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I have been reading BACK TO GODHEAD magazine for many years now. It is a truly sublime magazine.
But one question has been puzzling me for a long time. Since we are part and parcel of the Divine, we must have been in the divine, eternal, spiritual world at one time. Also, in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna proclaims, "Those who come to My supreme abode will never return to the material world."
So if we were in the divine world at one time, why did we come to this material world in the first place?
Krishnan K. Nijhawan
Our reply: It is indeed remarkable to think that each of us left our eternal, blissful life of service to Krsna and came to the material world. Not only have we come here, but we insist on staying, even though Krsna warns us that the material world is temporary and full of miseries such as birth, old age, disease, and death. Choosing to live in the material world instead of the spiritual world is like choosing to live in a cold, dark prison cell instead of a warm, sunny apartment. And yet that is exactly what we have done. How could we have been so foolish?
Being part and parcel of Krsna, we are qualitatively equal to Him. Krsna is the fully independent Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we are therefore minutely, or partially, independent. Without independence, or free will, we could not have a loving relationship with Krsna, because loving service must be rendered willingly. By refusing to serve Krsna and desiring instead to be the Supreme ourselves, we fall into this material world.
But Krsna promises that if we revive our service to Him we will return to Him in the spiritual world at the end of our present lifetime.
As you mentioned in your letter, those who attain the spiritual world never return to this world of birth and death. In the Bhagavad-gita (8.15), Krsna says, "After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection." Once we attain the highest perfection, pure Krsna consciousness, we won't want to return to this material world. Of course, as minutely independent parts of Krsna, we couldreturn if we chose to. But we should be determined not to be that foolish.
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When I was admitted to the hospital, I came across an old issue of your devotional magazine [Vol. 16, No. 7] in the hospital library. I was really taken with it. All your articles and photographs are heart-warming, especially "Swamiji in San Francisco."
Every day I went through the same magazine, and when I was discharged from the hospital I had a very pleasant surprise waiting for me at home: a gift subscription to your "Back to Godhead" from my husband. Your magazine has become a part of our family.
Thank you very much for building the knowledge of Sri Krishna in us; I am expecting more of it in the near future.
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I was reading in the Bhagavad Gita how if you chant "Hare Krishna" when you die you automatically achieve perfection. But what about someone who is very sinful during all of his life, and then just at the end he chants "Hare Krishna"? Does he also go back to God? It just doesn't seem right to me that just by chanting "Hare Krishna" once you can be free of all responsibility for sin. Is God so capricious?
Our reply: There's no question of caprice on God's part. Rather, out of His unlimited mercy He endows His holy name with all His potencies, including the potency to purify us of sin. This is confirmed in the authoritative Vedic scripture known as the Visnu Purana: "Simply by chanting one holy name of Hari [Krsna], a sinful man can counteract the effects of more sins than he is able to commit."
Of course, what we think of at the time of death will he determined by what we've thought and done throughout our life. So to be on the safe side we should stop sinning and start chanting Hare Krsna as much as possible. Then we're sure to go back to Godhead.