Heaven and the Spiritual Universe

This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters took place in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.

Reporter: Your Divine Grace, in your books you talk about Brahmaloka, which, I suppose, is heaven, where we will at last see God.

Srila Prabhupada: No. First of all, heaven is simply a higher material planetary system, where you cannot directly see God. There are many material lokas, or planetary systems, and heaven is one of them, and of course Brahmaloka is one. Don’t you see? There are so many material planetary systems, with innumerable planets. The planetary systems include Brahmaloka, Chandraloka, Varunaloka, Suryaloka, and so many others.

Reporter: So when we speak of heaven, are we speaking of a physical place? Would one be on a physical planet?

Srila Prabhupada: Just consider the planets in this universe that you see each day and night. Are they physical or not? Take the sun. The sun is not a physical planet?

Reporter: It is.

Srila Prabhupada: What do you mean by “physical.”

Reporter: Well, actually existing on a material . . .

Srila Prabhupada: At night don’t you see existing so many planets – innumerable planets? Are they physical or not?

Reporter: Stars and planets. They are physical, yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Consider this example. When you say “United States of America,” you are talking about an actual place. There are living entities – men and mountains and rivers. Everything is there.

Similarly, all these other planets in this universe – they are inhabited by living entities. There are similarly cities and towns and mountains and rivers and oceans. Everything is there – though of a unique pattern on each planet.

So in heaven, everything is of a superior quality, a superior pattern. As a result, in your present body you are not able to go and live there. Even on this single planet, there are widely varying climatic conditions. In the Arctic region some living entities can live, but for us it is very difficult to live there. One place is suitable for one kind of man; another place is suitable for another.

So from planet to planet, and from place to place on each planet, you’ll find living entities. And these living entities have received various kinds of material bodies just suitable to various conditions.

For instance, you cannot live within the ocean, but just for that reason you cannot say that nobody can live within the ocean. That would be foolishness. You must simply admit you cannot live there. But there are so many varieties of fish, and they are living within the ocean very comfortably.

So don’t try to transfer your present experience to other living entities. That is not a very good argument. Now, here on this planet many of the so-called scientists are saying that on other planets there are no living entities. Why? These so-called scientists are putting forth so many reasons: “This element is lacking.” “That element is lacking.”

But what, Mr. Scientist, do you know of how this or that condition may affect beings with bodies vastly different from anything you have experienced? You know virtually nothing about the other planets. Then how can you say there are no living entities there?

Reporter: I quite agree. Very often these scientists make grand statements without a clue as to whereof they speak. So in fact there is a heavenly planetary system, with real living entities, and it is in this material universe?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In this material universe you’ll find a place for souls who have lived virtuously but who have not become unalloyed devotees of the Lord. That is called heaven, a place of great material opulence. But heaven is not in the spiritual universe. No, the spiritual universe is reserved for those souls who have developed unalloyed devotion to the Lord. Therefore in heaven you’ll not see the Lord. And even though you may enjoy a life of many thousands of years, at last you must undergo death and accept another birth on an earthly planet.

Reporter: Your Divine Grace, do you see a time coming when all mankind will be united?

Srila Prabhupada: That is very difficult to say, but we can be united on the spiritual platform, not on the material platform.

Reporter: Well, then, would you say that this spiritual unity of all mankind is possible within this generation?

Srila Prabhupada: It is possible at any time, provided people take to the actual principles of spiritual life. But they’ll not take to these principles. For example, one of the basic principles of spiritual life is no meat-eating. Now, do you think this principle will be embraced by everyone? And yet this is one of the fundamental principles of spiritual life – no meat-eating.

Reporter: Is that a necessary . . .

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Without this – if you don’t stop meat-eating – you cannot understand what spiritual life is. One who is mired in sinful life cannot understand what God is or what devotion to God is. That is not possible.

Reporter: And would it be the same for the rest of what you call the principles of spiritual life?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. People who are sinful, who do not follow the spiritual principles, cannot understand God or devotion to God. The basic spiritual principles include four prohibitions. We instruct our students not to indulge in gambling, illicit sex, meat- or fish- or egg-eating, or intoxication, including cigarettes, tea, and coffee.

Reporter: Drinking coffee and tea is also prohibited?

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. It is also a form of intoxication. Gambling, illicit sex, flesh-eating, intoxication – these are the four pillars of sinful life. So unless one gives up these four things, he cannot understand what God is, what God’s kingdom is, what our real business here in this material world is – namely preparing to go to God.