The highway to hell.


Guru Granth Sahib Ji at various stages touches on the aspects of the afterlife and we are given a glimpse of the terrible fate that waits those who have lost the path of God, but Guru Ji does not go into too much detail. The Gurus have told us about the afterlife and the perilous journey ahead in various shabads.


Says Nanak, O mortal, in the fourth watch of the night, that day is drawing near! ||4||
Receiving the summons from the Lord of the Universe, O my merchant friend, you must arise and depart with the actions you have committed.
You are not allowed a moment's delay, O my merchant friend; the Messenger of Death seizes you with firm hands.
Receiving the summons, people are seized and dispatched. The self-willed manmukhs are miserable.
But those who serve the Perfect True Guru are forever happy in the Court of the Lord.
The body is the field of karma in this age; whatever you plant, you shall harvest.
Says Nanak, the devotees look beautiful in the Court of the Lord; the self-willed manmukhs wander forever in reincarnation. ||5||1||4|| Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Siree Raag on Pannaa 77


Many Sikhs interpret the whole concept of heaven and hell at best realms within ourselves, at worst just metaphors for the world around us. But ancient texts delve into great detail about the journey a person has to take once he has left this world. One suffers a terrible fate, but only through the protection of the Guru obtained through Naam can one be saved.



The following are brief extracts from ancient texts, they are not part of the Sikh scriptures and as such have a very limited value to a Sikh. You can make up your own mind to their validity.

But they are presented here as a wake up call to those amongst us who may stray from the Gurus path.

 Death draws near.


Those who delight in sin, destitute of compassion and righteousness, attached to the wicked, averse from the true scriptures and the company of the good, Self-satisfied, unbending, intoxicated with the pride of wealth, having the ungodly qualities, lacking the divine attributes, Bewildered by many thoughts, enveloped in the net of delusion, revelling in the enjoyments of lower desires fall into a foul hell.
Those men who are intent upon wisdom go to the highest goal; the sinfully-inclined go miserably to the torments of Yama. Listen how the misery of this world accrues to the sinful, then how they, having passed through death, meet with torments. Having experienced the good or the bad actions, in accordance with his former earning,--then, as the result of his actions, some disease arises. Powerful death, unexpectedly, like a serpent, approaches him stricken with bodily and mental pain, yet anxiously hoping to live. Not yet tired of life, being cared for by his dependents, with his body deformed through old age, nearing death, in the house, He remains, like a house-dog, eating what is ungraciously placed before him, diseased, with failing digestion, eating little, moving little. With eyes turned up through loss of vitality, with tubes obstructed by phlegm, exhausted by coughing and difficult breathing, with the death rattle in his throat. Lying encircled by his sorrowing relatives; though being spoken to he does not answer, being caught in the noose of death. In this condition, with mind busy with the support of his family, with senses unconquered, swooning with intense pain he dies amidst his weeping relatives. In this last moment, a divine vision arises -- all the worlds appear as one -- and he does not attempt to say anything.
Then, at the destruction of the decayed senses and the numbing of the intelligence, the messengers of Yama come near and life departs. When the breath is leaving its place, the moment of dying seems an age, and pain like the stinging of hundred scorpions is experienced. Now he emits foam; his mouth becomes filled with saliva. The vital breaths of the sinful depart by the lower gateway.
Then, two terrifying messengers of Yama are come, of fierce aspect, bearing nooses and rods, naked, with grinding teeth. As black as crows, with hair erect, with ugly faces, with nails like weapons; seeing whom his heart palpitates and he releases excrements. The man of the size of a thumb, crying out 'oh, oh,' is dragged from the body by the servants of Yama, looking the while at his own body. Having put round him a body of torment, and bound the noose about his neck, they forcibly lead him a long way, like the king's officers a convict. While thus leading him the messengers menace him, and recount over and over again the awful terrors of the hells -- 'Hurry up, you wicked man. You shall go to the abode of Yama. We will lead you now, without delay, to Kumbhipaka and the other hells.' Then hearing these words, and the weeping of his relatives; crying loudly 'Oh, oh,' he is beaten by the servants of Yama. With failing heart and shuddering at their threats, bitten by clogs upon the way, afflicted, remembering his misdeeds, Hungry and thirsty, roasting in the sun, forest-fires and hot winds, struck upon the back with whips, painfully he walks, almost powerless, along a road of burning sand, shelterless and waterless. Here and there falling exhausted and insensible, and rising again,--in this way, very miserably led through the darkness to the abode of Yama, The man is brought there in a short time and the messengers show him the terrible torments of hell.

The way to the underworld.


There is no shade of trees there, in which a man may take rest, and on this road there is none of the foods by which he may support life. No water is to be seen anywhere that he, extremely thirsty, may drink. The terrible suns blaze, as though at the end of a pralaya. There the sinful soul goes along pierced by cold winds, in one place torn by thorns, in another stung by very venomous serpents. The sinful in one place is bitten by ferocious lions, tigers, and dogs; in another stung by scorpions; in another burnt by fire. In one place there is a very terrible forest of sword-like leaves, which is recorded as two thousand yojanas in length and breadth, Infested with crows, owls, hawks, vultures, bees, mosquitoes, and having forest-fires,--by whose leaves he is pierced and torn. In one place he falls into a hidden well; in another from a lofty mountain; in another he treads on razor-edges and on spear-points. In one place he stumbles in the awful black darkness and falls into water; in another in mud abounding in leeches; in another in hot slime. In one place is a plain of hot sand, made of smelted copper; in another a mound of embers; in another a great cloud of smoke. In some places are showers of charcoal, showers of stones and thunderbolts, showers of blood, showers of weapons, showers of boiling water, And showers of caustic mud. In one place are deep chasms; in others bills to climb and valleys to descend. In one place there is pitch darkness; in another rocks difficult to climb over; in others lakes filled with pus and blood, and with excrement.
In the midst of the way flows the terribly horrible Vaitara River, which when seen inspires misery, of which even an account arouses fear. Extending a hundred yojanas, a flow of pus and blood, impassable, with heaps of bones on the banks, with mud of flesh and blood, Un-fordable, impassable for the sinful, obstructed with hairy moss, filled with huge crocodiles. and crowded with hundreds of dreadful birds. When it sees the sinful approaching, this river, overspread with flames and smoke, seethes, like butter in the frying-pan: Covered all over with dreadful throngs of insects with piercing stings, infested with huge vultures and crows with adamantine beaks, Filled with porpoises, with crocodiles, with leeches, fishes and turtles, and with other flesh-eating water-animals. Very sinful people, fallen into the flood, cry, O Brother, O Son, O Father!'--again and again wailing. Hungry and thirsty the sinful drink the blood, it is said. That river, flowing with blood, carrying much foam, very dreadful, with powerful roaring, difficult to see into, fear-inspiring,--at the very sight of it the sinful swoon away. Covered with many scorpions, and with black snakes,--of those who have fallen into the midst of this, there is no rescuer whatever. By hundreds of thousands of whirlpools the sinful descend to the lower region. They stay for a moment in the lower region, after the moment rising again
This river was created only that the sinful should fall into it. It is difficult to cross and gives great misery, and its opposite cannot be seen. Thus along the Way of Yama, of many kinds of pain, giving extreme misery, go the sinful, crying and weeping and laden with misery. Bound by the noose, some of them being dragged by hooks, and pierced from behind with points of weapons, the sinful are led on. Others are drawn along by a noose through the end of the nose, and also by nooses through the ears; others, by the nooses of death being dragged along, are pecked by crows. Some go on the way neck, arms, feet and back bound with chains, bearing many loads of iron, And being beaten with hammers by the awful messengers of Yama; vomiting blood from the mouth, which then they eat again, Bewailing their own karmas these beings, becoming exhausted, full of very great misery, go on towards the mansion of Yama.

Chitragupta takes an account of ones life.


All go to the door-keeper and report it to him. The doorkeeper Dharmadhwaja, always stands there. He, having gone to Chitragupta, reports the good and evil deeds. Then Chitragupta tells it to the King of Justice. The men who are Deniers, and always delight in great sin; these are all, as is proper, well-known to the King of Justice. Nevertheless, he asks Chitragupta about their sins. Chitragupta, although he is all-knowing, enquires of the Srava, as these report to Chitragupta everything that is said and done, openly and secretly, by men. These followers of the King of Justice know accurately all the virtues and vices of mankind, and the karma born of mind, speech and body. Such is the power of these, who have authority over mortals and immortals. Thus do these truth-speaking Srava as relate the actions of man. To the man who pleases them by austerity, charity and truthful speech, they become benevolent, granting heaven and liberation. Knowing the wicked actions of the sinful, those truth-speakers, relating them before the King of Justice, become dispensers of misery.
The sun and moon, fire, wind, sky, earth and water, the heart. Yama, day and night, the two twilights, and Justice--know the actions of man. The King of Justice, Chitragupta, Srava as, the sun and others see fully the sins and merits of the embodied being. Then Yama, having assured himself concerning the sins of the sinful, summons them and shows them his own very terrible form. Very sinful people behold the terrifying form of Yama--huge of body, rod in hand, seated on a buffalo, Roaring like a cloud at the time of pralaya, like a mountain of lampblack, terrible with weapons gleaming like lightning, possessing thirty-two arms, Extending three yojanas, with eyes like wells, with mouth gaping with formidable fangs, with red eyes and a long nose.
Even Chitragupta is fearful, attended by Death, Fever and others. Near to him are all the messengers, resembling Yama, roaring. Having seen him, the wretch, overcome with fear, cries 'Oh, Oh.' The sinful soul who made no gifts trembles and cries again. Then, by command of Yama, Chitragupta speaks to all those sinners, who are crying, and bewailing their karmas. 'O, you sinners, evil-doers, polluted with egoism, injudicious, why ever did you commit sin? 'O, you foolish people, why ever did you commit that misery-giving sin which is born of lust, anger and association with the sinful. 'Hitherto you have committed sins with great delight, and thereby are now destined for torment. It is no use turning your faces away. 'The sinful actions done by you are very many, and those sins are the cause of unavoidable misery. 'It is known that Yama deals equally with the fool and the learned, the begger and the wealthy, the strong and the weak. Hearing these words of Chitragupta, the sinful then grieve over their karmas, and remain silent and motionless.
There is one big tree there, glowing like a blazing fire. It covers five yojanas and is one yojana in height. Having bound them on the tree by chains, head downwards, they beat them. They, for whom there is no rescuer, cry, burning there. Many sinful ones are hung on that silk-cotton tree, exhausted by hunger and thirst, and beaten by the messengers of Yama. 'Oh, forgive my faults'--with suppliant hands, those most. sinful people, helpless, implore the messengers. Again and again they are forcibly struck, by the messengers, with metal rods, with hammers, with iron clubs, with spears, with maces and with big pestles. Thus beaten they become still, swooning away.

Then, seeing them quiet, the servants address them thus: 'O, you sinners, you evildoers, why ever did you commit such wicked deeds? You did not even make the easy water and food offerings at all. You did not give even halt a mouthful of food to the dog or the crows, nor honour your guests. You did not meditate well upon the Lord, nor repeat His mantra, along with which torment cannot exist. You never visited any places of pilgrimage, nor worshipped the Lord. Though living as a householder you did not even express compassion. You did not do any acts of service. Suffer the fruits of your own sin! Because you are devoid of righteousness you deserve to be beaten. Forgiveness of faults is done by the Lord Hari Iswara. We only punish miscreants, as we are ordered.' Thus having spoken the messengers beat them mercilessly; and on account of the beating they fall down like glowing charcoal




So there you have it, (if you haven’t already flung your arms in the air in total despair), a vivid description of what fate befalls those who abandon the protection of the Guru. Although this text does not in anyway form part of the Sikh scriptures it is still a source of interest, as many aspects of it are touched upon in Gurbani. For instance Gurbani mentions the Yama, Chitargupta, the river and the suffering for those who forget Gods name. Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a source of inspiration and expands on the whole concept of the wonders of God and how to meet with Him, maybe in their infinite wisdom the Gurus felt it inappropriate to dwell too much on this most terrible of places.

To avoid this place and the terrible punishments meted out Guru Sahib Ji gives us clear and concise instructions.
  Maajh, Fifth Mehla:
God is the Breath of Life of my soul, the Support of my mind.
His devotees live by singing the Glorious Praises of the Infinite Lord.
The Ambrosial Name of the Lord is the Treasure of Excellence. Meditating, meditating on the Lord's Name, I have found peace. ||1||
One whose heart's desires lead him from his own home to the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, shall be rid of the cycle of birth and death.
His hopes and desires are fulfilled, when he gains the Blessed Vision of the Guru's Darshan. ||2||
The limits of the Inaccessible and Unfathomable Lord cannot be known.
The seekers, the Siddhas, those beings of miraculous spiritual powers, and the spiritual teachers, all meditate on Him.
Thus, their egos are erased, and their doubts are dispelled. The Guru has enlightened their minds. ||3||
I chant the Name of the Lord, the Treasure of bliss, joy, salvation, intuitive peace and poise.
When my Lord and Master blessed me with His Mercy, O Nanak, then His Name entered the home of my mind. ||4||25||32|| Guru Arjun dev Ji in Raag Maajh
  Third Mehla:
O Nanak, those who worship and adore the Lord's Name night and day, vibrate the String of the Lord's Love.
Maya, the maid-servant of our Lord and Master, serves them.
The Perfect One has made them perfect; by the Hukam of His Command, they are embellished.
By Guru's Grace, they understand Him, and they find the gate of salvation.
The self-willed manmukhs do not know the Lord's Command; they are beaten down by the Messenger of Death.
But the Gurmukhs, who worship and adore the Lord, cross over the terrifying world-ocean.
All their demerits are erased, and replaced with merits. The Guru Himself is their Forgiver. ||2||
Guru Amar Daas Ji in Siree Raag on Pannaa 90