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Heaven and hell indeed exist as separate upper worlds. After the death of a soul on earth, the soul enjoys the fruits of its meritorious and sinful deeds in those worlds respectively, for a stipulated period of time. Thereafter, the soul takes a fresh birth on earth. The person’s life span on earth is separate from the time period spent by the soul in heaven and hell. Earth, heaven, and hell are all separate places. The places are different and the times spent by the soul in each place are also different. So, none is disturbed by the other. Earth is meant for doing deeds with full freedom. Hence, it is known as the world of actions (karma loka). Heaven and hell are known as worlds of enjoyment (bhoga lokas), where the fruits of the deeds done by the soul on earth are merely enjoyed. There is no freedom in those worlds. The fruits have to be enjoyed for the stipulated period, without any choice. No new deeds are done in those worlds. On earth, while the person is performing deeds, the enjoyment of the fruits of the deeds should not disturb the person. Similarly, while the soul is enjoying the fruits in the upper worlds, the performance of deeds should not disturb the soul’s enjoyment. Hence, the deed and its fruit are kept separate in place and time so that they do not interfere with each other. This is the general rule but there are some exceptions. One exception is that the fruits of very intensive deeds of a soul are to be enjoyed by the soul on earth itself. Another major and overall exception is that God can draw any fruit from the life cycle of a soul and grant it to the soul to enjoy at any particular time. This is done with a view to reforming the soul. The soul is the disciple and God is the Divine Spiritual Preacher. Hence, God closely attends to the activity of reforming the soul. So, the separation of the deed and its fruit in place and time is not a hard and fast rule. The place and time of delivery of the fruits of the soul’s deeds is ultimately decided by God, who is the Supermost Authority and the possessor of the supermost knowledge. His decision is most effective for reforming the soul and for providing eternal benefit to the soul. Every soul on earth is made of the three fundamental qualities: sattvam, rajas and tamas. Sattvam represents knowledge, softness of nature and devotion to God. Rajas represents ego, greed and activity. Tamas represents ignorance, rigid attachment to worldly enjoyment and inactivity. Each soul has its own specific ratio of these three qualities which remains approximately fixed although there might be slight changes. These three qualities are very intense on earth. Let us take an example of a soul having ratio of 60:25:15 in sattvam, rajas and tamas respectively. Let us say that the quantity of each of these qualities is in kilograms to indicate their high intensities. When the soul returns to earth after going to heaven and hell, this ratio does not change. However, the intensities of each of the three qualities greatly reduce. Thus, the soul which has just taken birth on earth has the same ratio (60:25:15) of the three qualities. The only difference is that now the quantity of each of the three qualities is in grams instead of kilograms. How did the quantity or intensity of each of the qualities reduce? The punishments in hell reduced the intensities of the soul’s rajas and tamas. Similarly, the enjoyment in heaven reduced the soul’s desire for happiness, which means, it reduced the intensity of sattvam. This ratio of the three qualities, as the soul returns to earth, is called sañcita. In the case of this example chosen by us, the soul’s predominant quality is sattvam (60%). It will give a birth to the soul in the family of scholars of spiritual knowledge providing a congenial environment to the soul. This predominant quality (60% sattvam) causing that particular birth is called prārabdha. As the soul lives on earth, the quantities of each of the qualities will increase from grams to kilograms. The ratio will still usually remain approximately the same (60:25:15). Occasionally, this ratio may even change to a large extent. It may change to a new ratio such as 80:15:5. It means that sattvam increased a lot in that particular birth of the soul. This happens when the soul comes in contact with a divine spiritual preacher. The added and deleted amounts of the three qualities leading to a large change in the ratio is called āgāmi. There is full freedom given to the soul on earth to change this ratio by acquiring spiritual knowledge and performing good deeds. Hence, it is said that even angels are eager to take human birth on earth! If the soul wastes or misuses the precious time of this rare human birth by spending it all in petty worldly matters, such a soul must indeed be given the rare title ‘the most unfortunate soul’. www.universal-spirituality.org