Most people believe that as spiritual beings, our souls survive death, and continue their existence in a spiritual realm. Others believe in reincarnation or rebirth on the material plane, still others believe in transmigration of souls, or rebirth in different forms in accordance with one’s karma.
Heaven and hell are described as places where the virtuous find happiness and sinners languish in suffering. In reality, they are not places but states of existence of joy and sorrow, of having attained nearness to God or being distanced from the Divine threshold in accordance with our deeds. The key to proximity to the Divine threshold is the performance of good deeds. We are required to do all the good possible, so that at the end of each day we find ourselves on the credit side. We should question ourselves each night and answer honestly. “Was I completely sincere today ? Was I humble, kind and generous ? Was I frank and courageous, obedient and faithful ? Or, was I dishonest, proud, impatient and quarrelsome, unkind and miserly, deceitful and cowardly , disobedient and disloyal ?” The personal audit takes five minutes. You confess to yourself only, and the exercise comes to be a gradual self-purification and spiritually rewarding process. This is also called an examination of conscience. Eventually, it leads to salvation.
A kind of personal audit was suggested by a wise man to a conscientious seeker. “For every sin you commit, drive a nail into the wall of your room. And for every good deed, draw out a nail. At the end of the month you will know by the number of nails in the wall, whether your sins were greater or your good deeds outdid the bad deeds.” This the man did faithfully.
At the end of the month, he found he had no nails in the wall, but was left with a scarred wall, where the hails were wrenched out. He went back to the wise man and reported : “I have no nails left, but my wall is damaged.” “That,” the wise man said, “is the scar left on your soul, even though your sins and good deeds may seem balanced.”