“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
Friend1: I’ve heard that time and space are infinite.
Friend2: You’ve heard? You don’t know? [sarcastic]
Friend1: Okay. I know that time and space are infinite.
Friend2: What does that mean exactly?
Friend1: There is no end in either direction. You go as far back into the past that you can think of. Once you’ve reached that point, know that there is still something before it. The same goes for the future.
Friend1: Space, too. There are borders in a country. Once you reach the end, you see things like fences and booths with people standing guard. That is artificial, since there is nothing in space to stop you from continuing. Space has no start or stop points.
Friend2: It really is amazing if you spend some time thinking about it.
Friend1: Well, that’s what I was getting to. I know that the human brain is incapable of understanding infinity.
Friend2: Of course. It’s like hearing a song that’s on repeat. You can’t turn it off. It just keeps going. It’s like that when you try to think of the beginning or the end.
Friend1: I am glad you admitted that. Here is the larger question. If time is infinite, why does Shri Krishna make so many references to time in the Bhagavad-gita?
Friend2: Such as where He says that He is synonymous with time?
kālo ‘smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte ‘pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye ‘vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ
“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)
Friend1: No, I’m fine with that. Look at when He discusses that He is the source of everything. Implied in that declaration is time. The source means an origin, which references a time in the past relative to the present.
Friend1: Then He also says things like those who go to His realm never have to return. This is in relation to worship of the demigods, heavenly figures who are not God completely.
Friend2: That’s a good thing to know. It’s a way to make the proper assessment in deciding which personality to worship. It’s a decision like choosing which college to attend, only more important.
Friend1: Then I’ve also heard that all the living entities we see in this world were at some point in the past in the company of Shri Krishna; that is they were in the spiritual world.
Friend2: Yes. They stay here as long as they continue to have desires to enjoy separately, without God.
Friend1: Don’t you think the two points contradict?
Friend2: How so?
Friend1: We were originally in the spiritual world. Then Krishna says that those who reach His planet never return. If you’re there and you never return, how the heck did we get to where we are today?
Friend2: Oh, right. That’s a good question.
Friend1: You mean you don’t have an explanation?
Friend2: I do, but I was giving you credit for thinking wisely.
Friend1: A response would be more helpful to me than your sarcastic praise.
Friend2: This is not that difficult to understand. Since we’ve established the infinite nature of time, we see that there is a more detailed understanding to the use of the word “never.” Those who worship Krishna go to His planet, that’s for sure. From there, they never have to come back.
Friend1: Is the reverse true, then? If you go to Brahma’s planet, you may not have to come to the land of birth and death?
Friend2: You will. That is the whole reason Krishna makes the distinction. In any other form of worship, you have to come back. Birth and death will be forced upon you. At its root, atheism is the drive to invalidate this law.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: Try your best to extend life as long as possible. Try to enjoy, satisfying the senses, pretending that death doesn’t exist. Become powerful in different areas of opulence. Then foolishly hope that opulence stays with you forever.
Friend1: It doesn’t.
Friend2: Correct. It can’t stay forever. It may stay for a while, but eventually there will be death, which is followed by rebirth.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The laws of the material world stipulate that rebirth is guaranteed. The laws of the spiritual world are that you don’t have to leave. You can actually stay there forever. As you correctly noted, we are here now, which means that at some point in the past we left. That is the proper way to understand time and the choice the living entity has. That choice is always there, no matter in which species birth happens.
Friend1: Is there a reason that a person never has to come back?
Friend2: Because there is the eternal engagement of devotional service. Pleasure comes from serving the all-attractive one. His features are inexhaustible. Time has no influence in that place. Therefore at every moment there is some kind of exchange of love between the energy of the Lord and the Lord Himself.
Infinite are space and time,
Impossible conception for flawed mind.
Still Krishna sometimes “never” word saying,
Like those reaching His realm forever staying.
Reference to the laws of the land made,
In material world no one forever has stayed.
Rebirth upon them is forced,
For bhaktas chartered a different course.