeds, he gets a human life again. The idea of hell and heaven is a mere hypothesis. The picture of hell as a place of varied and terrible tortures is symbolic:
"There is a stream of fire from which comes poisnous flames.
There is none else there except the self.
The waves of the ocean of fire are aflame.
And the sinners are burning in them." (A.G. p 1026)
Shaikh Farid tells us that hell is a burning lake resounding with terrible cries. It may be added that the result of a sinful life is its adverse effect on character from which ultimately comes suffering and torment. In short, to be in hell is to be out of the presence of God.
Similarly there is no actual place called heaven. Sikhism does not regard the winning of a place in heaven as a worthy object. The old Indian concept of heaven is of a beautiful place providing all sorts of comforts and luxuries. The devotee is neither afraid of hell nor anxious to go to heaven. In a way, hell and heaven are conditions of mind. The virtuous man is happy and contented, as if he is living in heaven.
The concept of hell and heaven is just a rough illustration for clarifying the doctrine of Karma. Hell and heaven refer to evil or good stages of life repectively and they can be lived here and now in our earthly existence. According to Guru Arjan, "Whereever the praises of God are sung, there verily is heaven." Likewise, the society of the wicked is a hell. The condition of an average man is described thus: "Like birds that flock in the evening on a tree, flutter with pleasure and pain, scan the skies morning and evening, wandering everywhere, driven by hunger. So the soul of man wanders and suffers on earth." The worldly man eats, enjoys and sleeps, unmindful of the higher things of life. He is free, and perhaps, may choose wrongly.