'Heaven Is a Place Where You Are Happy'

Barbara Walters explains what heaven means in different religions, whether she'll go to heaven or not, and what happens there.

BY: Interview by Rebecca Phillips


Continued from page 1

You asked the Dalai Lama a very interesting question, about whether or not we're currently closer to heaven or to hell.

Barbara Walters on the Dalai Lama

He thought we were closer to heaven. He believes in the benevolence of nature. I also thought it was interesting when I asked him if he was a God. He laughed and said, "I have an eye infection. If I were a God, I wouldn't have an eye infection. But for the past few days I've had an eye infection. This proves that I'm not God." He said, "What I am is a teacher." This is a man who, no matter what you feel about Buddhism, to meet him and to be in the warmth of his personality, the humanity of his personality, is an amazing experience. He gave each of us white scarves, which is a symbol of Buddhism, and I think we all felt the better for being with him.

And what would you say to the question that you asked him, about whether or not we're closer to heaven or hell?

It depends on what day you get me.


Barbara Walters on whether we're closer to heaven or hell

It would be nice to feel that we are a better world, a world of more compassion and a world of more humanity, and to believe in the basic goodness of man. But when you listen to the news and read the papers and see the harm that people do, too often in the name of God.look at some of the major problems in the world. Aren't they a fight over which God you believe in? In the name of God, people kill each other? In the name of God, people kill themselves? In the name of God, bombs are thrown and countries are torn apart? That's hard for me to fathom.

The stories of people who claimed to have had near-death experiences were fascinating.

Yes, and these are very sensible people. These are very normal, not necessarily very spiritual people. And yet their experience was such that the near-death experience transformed their lives. Now, you can tell them that scientifically, something happens to the brain that creates a hallucinatory experience, which is how [near-death experiences are] explained by many scientists. They will say, "Yes, but I saw it, I felt it." They believe that they did experience something real, and nothing can persuade them that they didn't.

Did you believe their stories?

Barbara Walters on believing in heaven

I certainly would like to. I think if you can believe that there is a heaven, it graces your life. If you can believe that when you die, you go to a better place, it certainly makes life more comfortable on earth. Especially if you experience tragedies, and everyone does--deaths, pain, humiliation, whatever. If you believe that you have a near-death experience and you come back, and you can tell it to your children, that's wonderful. I think that these people have a very special grace.

If there is a heaven, is there anyone you'd like to meet there?

Of course, you want to see your family.

One of your guests was talking about having dinner with Ernest Hemingway...

Well, that's the thing about heaven. It must be very crowded, but in heaven, there is no barrier, there is no age, you meet everyone. I also wonder what happens to all these people who were born before the birth of Christ. Where do they go? Are they all in limbo? What happened to all the Egyptians, or the Chinese, or the Greeks? Where did they go?

The person who made the comment about Hemingway was author Anthony DeStefano, who has a very specific vision of what he thinks heaven will look like. Was that common--did other people have ideas about what heaven will actually look like?

Barbara Walters on what happens in heaven

Almost everyone did. The idea of heaven is that it's a place where you're happy. If you're happy because it's a place where you have sex, great. If you're happy because there's beautiful music and rivers of honey, that's wonderful. If you're happy because you're in God's presence, that surpasses any kind of happiness.

Also, what Mitch Albom talked about was the idea of heaven being a place where you meet your loved ones. That's why his book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," has been so successful. It is seen as a place where you meet your loved ones, and where, in a sense, you are forgiven. You have no guilt.

You said before that it's more important to you to find heaven on earth. How do you do it?

I am just aware that life is to be cherished. I am grateful, I do have a good life. I don't know how I would feel if I were very ill, or very poor, or if I had a series of tragedies. I might be praying for death and an afterlife.

What do you hope people take away from watching your heaven show?

I hope that they'll be inspired. I hope it will lead them to question their views and listen to other people's views. This [show] is not a lecture. It should be a heavenly two hours.

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