“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)
In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated clearly why the jiva soul is cast into various species that bring so much pain. These species are described as lower, which refers to the place on the ladder of success in consciousness. On the lower rungs there is increased forgetfulness of God, and because of that there is increased misery. On the higher rungs there is increased remembrance of God, which brings all good things. When that remembrance occurs at the time of death, there is no more rebirth.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
The language is quite clear. Whether one accepts the statements or not is a different story. Perhaps there is a sectarian boundary that prevents one from even hearing the ancient Sanskrit text that summarizes and perfectly explains the original spiritual discipline for all of man, the dharma of the individual soul. Perhaps one thinks in terms of “my God” versus “your God,” and thus doesn’t want to hear about the transmigration of the soul, the three modes of material nature, the reason that anger is harmful, the pitfall of aversion and attachment, and the source of both material and spiritual worlds.
But even when the statements are accepted, there is still the curiosity to investigate further into history. “When did I first come here? I understand now that reincarnation continues for as long as I am not purely God conscious, but when did my impure consciousness begin? When did I separate from God? When did I first fall to the material world? Did I come directly from the Lord’s company in the spiritual realm? Did I simply expand from His transcendental body and then make the choice at random, like the flipping of the coin?”
When rushed to the emergency room with an ailment, there is little time for the responders to delve into the cause. They may ask what had happened. Nevertheless, the emphasis is on treatment to eliminate the problem. If there is a heart attack, the doctors and nurses must figure out how to get the heart running again. Never mind what caused the cardiac arrest. So many things could have happened. Perhaps it was a sudden shock or maybe it was years of unhealthy eating. When the treatment is available, however, there is no hesitation in applying it.
For the disease of reincarnation afflicting the spirit soul, who travels through so many different bodies spanning millions of years, Shri Krishna provides the cure in the Bhagavad-gita. He says to think of Him. Thinking of Him is difficult, so there are recommended practices, regulations and guidelines. He says to offer all the results of work to Him. He says that by acting this way, we will automatically come to Him.
“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.34)
To prevent the disease from coming back, it is surely helpful to figure out what caused it in the first place. With the fall to the material world, the “why” is actually already provided. We know that there was forgetfulness. The urge to trace the history is for deciphering the “when.” Relating this to the disease of the body analogy, it would be like learning that one’s appendicitis was caused by eating certain kinds of bagels. These bagels were consumed on a regular basis, so the patient would have no issue accepting the root cause diagnosis. But then if they spent so much effort in trying to remember when they ate the bagels, it wouldn’t be such a worthy use of time. If the “why” is already known, then “when” usually isn’t so important.
In the spiritual sense, the “when” of forgetting God can never truly be known. This is because full knowledge is only available to God. The Bhagavad-gita is spoken by Shri Krishna to a liberated soul named Arjuna. This means that Arjuna, though temporarily distraught and forgetful of the real principles of religion, is actually never forgetful of Krishna. He simply plays the role of disciple on one occasion in order to teach future generations of man the timeless principles of yoga, which is linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)
Arjuna learns that he has lived so many previous lives, but whereas Krishna can remember those lives, Arjuna cannot. If even the liberated soul who is Krishna’s constant companion in so many manifest pastimes on earth does not have perfect knowledge of history, who are the individual spirit souls, who are currently not in Krishna’s company, to gather perfect knowledge of either their own history or anyone else’s?
Consciousness is adjusted in the right direction through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This accounts for thinking of Krishna. It is also a sacrifice of time and energy. It is a kind of work as well. How the fruits of labor are ultimately used determines the nature of that labor. If I work hard simply to be able to drink adult beverages and eat meat all the time, my work enables my forgetfulness of God.
On the other hand, if I work to support my devotional life, which begins and ends with chanting the holy names, then the work is spiritual in nature. Though externally it may appear to be material, by supporting the devotional culture the work is actually a sacrifice for the Supreme Lord. Enough sacrifice, over enough time, brings the desired pure consciousness at the time of death, which is the ultimate solution to the miseries of life.
Leaving God, falling from grace,
My history back let me trace.
Though solution from Gita I know,
Still towards finding complete account I go.
To Krishna than Arjuna none is more dear,
And yet even to him such history not clear.
Solution there, emergency treatment take,
Chant holy names, disease of forgetfulness forsake.