“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.15)
माम् उपेत्य पुनर् जन्म
संसिद्धिं परमां गताः
mām upetya punar janma
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
“In Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna makes the promise that someone who attains Him never returns to this world of birth and death. It is otherwise a temporary and miserable place. You develop intense love and affection for dependents like children and spouse. You have to live with them for decades, perhaps. Some couples are able to celebrate a fiftieth wedding anniversary.
“In the back of your mind you know that the relationship will not last. One day the cruel hands of time will open their grip and snatch one of you away. Never to be seen again, the only thing remaining are the memories, the impression that person left on others.
“To me, there is nothing more cruel than this. Why would anyone want to descend to this world and subject themselves to that horror? I certainly would not, if given the choice. The path of yoga in devotion is the right way; it is dharma. This is true both on the word of authority and my conclusion reached after careful deliberation.
“I guess I am wondering why Arjuna and the Pandava family were still in this world. They had already attained Krishna. They were in yoga, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of retiring to a remote area and sitting in a proper pose, asana, they were on the battlefield, defending the innocent. They were upholding righteous principles, while their dependents suffered and watched, hoping for justice to be served.
“Why were not the Pandavas immediately elevated to Vaikuntha, which is the spiritual realm noted for its lack of anxieties? Why did they have to stay here and suffer at the hands of the wicked Duryodhana, who tried in so many ways to eliminate them?”
It is said that someone who sincerely attempts yoga in devotion, bhagavata-dharma, is already liberated. They may not know it yet. They may not have the proper consciousness at the time, but since there is an infallible being on the other side, Achytua, to help them, there is no possibility of failure.
There is no perfect analogous experience from our time, but we can try to think of the student entering school. They barely know how to read and write. They certainly are not expert in math or science. Yet if everything goes correctly, if they have proper guidance from the parents and follow certain disciplinary measures, they will eventually graduate.
The chances of success are so high that in many cases the parents start saving for college. They regularly deposit money into a fund designated for paying tuition expenses. This money will ideally be withdrawn much later, perhaps after eighteen years. They can only do this if they have an assurance the student will grow up to be smart enough to attend college.
It is the material world, after all, so time can get in the way. Other factors might interfere, beyond the control of the guardians. Since Shri Krishna is ultimately in charge of who enters His transcendental abode and who does not, even the person with no qualifications will win liberation, if they make a genuine attempt.
Arjuna was already liberated by the time he reached the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna had already arranged the proper outcome, as shown in the amazing vision during their subsequent conversation known as Bhagavad-gita.
अमी च त्वां धृतराष्ट्रस्य पुत्राः
भीष्मो द्रोणः सूत-पुत्रस् तथासौ
सहास्मदीयैर् अपि योध-मुख्यैः
वक्त्राणि ते त्वरमाणा विशन्ति
केचिद् विलग्ना दशनान्तरेषु
सन्दृश्यन्ते चूर्णितैर् उत्तमाङ्गैः
amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ
“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)
To become liberated does not mean to abandon responsibility. Nor is it used as a license for living in an unregulated way. Rather, the person who is dear to Krishna often feels a stronger need to set a good example and follow behavior indicative of a person who is still in search of the Divine mercy, who is not sure of the final outcome.
Arjuna and his brothers followed their duty as kshatriya warriors and the world benefitted because of that decision. They were working for Krishna, and from beginning to end they were protected. The same applies to those who are strongly connected to that husband of Lakshmi through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
When genuine and steady,
Achieved liberation already.
Just by feet in path placing,
Towards the Divine facing.
Who my efforts to sustain,
Memory of deeds retained.
So that in this world can stay,
And ideal role to display.