“Vrindavana was always absorbed in the thought of Krishna. Everyone remembered His pastimes and was constantly merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss. But the material world is so contaminated that even in Vrindavana the asuras or demons tried to disturb the peaceful situation.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 35)
Friend1: Let me ask you about the spiritual world.
Friend2: Vaikuntha. That means the land free of anxieties.
Friend1: Makes sense. If you’re going to live with the Supreme Lord eternally, you figure there wouldn’t be any problems.
Friend2: Vaikuntha is a little different from the common conception of heaven. I know you didn’t specifically ask about that, but it’s a key distinction to know.
Friend1: Right. You die and go to heaven. But what does heaven really mean? What is life there like? Do you still have a body?
Friend2: Shri Krishna describes that in the heavenly planets, going to the topmost one of Brahmaloka even, there is death. The idea is that you accumulate pious credits by good deeds performed while on earth, in a human body. It’s something like racking up reward points on a credit card. You can then use those points later on.
Friend1: Eventually your pious credits run out, though. That’s why you have to fall back down to earth.
Friend2: Right, and coming to earth means birth and death. In the heavenly realm you get increased material enjoyments, with an accompanying heavenly body. Vaikuntha is something different. There you get a spiritual body.
Friend1: And the only way to reach Vaikuntha is to be completely God conscious at the time of death. No other thoughts on the consciousness.
Friend2: There is a Bhagavad-gita verse that confirms this. We are not just mentally speculating.
“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)
Friend1: Vrindavana is part of Vaikuntha, right?
Friend2: Yes. Just like in the material world there are many planets, so the same in Vaikuntha. Different spiritual manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead preside on those planets. Krishnaloka is where Vrindavana is found. Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one, resides there.
Friend1: From reading the Shrimad Bhagavatam, I see that there are many demons who came to the Vrindavana of this world, some five thousand years ago. That was when Krishna, God Himself, descended to earth and enacted His wonderful pastimes. If the spiritual world is having the association of God, how can there be demons in Vrindavana? How can bad guys be present?
Friend2: That is a good question. For starters, these demons are actually devotees who fulfill different roles in a wonderful drama. They get killed directly by Krishna, which means that at the time of death they are perfectly God conscious.
Friend1: Right. So you’re saying they aren’t really demons? Is that the case for everybody, then? There is no good and bad. It’s just a dream.
Friend2: Every person is a devotee at the core, for that is the essential characteristic of the soul, but there is still good and bad in terms of behavior. The demons in Vrindavana had the special favor of being the antagonist to match the greatest protagonist in Krishna.
Friend2: I know what you’re asking, though. If you’re in the presence of God, how can anyone behave improperly? How can there be adharma in the presence of dharma personified?
Friend1: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
Friend2: These demons show that there is always a choice. The living entity has independence. Even if they see the all-attractive one directly in front of them, it is not that they will give up their villainous ways. They have to be purified in consciousness to see properly. I may be looking all over for my keys, but they are right in front of me. The thing is, I don’t have the proper qualification to see them. Then what good do the keys do me?
Friend1: I see. Nevertheless, there is the angle of the other associates to consider. Mother Yashoda, the cowherd boys, the gopis – they were all in Vrindavana. They were all subject to these attacks. If they were in the spiritual world enjoying Krishna, how could these bad things have happened?
Friend2: They only happen in the Vrindavana of this world. In the spiritual planetary system there are no bad guys. If there is even a hint of envy towards God, that person falls to the material world. Hence the jiva souls are described as the marginal energy. These pastimes with bad guys ordered by King Kamsa of Mathura take place in the world of duality, where a person can act out on their choice to forget God.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Notice also that the devotees you mentioned were always protected. They were in the sacred land of Vrindavana, and even with attackers coming there was no break in Krishna consciousness. In that way we see that a person can be liberated even before death. Liberation is a mindset more than an actual physical condition relating to place of residence.
Asuras like Putana to see,
How then spiritual world could be?
To Vrindavana by Kamsa sent,
Arriving with villainous intent.
In the material world happening only,
In spiritual planets envy not any.
That always a choice by pastimes shown,
Minute independence each of us to own.