“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
येषां त्व् अन्त-गतं पापं
भजन्ते मां दृढ-व्रताः
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“This person is following bhakti, sure. Great for them. I am happy that at least they are trying, but I can’t help but remember their past. The road to this finish line was not ideal, and I am not entirely convinced that they have changed their ways. It seems to me they are taking the easy way out of life and making a mockery out of the spotless culture descending from the Vedas.”
A person is free to pass judgment in this way, but from shastra and real life experience we see that not everyone travels the same road to the best destination. There is variety in the circumstances of birth, after all. That is to say not everyone starts from the same position, and at the same time no one is immediately disqualified from receiving the Divine mercy.
1. Getting cursed as a gatekeeper
These two individuals met God directly. Face-to-face, after denying His existence for so long. Rising to the top on the strength of material power acquired through the aid of the Lord’s administrators, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu could be considered the worst of the worst. Yet they found Bhagavan, nonetheless.
Their journey actually began in the spiritual kingdom. Gatekeepers in the place known as Vaikuntha, they once accidentally committed a transgression, and the punishment was a curse. They would have to fall to the land of birth and death and suffer through time spent in inauspicious forms. The saving grace was that Bhagavan would arrive to give them liberation.
2. Birth in a high family
Here a person is sinless from the start. They don’t even get the opportunity to eat animal flesh or consume intoxicants. They are told of the Divine side of life from the beginning, which means they have a great head-start.
Not that they are forced to follow blindly. The saintly members of the family provide a complete background education on the material world, which serves as a great comparison to the Divine way of living. This person not only sees God everywhere, but they can’t remember a moment when they were separated from Him. They don’t have to be advised to follow regulative principles or sacrifice time in hearing Hari-katha. There is a spontaneous attraction for such things.
3. Succumbing to addiction
The problem became so severe that family members had to intervene. During the subsequent stint in rehab there was a curiosity to try new ways of living. Perhaps a change in outlook would help to break the dependency on substances that were causing so much harm.
The teachings on the dangers of maya really hit home with this person. They had firsthand experience of happiness in illusion. They knew that full sobriety was the only way moving forward, and they were happy to find a positive engagement attached to the recommended restrictions. They happily turned their life around by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
4. Curious about other religions
No major problems here. Life going smoothly. An open and supportive family. Plenty of food to eat. A nice home. A good job. Since this person has always had an interest in philosophy, they are curious to learn what other cultures have to say about life.
“Who is their savior? Do they believe in salvation and what is their process for attaining it?”
This inquisitive mind has the good fortune of coming across a bona fide translation and explanation of the Bhagavad-gita. Everything resonates immediately. It is like the last piece of the puzzle has been found. Finally, an explanation for the cause of birth and death. The totally rational idea of the soul living beyond the present lifetime, disassociating from matter, which never represents its true identity.
The initial curiosity sparks a transformation, leading to the devotional way of life. This person turns into a world-class teacher, as they are able to relate to others who were just like them.
“Let the intelligent take a dip into the sacred waters of Vedic literature. Let them experience endless bliss in the shelter of surrender to the Divine through a sober understanding.”
5. In need of money
“I have heard that God is the richest person in the world. Bhagavan as Vishnu is married to Lakshmi Devi, who is the goddess of fortune. I am in financial difficulty right now, so perhaps they can help me. I will visit one of their temples and ask what needs to be done. Worshiping properly, maybe my situation will change for the better.”
Here there is an initial motive at the personal level. Bhagavan is treated as an order supplier, a big personality who can cure financial woes. What happens is that the worshiper gets one look at the deity in the temple, who is the chief resident and thus properly worshiped, and they forget the reason they came. Something similar is described in Shrimad Bhagavatam. The young child named Dhruva Maharaja transforms from materially motivated to completely disinclined towards revenge and personal advancement.
We see that the path to the finish line is not uniform. There is a reason for the saying that every saint has a past and every sinner a future. By taking birth in the material world, every person automatically starts out contaminated, and so who is to say that one is superior and another inferior? Shri Hanuman describes that no one is actually worthy of pity, due to the fact that they appear in a bubble-like body.
The param gatim, the best destination, is open to all souls. The human birth represents the best opportunity to reach that highest achievement, and with a little discrimination, understanding, open-mindedness, and good fortune the situation can change quickly.
From a cursory glance fast,
So easily judgment to pass.
But at yourself first assess,
How with good fortune to bless.
Gatekeepers then of greatest sin,
But still Divine mercy to win.
Others for money and help a need,
Mattering more how to proceed.
Categories: the five