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In Hinduism, is heaven (svarga) a place of extreme happiness?

If yes, how to solve the paradox of experiencing hell (naraka) in heaven? This is better explained through the following an example.

Consider a wife who has devoted her entire life to the service of her husband so she attains the title pativratā. Assume the husband is a notorious criminal so he's surely headed for hell after death. Let's say the husband dies first and goes to hell. Wife too passes away a little later but goes to heaven instead as result of all the puṇya she's accumulated.

Given that and assuming heaven is a physical place much like the Earth, for the wife's soul, is there going to be any happiness in heaven if she cannot find her husband's soul there?

Now this answer suggests the different lokas including heaven (svarga) and hell (naraka) are actually non-physical realms. Assuming that to be true, how can the wife's soul be "happy" in her private non-physical heaven not knowing and constantly wondering if the husband's soul is also experiencing the same? The thought What if he's experiencing hell? will be a hell in itself. Isn't it?

Have any Hindu philosophers attempted to solve this paradox? If yes, how?

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    Wife and husband relation mostly ends once jiva leaves the physical body. Only in extreme cases, Sukshma sareera gets attached to those feelings. – The Destroyer Oct 5 '17 at 17:18
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    "In Hinduism, is heaven (svarga) a place of absolute happiness?" - The only absolute happiness is mOksha; not swarga. So the rest of the Q is moot. – user1195 Oct 6 '17 at 3:15
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    bdw example is there if we replace wife with Yudhisthir and husband with his brothers & Draupadi...Yudhisthir asked where r they in heaven... sacred-texts.com/hin/m18/m18001.htm – YDS Dec 5 '18 at 12:20
  • @YDS Yes. The whole concept of svarga-naraka has several philosophical issues. We also have Arjuna visiting Indra briefly I don't know if he goes to svarga-loka or indra-loka. Whatever it is, we are still talking about Arjuna, the person and not his soul. People conveniently forget these incidents. – sv. Dec 5 '18 at 19:20
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There are three kinds of happiness: Aihikam of happiness in this life, Amushmikam of happiness in Swarga, and Nihshreyasam or happiness in Moksha. Aihikam is both mixed with sorrow and temporary, Amushmikam is unmixed with sorrow but still temporary, and Nihshreyasam is both unmixed with sorrow and eternal. For more detail, here is what Ishwara Krishna's Samkhya Karika says:

dṛṣṭavadānuśravikaḥ sa hyaviśuddhi kṣayātiśayayuktaḥ । 
tadviparītaḥ śreyān vyaktāvyaktajñavijñānāt ॥

The [means of happiness revealed by the Vedas] is like the evident one, It is linked with impurity, destruction and inequality. Other than that is better,—proceeding from the right cognition of the Manifest, Unmanifest and the Knower.

Here is how Vachaspati Mishra explains "destruction and inequality" in his Samkhya Karika Bhashya:

Though the terms decay and excess (used in the above Kārikā) really relate to the effect, here they are attributed to the means. This quality of decay in heaven is inferred as it is a positive entity and a product. Further, it is said that sacrifices like Jyotiṣṭoma are the means of attaining mere heaven, whereas sacrifices like Vājapeya etc. lead one to self-sovereignty. This inequality in the result is what constitutes excess spoken of (in the Kārikā). Verily, the superior prosperity of one man makes another of lesser prosperity sad!

Immortality denoted in the passage ‘We drank soma and became immortal’ indicates long durability. It is said elsewhere: ‘Verily, immortality is the durability extending till the final dissolution of all the elements (i.e. of the entire universe).’ Hence, the Śruti declares: ‘Neither by deeds nor by progeny nor by wealth but by renunciation alone they attained immortality; that which the hermits enter is laid beyond the heavens and yet it shines brilliantly in the heart’ (M.N.Up.12-14); and also, ‘Sages with children and desiring wealth got only death (as reward) by actions while those other sages who were wise attained immortality which is beyond all actions.’

So destruction refers to fact that residence in Swarga is not eternal; after you've exhausted the fruit of your actions that brought you there, you have to be reborn again. And inequality refers to the fact that not everyone in Swarga is of equal status. Doing an Ashwamedha Yagna only makes you a resident of Swarga, whereas doing a Vajapeya Yagna makes you Indra, i.e. the ruler of Swarga. So while residing in Swarga, you'll be jealous of others who have higher status than you do.

And also, happiness in Swarga is not as great as happiness in Moksha. This chapter of the Brihadaranyala Upanishad analyzes this quantitatively:

If a man is healthy, wealthy, and lord of others, surrounded by all human enjoyments, that is the highest blessing of men. Now a hundred of these human blessings make one blessing of the fathers who have conquered the world (of the fathers). A hundred blessings of the fathers who have conquered this world make one blessing in the Gandharva world. A hundred blessings in the Gandharva world make one blessing of the Devas by merit (work, sacrifice), who obtain their godhead by merit. A hundred blessings of the Devas by merit make one blessing of the Devas by birth, also (of) a Srotriya who is without sin, and not overcome by desire. A hundred blessings of the Devas by birth make one blessing in the world of Pragâpati, also (of) a Srotriya who is without sin, and not overcome. by desire. A hundred blessings in the world of Pragâpati make one blessing in the world of Brahman, also (of) a Srotriya who is without sin, and not overcome by desire. And this is the highest blessing.

So happiness in Swarga is either 10,000 or a million times less than the highest possible happiness.

To answer your side question, it is perfectly possible for a soul to be happy in Swarga without the presence of the spouse it had in its most recent birth.

  • "So while residing in Swarga, you'll be jealous of others who have higher status than you do." - so effectively, Svarga is much like Earth? "it is perfectly possible for a soul to be happy in Swarga without the presence of the spouse it had in its most recent birth." - how did you arrive at this conclusion when all your blockquotes actually prove how one can be unhappy in svarga despite all the luxuries? – sv. Oct 6 '17 at 22:07
  • @sv. Yeah, Earth and Swarga are at least similar in that you can experience jealousy due to unequal status in both places. But one difference between the two is that in Swarga there's no intrinsic sadness, whereas on Earth there is. That is, on Earth, there are reasons to feel sad even if you don't pay attention to how much happiness other people have. Whereas in Swarga, if you just look at your own situation there's nothing in your own situation that can cause sadness. It's only if you compare your happiness with the happiness of others that there's a potential for sadness. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 7 '17 at 0:07
  • Something came to mind. Since not long ago I started thinking about something that bothers me. That passage of the text you quoted from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (you have a typo in the name of the Up.), do you have a Sri Vaishnava commentary on that particular passage? I would like to see it. Also I wonder was that passage commented upon by any acarya in their commentaries on the Vedanta sutra? – brahma jijnasa Oct 7 '17 at 12:18
  • @brahmajijnasa I do have a Sri Vaishnava commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in print form. I need to find it, though. When I do I can post the relevant part of the commentary in our chat room. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 7 '17 at 14:57
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Is heaven a place of absolute ('extreme' post-edit) happiness?

No.

Bhagavadgita 9.21 says

ते तं भुक्त्वा स्वर्गलोकं विशालं
क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्यलोकं विशन्ति |

When they have thus enjoyed vast heavenly sense pleasure and the results of their pious activities are exhausted, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus those who seek sense enjoyment by adhering to the principles of the three Vedas achieve only repeated birth and death.

Also, Garuda Purana, Preta Khanda Chapter 32 says

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    Please mention the meaning of shloka also. Curious to know :) – Rishabh Oct 6 '17 at 6:26
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    @Rishabh - They (the human beings, after death) enjoy that Huge and Vast SvargaLoka, the Heavens, and after enjoying their Punya,when their Punya Karma ends, then they again enter this mortal world(where one takes birth, and dies, and again birth, again die, again birth again die......). – user9392 Oct 6 '17 at 11:48
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    You should add name of Scripture and English translation. I have added translation from bg.us site and if you find it not accurate edit it. – The Destroyer Oct 6 '17 at 13:21
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    How does BG 9.21 answer your claim "Is heaven a place of absolute happiness? - No". It in fact proves that heaven is a place of pleasure ("vast heavenly sense pleasure"). – sv. Oct 6 '17 at 16:29
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    @sv, can you be absolutely happy if you know that it is going to end one day ? – ram Oct 6 '17 at 17:32
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Manu smriti 4.239. For in the next world neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor sons, nor relations stay to be his companions; spiritual merit alone remains (with him).

So, husband-wife and other relations seem to exist only till death and cease to exist after that.

Therefore, the hypothetical example isn't really leading to a paradox. It isn't proving that "sorrows also can exist in heaven".

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    'spiritual merit alone remains' - if there's no body/relationship who is experiencing the pleasure in heaven/svarga? Without body/memory/feelings, how do you define pain and pleasure in svarga/naraka? – sv. Dec 5 '18 at 19:23
  • Who told u tht thr will be no body in heavens? In hells the souls are given special bodies so that they can receive the pain. Similarly it will be case in heavens. But relationships cease to exist as said by the verse. So, the wife won't mourn for her husband who is in hell. @sv. – Rickross Dec 6 '18 at 8:15
  • 'the wife won't mourn for her husband who is in hell' - does wife know why she is heaven? Does husband know why he is in hell? Do they lose their memories? If yes, they will be like mentally handicapped persons? Here on earth, we don't send the mentally handicapped who has committed a crime to a normal jail ("correctional facility") because he won't even know why he is put in jail. He doesn't even know what "punishment" means. Without memories, without remembering crimes committed or good deeds performed during your time on earth, stay in heaven/hell seems pointless. – sv. Dec 6 '18 at 19:56
  • @sv. If answering Qs in comments is not recommended thn asking numerous Qs in comments shd not be considered good as well.. It seems u hv lots of Qs thn asking on the main site will be good. – Rickross Dec 7 '18 at 6:50
  • No .. the wife knows what/who she was in the Iha Jivana.. but now it's her Para Jivana.. so she very well knows whr her Iha husband is now, but she isn't emotionally attached to him anymore like she was in the Iha life.. I think this is the explanation. The relations end with death means the attachments, love won't be thr but the bodies will be thr to receive pain and pleasure.. @sv. – Rickross Dec 8 '18 at 6:48
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The jiva, after death reaches the heaven if his merits preponderate. That is to say, he experiences the fruit of his merit by experiencing joy in heaven. But soon after the fruits are experienced. The jiva takes another birth based on the extent of spiritual evolvement. Also it must be noted that memories exist only till the body does. With the liberation from the body, all ties associated with it are also broken. Hence there is no question of memories in heaven.

Given all of this, liberation (moksha) is real eternal ecstasy. Heaven and paradise are also just momentary trinkets of joy, which gets exhausted in no time. Hence the goal of life must be to emerge out of the confines of body and mind and thus attain liberation, rather than performing good acts and attaining paradise.

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    Welcome to Hinduism StackExchange! We encourage you to cite some sources. – Pandya Dec 28 '17 at 18:09

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