Instead of waiting to hear from other galaxies, we should listen to the Vedic literature,
which tells us all we need to know about this universe and the spiritual world beyond it.
A radio-telescope disk points upward into the night sky, gathering signals from outer space. Nearby, scientists at computer consoles monitor the patterns of electromagnetic pulses for signs of communication. It's all part of SETI the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
In 1977 scientists and engineers of the Outlook for Space Study Group reported to NASA: "The impact of the detection of life elsewhere in the universe, in the solar system or beyond, would be felt in every aspect of human life in our philosophical and religious concepts, our social interaction, and our scientific institutions. We might learn about achievements in science and technology that we cannot imagine. We might also learn of ways in which they have overcome the problems that beset us today. . . . In short, the promulgation of a program to detect extraterrestrial civilizations could gain us access to a galactic heritage of knowledge."
Here we find the U.S. government's space agency considering several interesting ideas: that there might be intelligent beings on other planets; that there might be a civilization more advanced than our earthly technological civilization in terms of religion, science, philosophy, and government; and that knowledge of this civilization might help us solve the problems we face on earth. The report from the Outlook for Space Study Group contains serious proposals for NASA's searching out advanced beings in other parts of the universe.
But scientists need not train their radio telescopes on distant stars, waiting for the first pulsing signals from another civilization. The "galactic heritage of knowledge" is already present on this planet. We are already in touch with an extraterrestrial civilization, and the sound of a message from a place beyond the farthest star has already reached us.
An essential part of that message is that the life animating our bodies is not the product of chemicals sloshing together in the primeval oceans of this planet; rather life is imported from a nonmaterial dimension of reality. In other words, we ourselves are extraterrestrials, temporarily residing in an alien environment, forgetful of our home beyond this universe.
Where is this information found? In the Vedic literature of India. Many scholars agree that the Vedic tradition represents the world's oldest surviving body of knowledge. The Vedas have existed in written form for thousands of years, and as an oral tradition they stretch even further back. In fact, a close study of the Bhagavad-gita, a summary of Vedic truth, reveals that the Vedas did not originate on this planet, but instead are part of a coherent body of knowledge designed to help the leaders of a far-flung interplanetary civilization guide their citizens to correct solutions of life's material and spiritual problems and ultimately direct them back to their higher dimensional home.
For example, as stated in the Gita itself, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Lord, first spoke the Gita more than 120 million years ago to the ruler of the sun planet, who then taught it to the progenitor of the human race. The knowledge next passed to the founder of a dynasty of earthly kings and has come from one generation of teachers to another down to the present day. The Vedic teachings were once spread all over the world. Now, however, most of the world's population outside India is no longer familiar with them.
One of the subjects discussed in the Vedas is life on other planets. In their 1977 report to NASA, the scientists of the Outlook for Space Study Group confessed that "although there may be billions of other planets in our galaxy, we do not yet have unambiguous evidence of even one planet outside our solar system. . . . Intelligent life may be widespread in the Universe, but we have not made contact with it. Many gaps, puzzles, and uncertainties remain."
This statement shows the shortcomings of the so-called scientific method. The scientist's powers of observation are extremely limited on the cosmic scale. On the other hand, we can take information from the books of Vedic knowledge, principally the Bhagavad-gita, that there are in fact planets beyond those now visible to us and that they are inhabited. Lord Krsna is proclaimed in the Bhagavad-gita to be the source of all that exists, living or nonliving. Therefore, if one has questions about the nature of the universe, it makes sense to look to Krsna, its creator, for reliable answers, just as one would learn about the composition or intended meaning of a painting by asking the artist.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna explains that there exist two inhabited regions: the sanatana, or eternal, region and the temporary, material cosmos. In the sanatana region live eternal beings, headed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedic Upanisads say, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: "The Lord is the supreme leader among all eternal living beings." The Lord and the living beings exist in intimate relationship. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states, mamai-vamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah the living beings are His eternal, separated parts, related to Him as sparks are related to a fire. In other words, the individual souls are simultaneously one with and different from God.
As long as the living beings accept the leadership of the supreme eternal person, they remain in the sanatana region. Those who do not accept this leadership fall like the "revolted multitudes" in Milton's Paradise Lost into the material world, which undergoes continuous cycles of creation and destruction. The Gita informs us: "Again and again the day comes and this host of beings is active, and again the night falls and they are helplessly dissolved."
The Gita (8.20) then describes the sanatana region: "Yet there is another un-manifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and un-manifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is."
Krsna's planet is found in the eternal region. Lord Krsna states: "That which the Vedantists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which one, having attained it, never returns that is My supreme abode."
Thus there are two regions, and they are inhabited by two types of living beings. The Bhagavad-gita (15.16,17) says: "There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every living entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every living entity is called infallible. Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Supreme Soul, the imperishable Lord Himself, who has entered the three worlds and is maintaining them."
Those who are in agreement with the Lord are infallible. They remain with Him in the spiritual world without making the mistake of leaving His service. The fallible living entities, the ones who have made the mistake, must come into the material region and suffer repeated birth and death.
In the sixteenth century Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself, described to His disciple Rupa Gosvami the plight of the fallen living beings: "Wandering within this universe are limitless living entities in 8,400,000 species. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems."
The Vedas inform us that there are living beings on every planet, and that they don't necessarily have forms like ours. For example, their bodies might be composed of different elements than ours. On this planet, our bodies are composed mainly of water and earth. But on the sun, the living beings have bodies of fire, and on other planets they have bodies of subtle mental and intellectual energies.
The Visnu Purana enumerates the total number of life forms: "There are 900,000 species living in the water; 2,000,000 non-moving living entities, such as trees and plants; 1,100,000 species of insects and reptiles; 1,000,000 species of birds; 3,000,000 varieties of quadrupeds; and 400,000 human species." These figures refer to the totality of life forms spread throughout the various planets.
Altogether, the Vedas tell us, there are fourteen planetary systems, divided into three groups upper, middle, and lower, The upper (heavenly) planets are inhabited by beings who enjoy long life and varieties of sensual powers and pleasures far surpassing those available on earth. The earth belongs to the middle planetary system, and here pleasure is mixed with a proportionate amount of distress. Beings in the lower planetary systems live in hellish conditions of suffering.
The Bhagavad-gita explains how the material energy influences living entities to inhabit certain bodies on certain planets. The material energy is composed of three modes goodness, passion, and ignorance. Each living being is attracted to a certain combination of these modes of nature, and this is what determines his body. Just by combining three basic colors red, yellow, and blue an artist can produce countless hues. In the same way, permutations of the three modes of nature produce 8,400,000 types of bodies.
The modes of nature also determine what planet a living being will take birth on. These laws of transmigration are very complex, but there are some general laws. For example, one who dies in the mode of goodness will get the body of a demigod on one of the higher planets. One who dies in the mode of passion will get the body of a human being on an earthly planet. And one who dies in the mode of ignorance will get a subhuman body or descend to the lower planets or both.
Sometimes the living beings go upward to enjoy life in the higher planets, and sometimes they fall downward. In one birth a person may be a demigod; in the next a dog. It is like riding a cosmic ferris wheel. But Krsna says in the Gita (8.16):
"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti [Arjuna], never takes birth again."
Followers of the Vedic principles are therefore not very concerned with traveling from planet to planet within the material universe, although this is possible. There are civilizations more advanced than ours, with the capability of interplanetary travel, but still they must face the same problems: on any material planet, everyone must grow old, get sick, and eventually die. One's real goal should therefore be to return to Krsna's deathless, spiritual planet in the sanatoria region.
So instead of vainly waiting to hear from other galaxies in the material universe, we should listen to Krsna's instructions in the Bhagavad-gita, which tell us all we need to know about how to return to the spiritual world. Krsna says: "Engage your mind in always thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."
This is the message of Krsna consciousness, spoken to the leaders of all planets millions of years ago, and it is still valid today. The main process for absorbing our minds in Krsna consciousness is the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, a completely transcendental sound vibration that has its origin in the spiritual world. It is coming from a place far beyond the range of the most sensitive radio telescope, far beyond the most distant galaxy. A great Krsna conscious poet has written, golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana: the sound of the Hare Krsna mantra is coming from Goloka, Krsna's own planet in the spiritual sky.
The transcendental sound of the Hare Krsna mantra is absolute. In the material world, sound is relative a word is different from the thing it signifies. I may say "water, water, water," but the actual substance water will not appear on my tongue to quench my thirst. But spiritual sound is the same as what it signifies. The name Krsna is Krsna Himself. So when we chant Krsna's name purely, we will experience Krsna and, along with Krsna, His planet.
The Hare Krsna mantra is actually a prayer to return to the shelter of the spiritual energy. Hare means "O energy of the Lord, please accept me." Now we are under the control of the material energy. But by chanting Hare Krsna we can restore our connection with the spiritual world, even in our present body. We can't get to the spiritual world by spending billions of dollars on mechanical space travel. But if we chant Hare Krsna, we can experience life on another planet right now. It's not imaginary, like what we hear from science fiction books or movies.
And if we focus our mind on the Hare Krsna mantra at the time of death, we will be transferred to the spiritual planet where Krsna lives eternally. The Gita (8.6) states: "Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail."
The Vedic scriptures are another form of transcendental sound emanating from the nonmaterial region. The transcendental sound of the Vedas is first introduced from the spiritual world into the material universe by Krsna, who injects it into the heart of Brahma, the first created being. Then it is transferred by Brahma to Narada, a sage who travels throughout the universe enlightening conditioned souls with transcendental knowledge. Many disciples of Narada have lived, and still live, on this planet. One is Vyasadeva, who compiled the Vedic knowledge in written form.
The message of the Vedas cannot to be understood by mundane scholarship. It can be understood only by hearing submissively from a spiritual master in the disciplic succession descending from Krsna. In this way one can gain direct experience of the supreme spiritual planet by the process of what has been called "transcendental television." Srila Prabhupada states:
The Lord's name, fame, form, quality, pastimes, entourage, etc., as they are described in the revealed scriptures or as performed in the Vaikunthalokas [spiritual planets], far, far beyond the material cosmic manifestation, are factually being televised in the heart of the devotee. The man with a poor fund of knowledge cannot understand, although by material science one can see things far away by means of television. Factually, a spiritually developed person is able to have the television of the kingdom of God always reflected within his heart. That is the mystery of knowledge of the Personality of Godhead. Bhag. 2.9.35, purport
So it is possible to be walking around on planet earth and at the same time be internally communicating with the spiritual world. This opportunity is there for anyone who sincerely takes up the practice of devotional service to Krsna.
Krsna Himself comes to this planet in many incarnations, or avataras. Avatara means "one who descends." Even though Krsna descends to this material cosmos, being omnipotent He remains simultaneously in His supreme abode.
Krsna last appeared in His original form on this planet some five thousand years ago, in Vrndavana, India. Although to mundane vision Vrndavana appears to be an ordinary geographic location a small city ninety miles south of New Delhi it is actually a replica of Krsna's spiritual planet, Goloka Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada states:
In the spiritual world of Vrindavana the buildings are made of touchstone, the cows are known as surabhi cows, givers of abundant milk, and the trees are known as wish-fulfilling trees, for they yield whatever one desires. In Vrndavana, Krsna herds the surabhi cows, and He is worshiped by hundreds and thousands of gopis, cowherd girls, who are all goddesses of fortune. When Krsna descends to the material world, this same Vrndavana descends, just as an entourage accompanies an important person. Because when Krsna comes His land also comes, Vrndavana is not considered to exist in the material world. Therefore devotees take shelter of the Vrndavana in India, for it is considered to be a replica of the original Vrndavana.
Vrndavana's identity is experienced only when one's mind becomes free from all material hankerings.
Actually, anywhere Krsna is present is considered to be as good as Vrndavana. Therefore the temples where Krsna is present in His Deity form are also considered to be replicas of the spiritual world. So if you want to begin to experience life on another planet Krsna's spiritual planet then visit your local Hare Krsna temple.
Human life is potentially a launch vehicle for our journey back to the spiritual world. When we leave this body, we will get another one. If our consciousness is material, we will get a material body on a material planet. But if we use this life to transform our material consciousness to Krsna consciousness, then we will get a spiritual body on Krsna's spiritual planet. That's the message coming down from beyond the stars chant Hare Krsna, read about Krsna, serve Him in devotion, and come back home, back to Godhead J