Question: Is hell really a place in the vital worlds, or is it just a state of consciousness?Sri Chinmoy: On the physical-mental level, hell is a place. It is for the soul’s experience. If you lead a bad life you have to go there. There it is real torture, unimaginable torture. Especially for those who commit suicide, the torture is infinitely worse than being fried alive in oil. The suffering that suicides go through in the subtle physical and subtle vital is unthinkable, unbearable. They will not get another incarnation for a long time. Then after suffering in the vital world for many years, when they finally do get an incarnation, they will be defective: blind, paralysed, mongoloid and all kinds of things. And this is not just for one incarnation, either. If they are not forgiven by a spiritual Master or by God’s Grace, this will go on for quite a few incarnations. Not only that, but right from the beginning they create a disturbance for the entire family that they are born into. For instance, if a suicide takes incarnation and is insane, he will cause serious problems for his whole family. Also, these souls often increase their own bad karma because they go on in the same way and they do not change. But if there is Grace from God, or if a spiritual Master intervenes, the soul is helped.
So when we live in the gross physical consciousness or in the body consciousness, hell is really a place. But on the highest spiritual level, we have to know that hell, as well as Heaven, is a plane of consciousness. Both Heaven and hell begin in the mind. The moment we think something good, the moment we pray and meditate and try to offer the inner light that we have gained from our meditation and prayers, we begin to live in Heaven. The moment we think evil of someone, criticise someone and cherish wrong thoughts about someone, then we enter into hell. Heaven we create; hell we create. With our divine thoughts we create Heaven. With our wrong, silly, undivine thoughts, we create hell within us. Heaven and hell are both states of consciousness deep inside us. When we go deep within, we see that the entire universe is inside us. Inside this physical body is the subtle body, and inside the subtle body, in the heart, we find the existence of the soul. Then, from there, if we go deep within, we see the entire universe.