by Satyanarayana Dasa
Human life is like a bridge off of which there are four routes. If you do not follow any moral discipline, lead a life of gross sense pleasures, are attached to the material body and possessions, you have taken the route to hell.
If you follow moral and religious principles, harbor material desires, and follow religious duties with the intention of getting happiness after death, then you are promoted to the heavenly sphere.
If you follow moral principles and religious duties only for the sake of duty, you will be promoted to spheres beyond heaven within the material universe.
Whether you go to heaven or hell via the first three routes, you have to come back to earthly sphere and be born as a human being in due course.
But the fourth possibility is to take the spiritual path of devotion to the Supreme God. Then, you will go to the Lord’s abode after giving up your present body. This is a place of no return and therefore, you come out of the cycle of birth and death, called sansara (Universe).
In the third book of Bhagavata Purana, Bhagavan Kapila has described these four paths in greater detail. He says that a person who has not learned to control his senses and is absorbed only in maintaining his body and family members dies in the midst of his kinsmen. At the time of death, trembling at heart he sees two messengers of Yama (the Lord of death), called Yamadutas. They are ferocious to look at and instill fear in the heart of the dying person.
The Yamadutas pull out the soul along with the subtle body and dress them with another body called yatana sharira, or body meant for meting out suffering for the sinful acts in hell. They tie the person with aerial cords and drag the person like a slave to the land of Yama.