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If the Hare Krsna members believe that all sin and evil will be compensated by nature's laws, and that according to the law ofkarma any good or bad will be met with good or bad reactions in this life or the next, then what is the need for hell? In Christian terms, all sinful people must go to hell and be punished, but according to ISKCON, all sinful people receive reactions to sin in the form of disease, death, poverty, separation from home, friends and family members, etc., in either this life or the next. Or they are sent to lower or higher planets. So do all sinful people go to hell, or do they undergo karmic reactions, or both?

Bhakta Bill
Tokyo, Japan


OUR REPLY: One problem in understanding karma is that we tend to take the analogy with Newton's second law too literally. It is not correct to say that a karmic action, like a physical action, has an "equal and opposite reaction." Srila Prabhupada explains that karmic reactions for both good and bad works are compounded. He gives this example: If I do something good by giving someone, say, $100 in this life, I will have to come back in the next life to collect, say, $400. There's interest. The same thing happens with sinful acts. In theCaitanya-caritamrta it is explained that cow-eaters must take birth as cows and be killed for as many times as there are hairs on the cow's body. This may sound extreme, but consider the other side. If one performs even fairly insignificant pious activities, the results are unimaginable. For instance, there are amazing benefits from fasting completely on even one Ekadasi day. So the reactions are not "equal and opposite."

Therefore, there is suffering in hell and in the next life because it is all punishment for the same sins. Srila Prabhupada explains it like this: "On the planet of Yamaraja, the sinful man is given the chance to practice living in the hellish conditions which he will have to endure in the next life, and then he is given a chance to take birth on another planet to continue his hellish life. For example, if a man is to be punished to remain in hell and eat stool and urine, then first of all he practices such habits on the planet of Yamaraja, and then he is given a particular type of body, that of a hog, so that he can eat stool and think that he is enjoying life" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.30.29, purport).

You will notice that Srila Prabhupada says, "to continue his hellish life." So it is all part of the same "sentence" for his illegal, sinful activities.

Another consideration is that the situation we find ourselves in is partly a punishment for sinful actions, but it is also due to our own desires. Those desires are nurtured by our sinful acts and sinful association, and we could even say that they are a worse reaction than the physical suffering of hell—because our desires keep us bound up in material existence. In other words, our desires are part of our karma, and even though we may pay our debt in hell for sinful acts, we don't automatically get free from desires there. We still have to get another body to work through those desires. Of course, it is all very entangling, and we usually forget about our suffering and go to hell again.

Lord Kapiladeva says, "If, therefore, the living entity again associates with the path of unrighteousness, influenced by sensually minded people engaged in the pursuit of sexual enjoyment and the gratification of the palate, he again goes to hell as before." The only solution is to become Krsna conscious and avoid wrestling with the tricky laws of karma.

Your recent eye-catching and mindopening ads for Back to Godhead, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Bhagavad-gita make for a real transcendental experience as I go through the magazine savoring every page. Looking forward to the arrival of the magazine has become a thrill. I have been wanting to write to you earlier, but my dear husband, Mohandas, was seriously ill. The last article he enjoyed utmost before he passed away was "Won't You Join the Dance?" [Vol. 23 No. 2-311 eagerly await your magazine and depend on my devotee friends for spiritual strength.

Sarala Mohandas Baliga
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania