Is there a hell? Isn't our present situation in the world full of wars, crime, abuse, torture already a hell on earth? In this article Purujit Dasa explains why the hellish punishment is a necessity in the creation of the Lord.
Lord Krsna says:
asurim yonim apanna
mudha janmani janmani
mam aprapyaiva kaunteya
tato yanty adhamam gatim
"Attaining repeated birth amongst the species of demoniac life, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence."
One may question, if God is all merciful, why does He subject the sinners to such punishment? What is a sin? These are undoubtedly important questions people might ask when faced with the concept of hell as a place where sinners go after death to suffer for their disobedience of God's laws.
It is said that man is the architect of his own fortune. Man proposes, God disposes. Whatever state of mind we achieve at the time of death, that state of being we will get in our next life. The soul is carried in a subtle body to acquire a new body according to his various desires he has accumulated in life. It is just like in school. If a student studies throughout the year, he will pass an exam and then he finds a nice job to live happily in this world. If he slacks, he fails the exam and must struggle. The human form is awarded to us for one singular reason and that is to pass the exam of life. The exam of life will test how much we have developed our dormant Krsna consciousness. If one does not reach perfection in this life, he must again transmigrate to a material body and suffer the consequences of his actions. Those degraded conditioned souls who miss the opportunity to utilise the human vessel for this purpose and instead waste it by engaging in sophisticated animalism will degrade to lower life forms such as hog, dogs, cats, or even worse plants, trees or microbes. Indeed, there can be no bigger failure in life than this. Therefore everyone should very seriously and diligently control his senses and practise devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representatives and thus take advantage of this great benediction. If one is unwilling to do this, or opposes the Krsna consciousness movement in any way, he must take birth in one of the 4 800 000 species of life and undergo tremendous painful reactions.
We may observe that compared to humans, animal or plant species have a reduced consciousness. Although the spirit souls are in quality one and they possess the same potential of going back to Godhead, the material conditioning does not allow the lower species than human to develop their consciousness in their precarious position. The soul is trapped in such body simply following gross material instincts without any chance to understand higher principles that govern this universe. This reduction of consciousness is the direct result of their prior life of hellish punishments in the planets of Yama, the lord of death as we are informed in the Vedic scriptures. It is a fact that one's consciousness becomes reduced when we undergo painful situations. For example, if one suffers from a toothache, he has a lack of concentration, lack of enthusiasm to work and he cannot think properly. By reading in the Vedas we get to know about various types of suffering the sinful living entities undergo to repent for the sins they have commited in their previous life. For example, the superintendents of the lord of death pour hot iron into the mouths of those who waste time by drinking alcoholic beverages or force those who indulge in the act of illicit sex to embrace a hot iron form of a woman or man. These hellish punishments are meant to reduce any sort of human level of consciousness of the sinful entity so he can then assume the animal or plant form in his upcoming life. Without such "training" the living entity would have a human consciousness in the animal or plant life and that would make his suffering even more severe. It is a facility for those who refuse to act in their human capacity to forget their potential and fully devote themselves to purely sensual life of animalism. For this tremendous painful sufferings are needed until the consciousness is reduced and one can lose any sort of human consideration.
The Lord sends his representatives to preach to the conditioned souls to use their spiritual potential and fully utilise the human form of life for self realisation and liberation from the cycle of death, which is ever spinning by the material desires of the confused living beings who are searching for that which is not (maya). If the living entities try to control their envious nature and thus surrender to such representatives and with folded hands bow down to their feet with the express desire to purify their demonic tendencies, they make spiritual advancement by hearing transcendental instructions from such pure spiritual masters and executing their instructions. However, if they offend such representatives or do not execute their instructions to the best of their capacities, they are punished and must learn their lessons by undergoing horrible sufferings in their future lives. The one and only reason for being envious of such representatives is the desire to be the Lord and the enjoyer of one's work. One must give up sense gratification as the senses will drag one to enjoy on the animal platform. Such mentality leads downward only. Those who are intelligent will hear and follow, those who are foolish must first of all taste the bitter slaps of illusion before they can learn.
Thus hellish worlds are just another form of the Lord's mercy upon the living entity. The Lord is ever-eager for His parts and parcels to come back home, back to Him to enjoy an eternal life full of knowledge and bliss. We should not be angry at the Lord for manifesting such punishments and understand that it is we who perversely desire such punishments by indulging in sense gratification in this world which is devoid of devotional service. One should not be foolish by voluntarily gliding towards hell in order to taste the bitter medicine. Quite the opposite, he should enthusiastically meet the challenge of human life and make the best of the bad bargain of the material existence by dedicating his life 24 hours to the service of the Lord. Thus he will achieve perfection in this very life without any need to suffer in the hellish worlds.