The train to heaven and the train to hell

1001 Tales Discourses

Osho relates a story about Edmund Burke who used to go to church on Sundays – he was not a believer, but he liked the preacher and the way he talked about things.

I have heard:

There was an English thinker, Edmund Burke. He used to go to church on Sundays – he was not a believer, but he liked the preacher and the way he talked about things.

Somebody asked him: You are not a believer and you are not a religious man, so why do you go every Sunday and so regularly? He said: Once in a while I like to see a person who really believes. Just to see a person who has faith is beautiful in itself. I don’t have any faith, but this preacher is a man of faith. He may be wrong – I know that he is wrong, but that doesn’t matter. He is beautiful in his faith. It seems that he has attained. Maybe he is in a delusion, but that is not the point. I am continuously trying to achieve something and he has attained. So just to look at him, I go there.

One day he asked the priest – because the priest had preached that evening that people who are good, virtuous and believe in God, will go to heaven – after the sermon Burke asked the priest: What about people who are good and virtuous, but don’t believe in God? Where will they go? Will they go to heaven?

If you say Yes, then to believe in God is not necessary. Then the belief, the whole hypothesis is useless! If a person can go to heaven just by being virtuous, then what is the point of belief? And if you say that people who are virtuous and good and don’t believe in God will have to go to hell, then what is the point of being virtuous and good? Just believing in God will do.

This Burke was a logician and the priest was puzzled. He said: Give me a few days, I will have to enquire. I don’t know exactly what happens.

He tried for seven days to think from every nook and comer, but he couldn’t get it, because the puzzle was there. If he says Yes, then there is a problem. If he says No, then too there is a problem.

On the seventh day he came to the church, one hour before his sermon; he went to the terrace, was brooding there, closed his eyes – the whole of the previous night he could not sleep, because he was thinking and thinking and thinking – and again he fell into sleep and he had a dream.

Going to heaven

In the dream he saw himself going in a train somewhere. He asked: Where is this train going? and people said: We are going to heaven.

He said: This is good. This is the right thing. I will ask where those people are who are virtuous, for example Socrates – good, virtuous, but he never believed in God; where are they? So he went into heaven. But he didn’t like the look of the place. It looked a little ruinous, no happiness, a little boring, no excitement – of course, silent – but it looked dead. He could not believe that this was heaven.

Train going to hell

Then he asked: When does the train leave for hell? The train was ready, so he entered.

He went to hell. He could not believe his eyes again, because things were really beautiful. Beautiful trees, greenery, flowers, birds singing, and everybody was happy. He said, There is something wrong! This seems to be like heaven. He went into the town. He asked people: Is Socrates here? They said, Yes, he is working in the fields.

So he went to Socrates and he said: Are you here? You, good and virtuous, but you didn’t believe in God? So you have been thrown in hell? He said: I don’t know about hell at all, but since we came here we have turned it into heaven.

Shocked, his eyes opened.

Edmund Burke was waiting downstairs. He came there and he said: I don’t know now exactly, but a dream I had I will tell you. In the dream I came to realize that people who are good and virtuous, wherever they go – that place becomes heaven. People who are not virtuous and good, even if they believe in God, wherever they go – that place becomes a hell. This is how it has been revealed to me in my dream.

Osho, Tao, The Three Treasures –Talks on fragments from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Vol 4, Ch 1 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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