A Little Bit About Falling from the Spiritual World

Gītā 15.6 establishes that one who gains the abode of Krishna never leaves it.

8.15 establishes… “those who achieve me (mām upetya) are not born again (punar janma nāpnuvanti) in an impermanent and thus miserable ‘house’ / world / body (duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam).”

8.16 says it again just to confirm “those who achieve me (mām upetya) are not born again (punar janma na vidyate).”

What all these quotes establish is that “once we attain the spiritual abode, we never take birth again in the material world.” But they do not establish that we fall from the spiritual realm. In fact they contradict the idea that it is possible to fall from the spiritual realm.

If you enter the Hotel California you won’t come back out. Does that mean the people who are already in the Hotel California can leave? To my knowledge there is no  statement anywhere in śāstra that those who are eternally with Krishna can fall away from him, but those who fall away and come back never fall away again. This IS a popular idea among people often giving classes in ISKCON, I admit. But it is not an idea supported by śāstra, to the best of my knowledge.

In fact, śāstra says just the opposite. It says that people in the spiritual world are nitya-siddha – they are always perfect. Those in the material world are nitya-baddha – they were always in the material world. They were bound to this world (baddha) from the ontological very beginning of their being, due to the essence of their individual character.

Thus śāstra calls them anādi-bahirmukha “they have been looking away from Krishna without a beginning, always.”

There are many other quotes from śāstra, equally clear and direct. Śrī Jīva Goswāmī himself explicitly states in his most important book, the ṣaḍ-sandarbha, that no entity can fall from the spiritual world.

Somehow this idea is considered controversial among some ISKCON devotees, but objectively speaking, its not at all controversial, it is very clear. As far as I can see, its only a controversy because devotees misunderstood Prabhupāda and the teachings very early on in the 1970s and have a hard time admitting that they can be wrong, not just individually but collectively and on a philosophical issue.

It is not inappropriate to express the mood of being “fallen” from Krishna. Even Mahaprabhu embraces this mood in the 5th verse of the śikṣāṣṭaka. “patitam mam viṣame bhavāmbudau” — I am fallen into the poisonous ocean of existence. We are in fact fallen in a poisonous ocean of existence. This is an eternally present fact, not something that occurred at a particular point in time. This is what the early devotees and followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t completely grasp correctly — which is nothing to criticize. It is natural. It is a complex philosophy. The only thing worth criticizing is the inability to admit fallibility and move forward with a more clear understanding that actually represents Śrīla Prabhupāda’s sampradaya.

I think that’s why Śrīla Prabhupāda indicated that it would take a long time before ISKCON would really take its true shape, “the children of your children” he said. 2 generations. Now we are still at the beginning of the 1st generation since Prabhupāda – so things are still almost jut starting to fix themselves up. But there is a bright future.

MORE DISCUSSION HERE

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6 Comments

  1. This is Acintya Caitanya dasa from Sridham Mayapur. If what you write in this article is correct, how would you explain the following two conversations with Srila Prabhupada:

    Prabhupada: Krsna comes down and instructs us, “But why you are engaged in this foolish activity? Please come to Me, back to home, back to Godhead…So originally the spirit soul has got body, so these physical elements are just like a covering, exactly to the size of the hands, legs, everything…The future is to go back to home, back to Godhead…because he is eternally servant of God, so now he has forgotten. He wants to become master, and the material nature is kicking him, life after life. So one day he’ll come to his senses and become again, renovate himself to become servant of God…Just like when a man becomes a prisoner, he’ll be a free man at the end of his term, and within this term he is simply kicked by the police, so that he may not come back again to prison house.
    Syamasundara: But we can’t predict that the process of punishment will have permanent effect, can we? Can we predict that? Many prisoners leave the prison, but some come back.
    Prabhupada: No, there is no permanent effect because we have got little independence. There is nothing as permanent. You can misuse your independence at any time.
    Syamasundara: And come back.
    Prabhupada: Yes. Otherwise there is no meaning of independence. Independence means you can do this, you can do that. “All right. Whatever you like.”
    Devotee: Then he is so many times falling down, again and again, eventually permanently he will come back.
    Prabhupada: No. There is no question of permanent. Because he has got independence, he can misuse his independence, he can fall down. That’s why one man is released from the prison house, that does not mean permanently He can come back again.
    Prabhupada: This is the general law [to not come back]. But if he likes, he can come back. Because otherwise, what is the meaning of independence? Just like one should become fit in the prison house, naturally he should not go again.

    Srila Prabhupada also explains the same in the following conversation:

    Prabhupada: There is return, that is voluntary. Return there is.
    Paramahamsa: If we want.
    Prabhupada: Yes.
    Paramahamsa: So we can come to the spiritual world and return?
    Prabhupada: Yes.
    Paramahamsa: Fall down?
    Prabhupada: Yes. As soon as we try, “Oh, this material world is very nice,” “Yes,” Krishna says, “yes, you go.”
    Paramahamsa: Fall down?
    Prabhupada: Yes. As soon as we try, “Oh, this material world is very nice,” “Yes,” Krishna says, “yes, you go.” Just like nobody is interested in Krishna consciousness. Do you think everyone is interested? So. They want to enjoy this material world. Otherwise what is the meaning of free will? Every living entity has got a little free will. And Krishna is so kind, He gives him opportunity, “All right, you enjoy like this.” Just like some of our students, Krishna conscious, sometimes go away, again come back. It is free will, not stereotyped. Just like one goes to the prisonhouse, not that government welcomes, “Come on. We have got prisonhouse. Come here, come here.” He goes out of his free will; again comes out, again goes. Like that. Krishna-bahirmukha hana bhoga vancha kare, nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare (Prema-vivarta). The police is there. Just like the police car was there. We have nothing to do with it. But if you do anything criminal, immediately you will be arrested, under police custody. The maya may be there, but maya captures him who is not a devotee of Krishna. (Morning Walk, At Cheviot Hills Golf Course, May 13, 1973, Los Angeles)

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    1. Śrīla Prabhupāda is making a very beautiful and important point about the role of volition and freewill. But it is our fault if we don’t understand the context. Even a single teacher, such as Śrīla Prabhupāda, will make many different statements touching on a topic, which on the surface appear contradictory. We have to thoroughly and patiently read shastra, all of it, very carefully with guidance from people who clearly understand it. Then we can make sense of different statements.

      Here we can see that Prabhupāda is making a point to emphasize the central inviolability of Freewill.

      It would be foolish ON OUR PART to take it out of context as a statement about the origin of the Jīva. Especially if that statement goes against the statements that Śrīla Prabhupāda has made elsewhere and that he is sworn to represent as a member of the Gaudiya Sampradaya.

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      1. I agree that we have to thoroughly and patiently read all of shastra. However we must approach the shastra and the previous acaryas through the eyes of Srila Prabhupada. For that, we need to accept everything that Srila Prabhupada has said and not just the overall point. You are stressing the overall point. However I am stressing the overall point and all points made by Srila Prabhupada within that overall point. Whenever there are apparent contradictions, a Prabhupadanuga should be able to explain how each of Srila Prabhupada’s statements in a conversation are true and not gloss over these specific points by invoking the overall point. The overall point and the specific points are both important.

        So I kindly urge to explain how the following few statements of Srila Prabhupada are true:

        Paramahamsa: So we can come to the spiritual world and return?
        Prabhupada: Yes.
        Paramahamsa: Fall down?
        Prabhupada: Yes. As soon as we try, “Oh, this material world is very nice,” “Yes,” Krishna says, “yes, you go.”

        The context is unmistakably “come to the spiritual world and return” and “fall down” Srila Prabhupada replies “yes” to both question. How do you explain this in the context of the overall point of volition and free will?

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        1. A few points of discussion:

          1) If we accept everything Prabhupāda said, will we not then be comprehending overall points? More exactly if we accept everything Prabhupāda said will we not be understanding specific points in the context of overall teachings?

          I think so.

          2) Śrīla Prabhupāda is our access to the Gaudiya Sampradaya which begins from Śrī Rūpa and is further established by Śrī Jīva and very excellently upheld by Śrī Viśvanātha. Whether we look at them through Prabhupāda’s eyes (as you put it), or we look at Prabhupāda through their eyes, the view should be the SAME. That is the meaning of paramparā. If the view is not the same, there is a flaw in our eyes.

          3) I am not a “Prabhupādānuga” I apologize. As a follower of Śrīla Prabhupāda I am a Rūpānuga. I am sorry if this puts distance between us. Even if so, please know that I respect your sincerity.

          Now to the quote…

          To make a point one can induce hypothetical situations, to illustrate a principle. Prabhupāda is illustrating the importance and inviolability of the Jīva’s freewill by saying “EVEN IF” – even if we return to the spiritual world we can still use our freewill to leave it. It is a hypothetical situation, not a real one. If you insist it is a real situation and Prabhupāda is literally saying that one will go to the spiritual world and then leave it, then you must beware that you are may be committing guru-aparadha by claiming that he does not represent Śrī Krishna who clearly says in Gītā 15.6, and 8.15-16 that those who are in the spiritual world do not leave it.

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          1. Sorry for the delay. There was an internet outage in some offices in Mayapur.

            Regarding your latest reply, I beg to disagree. It is perfectly possible to accept all of Srila Prabhupada’s specific points and his overall point on any given issue. They are always consistent. Any genuine reconciliation should be able to demonstrate this consistency. We look at the previous acaryas through Srila Prabhupada because Srila Prabhupada clarifies the previous acaryas. We are not qualified to directly understand the previous acaryas or sastra.

            If we go by the hermeneutic that you have employed, then we would be forced to accept the concept of eternal damnation in reading BG 16.19 However we know that verse as referring to the situation in general but by the mercy of Lord Nityananda or his representative, one can be relieved of that misfortune. If not for Srila Prabhupada and our Gaudiya Vaisnava parampara, we would have never known this. So we read sastra and the previous acaryas through the eyes of Srila Prabhupada. There is no guru aparadha here, rather it is the standard of being a Prabhupadanuga.

            Likewise we can read BG 15.6, 8.15 and 8.16 as referring to the situation in general but exceptions could be there. So Srila Prabhupada is teaching us this exceptional situation by giving the example of the prison house. That is how we have to understand these verses. Through Srila Prabhupada’s eyes. There is no guru aparadha here either, rather it the standard of being a Prabhupadanuga.

            I know that you do not employ the term Prabhupadanuga. I used that term deliberately to show that we follow Srila Rupa Goswami only as Srila Prabhupada has taught us.The term Prabhupadanuga is a legitimate usage if we examine the standards of sampradaya parlance.

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          2. Regarding your latest reply, I beg to disagree. It is perfectly possible to accept all of Srila Prabhupada’s specific points and his overall point on any given issue.

            You are not disagreeing with me, because I did not make any statement that is different than the one you just made.

            We look at the previous acaryas through Srila Prabhupada because Srila Prabhupada clarifies the previous acaryas. We are not qualified to directly understand the previous acaryas or sastra.

            Who made this law?

            If this is the law why do the books of previous acaryas continue to exist? Everything should be based only on the teachings of the current acarya, if your philosophy is indeed the correct concept of parampara.

            I can access the teachings of Kaviraja Goswāmī, Śrīla Jīva Goswamipada and Śrī Rūpa for example BECAUSE of the grace of Śrīla Prabhupāda. And because of the grace of the previous acaryas I can more accurately access the teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

            Why should you have some disagreement with this, it is just simple and natural.

            If we go by the hermeneutic that you have employed, then we would be forced to accept the concept of eternal damnation in reading BG 16.19

            The word of interest in 16.19 is ajasram which means “repeatedly” and “incessantly” — one can learn Sanskrit or even just consult a Sanskrit dictionary. It does not mean eternal. Anyhow you should make your argument on the term nitya-baddha which would literally imply eternal damnation. It is in these cases where the literal meaning is not exactly accurate that the scripture and acarya make explicit statements modifying the terminology. Viz Cc Madhya 20 120 (I think 120 – please see https://vicd108.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/more-about-falling-from-the-spiritual-world/).

            There is no guru aparadha here, rather it is the standard of being a Prabhupadanuga.

            The guru aparadha is in mistaking the guru to be god. The mistake is that the guru is all-in-all. Only god is all-in-all. The guru is important because he or she represents the chain of mercy linking back to god. The guru is not important OUTSIDE of the context of this link.

            Guru Sādhu and Sastra TOGETHER form the important link, and it is profitable to note that SASTRA (not guru) is the source of authority in the trinity.

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