“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)
Friend1: I found an interesting name for earth.
Friend2: You found it? Where were you looking?
Friend1: Came upon it while reading shastra, the Bhagavad-gita. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading it regularly for years, but this time I paid attention to the word-for-word translation on a particular verse.
Friend2: Okay. What is the name?
Friend2: Ah. The planet of death.
Friend1: Or simply, the planet of mortality.
Friend2: Sorry, you’re right. That’s the literal translation.
Friend1: I found it interesting because if you think about it, so many people are trying to invalidate that name.
Friend2: That is the game, no pun intended.
Friend1: To outlive death?
Friend2: It’s a train that’s chasing from behind. You might make up some ground, find some time to rest in between, but eventually that train will reach you.
Friend1: They keep saying that they are making progress, that eventually people will live longer. After some time, death will be eradicated.
Friend2: The Bhagavad-gita doesn’t lie. The name that caught your attention is accurate, for every time period. I like to call attention to two issues to help explain. The first is that before taking a victory lap on preventing death, how about you make the body small again? Make it young enough to do the same things from youth.
Friend1: You mean like shrink the actual size?
Friend2: Yes. Greatness goes in both directions: bigger and smaller. The second thing is related. At least stop old age first. Before tackling the vaunted death machine, deal will the process of aging. We say that a certain player is the greatest of all-time, but that is never the case. If it were they would still be playing that game today. Becoming old shouldn’t be an excuse.
Friend1: Those are good arguments. On a related note, why aren’t the other planets given the same title?
Friend2: You mean “mortal”?
Friend2: Well, I’m sure you’ve come across that other verse in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna explains how birth and death are present from the highest planet down to the lowest:
“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)
Friend1: Okay, but the words are slightly different. It’s punar janma instead of martya. Basically, no more taking birth again. Doesn’t specifically refer to death.
Friend2: Right. It’s a more sanitized way of saying the same thing. Birth follows death. You can’t have one without the other.
Friend1: Okay, that makes sense. I understand the other planets in the material world are not eternal. Still, they are not referred to as martya-loka.
Friend2: For starters, martya-loka is where we live right now. It’s like the launching pad for reaching the other planets. Based on the deeds while in the present body, on this planet, we go up or down or remain the same.
Friend1: So we can’t stay in the heavenly realm forever.
Friend2: It eventually gets destroyed. Keep that in mind. Sure, the devastation is after billions of years, but just one percent mortality is enough to qualify. You can’t be a little mortal or a lot. Either you are subject to death or you are not.
Friend1: Could the direction be at play here, too?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: That heaven is a place that you fall from, hell from which you rise, and so forth.
Friend2: For sure. Another angle to consider is that from heaven you can go to the eternal realm, the place where there is no birth and death. It’s not easy, but the chance is always there. Bhakti-yoga is not limited to a specific region. Birth and death, the ocean of miseries, samsara, is more related to earth. But yes, we shouldn’t let the name mislead us. Martya-loka is every planet that is not in the spiritual world. That other place is Vaikuntha, or the place free of anxieties. This is because God the person resides there, in His transcendental forms of Krishna, Vishnu and others.
Earth as mortal planet is known,
Immortality yet to be shown.
Not just to this world concluded,
Heaven and hell also included.
Falling, rising, or the same to stay,
Birth and death still the way.
Only reaching finally Vaikuntha when,
Eternally with Bhagavan then.