In passing conversation about the recent death of a loved one, someone casually says to me that they believe they will go to heaven after they die. For which I gently reply, “Which part of you, your body or your mind?”
"I don’t know. I guess some semblance of my previous self. ‘Me' in another form?” replies the guy with some agitation for being challenged about what is considered to be a widely accepted belief.
"Okay,” I ask, “What will you do when you get there and for how long do you think heaven will remain interesting for you?”
"How would I know...Jesus!” he says with exasperation.
I don’t press on, but I continue to wonder to myself about the idea of a heaven.
Everyone pictures themselves in an afterlife as a younger, better version of their old self surrounded by the people they love. I’m not mocking it, I’m just asking how this would be any different? Because if it’s the same stuff as worldly life, I’m afraid there wouldn't be much to look forward to. Even being with friends and family after a while would get old.
If heaven were to actually exist, it would mean that it would still have to be a world of opposites where for every up there’s a down and where for every gain, there’s some pain. Perhaps in heaven God programs beings differently so no one suffers due to ignorance and everyone actually enjoys their ephemeral existence in harmony with God’s laws. Or maybe heaven is simply having a perfect understanding of our experience so that we can enjoy it without any false expectations. But what would the point be then? Here, in this world, we can already have an experience of heaven (or hell).
Anyway, heaven isn’t what people really want. What they really want is peace, that is, life free of burden. They want a refuge away from all their agitating desires, fears and neurotic thoughts. They want peace from the ignorance that drives them mad on a daily basis.
Heaven is just a concept, one that seems probable only because of our dualistic perspective. But in the end, heaven would be just more samsara. Furthermore, just like in this world, in heaven, we would eventually begin to question our (heavenly) experience and develop a desire to be free from its limitations—heavenly limitations, but nevertheless, limitations.
What limitations, you ask? For example, what if I don’t want to be in heaven anymore, get bored of heaven, get tired of it all and miss the grittiness of worldly life? If being unbounded is our ultimate objective, then even heaven would be unsatisfactory.
Perhaps this is why being alive in this human form is so sacred, because only in this human form can you ever really work through your stuff and gain the freedom you ultimately seek.