When I get to heaven
Is it dangerous to dwell upon heaven? Many of the world’s great religious teachers seem to have thought so. Confucius told his disciples to pay respect to the spirits, but keep them at a distance; it was the will of heaven, he believed, that we keep our eyes trained on earth. What becomes of the enlightened after death was one of the ten questions the Buddha refused to answer because indulging opinions on such matters is not conducive to liberation. The sages of classical Judaism displayed similar restraint. The Talmud includes the cautionary tale of four sages who entered paradise: “Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and lost his mind; Elisha ben Avuyah became a heretic; and Rabbi Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.”
This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.