“This material world is just like smoke, and the spiritual world is just like a blazing fire. The innumerable living entities are prone to fall down to the material world from the spiritual world when influenced by illusory energy, and it is also possible for the living entity to become liberated again when by cultivation of real knowledge he becomes completely freed from the contamination of the material world.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)
Vedic philosophy has an interesting take on why we are all here. It shouldn’t remain a forever unanswered mystery. Nor should it be left to the speculation of the flawed mind, which is a subtle element of the material nature. The same mind at one point validated our decision to indulge in intoxicants, to forgo schoolwork in favor of video games, and to give our lives over to someone who would later fail us.
The answer to the question of “why are we here” is that we fell from the company of the Supreme Lord. We were with Him at some point. The situation at a point in time does not stay fixed. There is always a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. We were with God but then we desired something else. “How can that happen,” is the next logical question. If you’re with the one entity who is attractive in every way, how can a hint of envy creep in? It doesn’t seem possible.
One way to understand is to look at the honored person. The example can come from any aspect of life. There is the Academy Award winner. There is the champion of the big race. There is the celebrated statesman. They may do so much good for the community, taking advantage of their fame and notoriety. They are loved and adored by so many. They receive so many honors and accolades from various societies and groups.
But does that standing in society bring immunity from potential damage to the reputation in the future? Actually, we know of so many famous people who have fallen. The public isn’t very forgiving, either. They feel betrayed. It’s as if they never knew that the person they honored was fallible like everyone else. It’s as if they expected perfection out of an imperfect human being.
In the same way, to be with the Supreme Lord is the highest honor. It is the greatest accomplishment to always be in His service. Yet the accomplishment says nothing about future action. There is always free will. Independence means having the option to choose wrongly. If there wasn’t the option to turn away from the Supreme Lord, then every living entity would be like a controlled robot. In effect they wouldn’t be a true living being.
“The Lord comes to this material world through the agency of His internal potency, and similarly, when a devotee or associate of the Lord descends to this material world, he does so through the action of the spiritual energy. Any pastime conducted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead is an arrangement by yogamaya, not mahamaya. Therefore it is to be understood that when Jaya and Vijaya descended to this material world, they came because there was something to be done for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise it is a fact that no one falls from Vaikuntha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.1.35 Purport)
There is the example of the gatekeepers in Vaikuntha. Named Jaya and Vijaya, due to a transgression they committed they were cursed to take birth as demoniac living entities in the material world. Still, they received a special benediction. Their demoniac behavior would end at the hands of the Supreme Lord. While in the earthly realm they would get liberation through being God’s adversary. Even though they made a mistake, they technically didn’t fall from the spiritual world. Their appearance as demons was for fulfilling a higher purpose set by Lord Vishnu.
So are we eternally liberated souls who have made our way here through Vishnu’s will? If so, does that mean everyone is liberated, considering that everyone fell from the association of Godhead?
In the case of Jaya and Vijaya, though they were sent away from Vaikuntha through Vishnu’s will, they still had freedom in action. They were not compelled to act in a certain way. The living entity always has a choice, and when they choose wisely they get the blessings of the Supreme Lord. Only He knows the actual position of each person, such as where they were previously and where they will be going in the future. The great souls like Hanuman get the benediction of God’s mercy and they continue to act in devotion afterwards. Since there is always a choice, that continued devotion makes them even further endeared to the beloved Lord of the universe.
A remarkable person honor to get,
Not meaning that in position forever set.
When behaving badly so,
Quickly their reputation to go.
Residence in Vaikuntha highest honor to call,
But with independence chance again to fall.
Whether eternally liberated only Vishnu to know,
Promised that from bhakti towards His realm to go.