In the Theosophical teachings are Heaven and Nirvana considered to be places or states of consciousness?
The modern conception of Heaven seems to be of a place, and a place quite as material as anything we have here. Those who have studied the Wisdom Religion find Devachan described as a state resembling the theologian's idea of Heaven; though its higher phases are far more spiritually exalted than any conception of the latter which they have as yet evolved. But could any really advanced Soul be satisfied with the material Heaven of theology or even with the more spiritual and refined Devachan? First, Heaven or Devachan is a state of consciousness, happiness, feeling or emotion which can be experienced in any locality. The same may be said of Nirvana only it is a much higher state or condition of enjoyment.
The motive given for striving to enter Heaven is a purely selfish one. It is to cease from all labor and to revel "forever" in personal delights and pleasures, regardless of the fate of any soul on earth. The student of the one true Religion has no longing for such a Heaven. He wishes to spend as little time as possible between his earth lives because he is in haste to return to his chosen work of helping to uplift the world.
Theologians find this idea so amusing that they ridicule it in press and pulpit. But which conception is the nobler, the more unselfish, the more like Christ? They declare that Nirvana simply means annihilation, when in fact it is the extreme opposite of nothingness because it comprises everything. It is divine enlightenment — the sum of all that is to be learned in human form on this earth. And yet after a man has reached this height of divine power and Wisdom they tell us he has become nothing. This is what Jesus meant when he urged upon his pupils the possibility and the duty of becoming "perfect," of becoming "one with the Father."
But Souls who have attained this high degree of spiritual power and knowledge do not always wish to remain in it for their own selfish enjoyment. They often renounce it that they may again come in touch with the struggling souls, yet of earth, to help and save them. All the world's great Teachers and Saviors have been such Souls. Any human being may in time become such a Savior and Helper of the Race.
Is not this a higher, purer ideal to place before humanity than the theological Heaven, earned by another's toil and suffering, enjoyed unendingly and after one brief earth life, of little or no use to any one, and frequently spent in ease and selfish indulgence of all material kinds? Is it any wonder that centuries of such teaching have deadened man's spiritual perception — as well as blunted his powers of reasoning? That such is the case is abundantly proved by the inability of many so-called spiritual guides and teachers of the people to themselves comprehend teachings so lofty and sublime, yet so plain and simple that many little children readily take them up and begin to build their lives upon them.
Though Nirvana does not mean destruction or annihilation, such a thing is possible. It happens to the lower, personal, animal nature of man, that "self" which is so anxious to enter a material Heaven and enjoy its selfish personal pleasures. Yet it is the only self most persons know much about, because they live in it instead of the higher, divine Self, the Soul, which is a part of God, and is ever striving to uplift the lower, to make it also human and divine. If it fails to do this it must leave it to its fate. The Spirit has been "grieved away." The lower self can do this by continued wickedness, or by giving itself up to the grossly material things of life and neglecting the means of gaining spiritual enlightenment. This is the destruction that is to be shunned, instead of the divine and God-like power and wisdom attained by one who has passed beyond earth, beyond Heaven and reached the high state of Nirvana. — Caan Emir
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