As they breathe their last, sinners and scoundrels are not consigned to burn in hellfire for all eternity. Hell is not a physical reality; it is a delusionary state of consciousness produced by our belief that we are separate from God—and the reflection of that consciousness in the life we create for ourselves here on earth.
I like the way that Paramahansa Yogananda got that point across to a man who had fundamental views about heaven and hell. This story is from the book, Finding the Joy Within You, by longtime Self-Realization Fellowship president Sri Daya Mata.
Master was once talking to a man who had very dogmatic notions about truth. He said to Master, ” Do you not believe in hellfire and damnation?”
Guruji said, “No, except that man creates a hades right in the here and now. He makes out of this world and his own life a heaven or hell, depending upon his behavior; and this is where we suffer.”
The man persisted with his dogmatic arguments. Guruji was very intuitive; he changedthe subject, andthen after a while he said, “Isn’t it true that you have a son who is causing you great suffering because he drinks and carries on in a very bad way?”
The man’s jaw dropped. “How did you know? Yes, this has been the greatest sorrow of my life.”
“Then may I make a suggestion to you?”
“Yes.” The man was eager for a solution.
“All right, take your son out some day for a walk in the hills, and have two trusted friends waiting there for you. When you pass by, have those friends pounce upon your son and bind him. Then let them build a fire; and when it is good and hot. throw your son into the flames!”
The astounded man looked at Master. “Are you mad, to make such a suggestion to me? This is outrageous!” Guruji had made his point.
“Exactly so! Yet you ascribe such behavior to God, who created you and instilled in you that love for your child. How dare you attribute to Him feelings so callous and punitive that He would take all of His children who have done wrong and cast them into eternal flames?”
That is how Master shook dogma with truth. How dare we, indeed, ascribe to God brutal behaviour that even we wouldn’t dream of? He is a God of compassion; a God of infinite love.
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