From what we have learnt from knowledgeable people of the hoary past, Heaven is definitely a nice place to live in. Unlike in our earthly sojourn, life there, we are told, is not only free of cares and worries, but also has happiness and contentment, indeed of bliss, in the real sense of the terms. There we come across only people who are the best and the brightest, who are beautiful in their ethereal body and mind. Malice and mischief, villainy and vice are words unseen in the Heavenly lexicon. In fact these and other negative attributes that make up much of our character in our earthly life, are alien to the milieu up there.
The added advantage of being ‘up there,’ or in Heaven, is that we are in the company of the great Gods and Goddesses, but it is uncertain from the sources mentioned above if we could meet them or interact with them, or at least with their minions, on a daily basis.
We know from the same sources that Heaven is high up in the sky. In fact many of the words in Germanic, Old English or related languages with which this word has etymological connection mean sky, or firmament. From sky, the word later came to mean ‘home of gods.’
But the sky being infinite in space it is not certain how close to earth or how far away is this abode of the Gods and other celestials into which departed souls from the earth are admitted for a period. ‘For a period’ because no mortal, however good his credentials are, could ever think of a pleasurable stay in Heaven forever, something akin to our permanent resident status. After a specified period (according to Theosophists an average span of about 1,400 years), the soul of the mortal will have to go back to earth to be reborn. Not necessarily as a human, knowledgeable sources tell us, as the rebirth could be as an animal, bird, reptile or any lesser creature. Perhaps even as a worm.
That is OK, as any life is life indeed. The only thing to hope for is that that life should have less of suffering and more of enjoyment.
One doubt I often have is whether Heaven is a Universal domain into which departed souls from all over planet Earth, righteous ones of course, find admission, irrespective of their country of origin, or religion, race, color etc. Reading of available material on Heavenly history and geography has not been of much help in this regard. That is because all religions have their own watertight concepts of Heaven and of the celestials who inhabit it. They all say that the righteous among their people (that is people of their religion) could hope to make an entry there. They normally do not speak of people of other faiths getting admitted to the Heavenly El Dorado. The only exception I could find is in the traditional belief in Judaism that the ‘righteous of all nations’ will have a place in Olam Ha-Ba, the World to Come, which is their idea of a Heaven. But the catch is that the righteous of all nations have to be residents of Israel (Ger Toshav or Resident Alien) to qualify for the Heavenly visa.
This would obviously mean that generally speaking there would be different Heavens up in the sky corresponding to each religion or sect. Like Hindu Heaven, Christian Heaven, Islamic Heaven, Buddhist Heaven, Judaic Heaven, Taoist Heaven etc. When people die, the righteous among them ascend to the upper realm of their religion.
To add to the confusion, most of the religions do not speak of just one Heaven each, but of many Heavens, mostly seven. The earliest to mention this were the Mesopotamians. Many religions appeared to follow the Mesopotamian model or have a slightly enlarged version. In Hindu cosmology Brahmanda consists of fourteen worlds, seven of them upper worlds (earth and above) and seven underworlds. The upper worlds besides the Earth are Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janarloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka, which may be different levels of Heaven or different destinations altogether.
The uncertainty in regard to Heavenly topography is whether there are celestial borders just as we have our national borders on planet Earth. Can a person from Hindu Heaven go over to the Heaven of another faith to meet any of his old acquaintances? For instance two of my bosom friends of the school days, who died long, long ago, were non-Hindus, one a Christian and the other a Muslim. If I happen to be in the Heaven of my faith when I pass over, I am sure I stand a chance of meeting my parents and other forebears, but is there a chance of meeting my old friends either in their respective Heavens or in a neutral area like a Heavenly cafeteria?
The nitty-gritty of exploring such a possibility may perhaps have to wait.