He rejected them as absolute authority. To the problem of samsara ("The Continued Wander On through Rebirth") he found a different solution than another rebirth in the heavens.
Other popular religions (Christianity, Islam, Jainism...) promise that rebirth in "heaven" is best. But the Buddha said all of these heavens, and there are many, are actually:
- impermanent, though long lasting.
- unsatisfactory/disappointing, though very pleasant.
- impersonal, though they may appear as "our true home" (because having been there, we were there for a long time).
|Prajna Paramita personified|
They have awakened from this illusion and transcended all states of suffering. The Buddha called this awakening (bodhi) the path to nirvana.
But nirvana is a tricky word we will necessarily misunderstand according to our bias as either "eternal life" for spiritual types or "annihilation" for scientific types.
It "can't" be anything else; it "must" be one or the other. But it is something else, something altogether different (the unconditioned element). People will not know that unless and until they transcend this illusion and escape to reality.
Dr. Long and Paul Perry wrote Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.