Reward for service or escapism
Sometimes we wish life could be more heavenly. but what is heaven and where do we find it? Across the Middle East during a time of growing desertification, Heaven was most often described as an idyllic paradise with lush gardens, an abundance of food and no responsibility, all one's needs are taken care of.
If we look at the temple Art from north-west India across North Africa, it depicts this idyllic heaven as something akin to the mythical hanging Gardens of Babylon. So perhaps we can say that this was in response to harsh living conditions and indeed those with means either created their own miniature paradise or spread and conquered other lands.
The carrot and the stick
As civilisation developed the idea of heaven and hell were promoted as they made economic sense. Work hard, be a good person in service of your King and country that your reward may be an eternity in heaven.
Conversely, failure to appease the masters only entitled one to a hellish lifestyle and existence, but for the most part the hell has been created by human beings. Even when nature cause a human suffering, it was often seen as a punishment for not being good because the ideas of good and bad were established by the ruling hierarchy.
The idea of heaven only reached after we die as a reward for having been being a good person for all our lives is a myth created by men to control populations and economic growth. In the Christian and Islamic traditions, the idea of heaven is like the carrot tied to a stick held in front of a horse - no matter how hard or fast the horse walks, it can never reach the carrot and life is hell.
Mystics and Yogi's consider that heaven is both a place on Earth and a state of mind.
The consensus of learned opinion is that if we embraced our humanity and co-operated in creating an equitable society, we'd all be living in heaven now - with total peace and prosperity for all. The heaven that comes of peace of mind is a growth into maturity with a degree of enlightenment as a result of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and acting with good personal and social ethics.
Humanity is matured enough to realise that ideas of heaven and hell are promoted and that much of the suffering and experiences of hell that people have in this life are entirely man-made. This gives rise to the concept of crime by people seeking a shortcut to a more heavenly existence through the acquisition of pleasure.
Unfortunately pleasure is a short-term phenomenon. The thief may gloat over his stolen loot, but often he must suffer the unpleasant consequences. We could say that crime has evolved as a consequence of social injustice and that people seek pleasure as an escape from the helmets imposed on them by society.
These ideas of heaven and hell that have been so heavily promoted within religion create a power structure in which people like Mother Teresa glorify suffering with the promise of heaven as a reward. But this is a denial of everyone's right to be happy and within our patriarchal civilisation we have evolved different avenues of sociably acceptable pleasure depending on gender and place in society.
One of the cornerstones of capitalism is slavery, this is where someone wants a more heavenly lifestyle, but to achieve that they employ slaves to work and develop wealth for the Masters.
In most countries human sexuality has been regulated and to a large extent the slaves or working classes denied access while the ruling classes have always had abundant access with harems, concubines and consorts for their pleasure.
The common man has been fighting back, the union movement helped the working classes achieve some basic human rights and dignity and a civilisation has now moved to a point where pleasure has become another industry. It has its dark side, the sex slavery and trafficking, and seems we haven't really achieved a great deal.
Reaching Heaven - Avoiding Hell
Everyone wants to be happy but so many are more concerned with a happy ending as they focus more on the destination which is an illusion and not the journey or momentary reality.
Heaven and hell are states of mind, hell is suffering without recourse to lift oneself out of it. In our relationships people so often make each other responsible for their well-being and this is a mistake. To lift ourselves out of hell, we need to take on some responsibility and come to know our own body and mind. Does only by doing this that we achieve a level of peace and acceptance from where the journey to heaven begins.
Heaven is not found in any near's life that exists in the here and now it is only by learning about one's own true nature that it can be accessed.
"There is no question of having pleasure without impediments. Even when the pleasures are earned, they are earned after a great deal of struggle and sacrifice, and whatever pleasure may be acquired is temporary, for in the material world there is no pleasure that can give us constant and unending enjoyment." ~ Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada