“Salokya means that after material liberation one is promoted to the planet where the Supreme Personality of Godhead resides. Samipya means remaining an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sarupya means attaining a four-handed form exactly like that of the Lord. Sarshti means attaining opulences like those of the Supreme Lord, and sayujya means merging into the Brahman effulgence of the Lord. These are the five types of liberation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 6.266 Purport)
“What happens to a person after they achieve liberation? I am not talking about basic reincarnation. I understand that we continue to enjoy or suffer in material existence for as long as that is our desire. Though it may not be admitted or proclaimed openly, the feeling is known on an implicit basis.
“For instance, if I take great joy out of politics, to the point that I am actively engaged in the field, I will get to continue in the future. After all, that will dominate the consciousness at the time of quitting the body. Bhagavad-gita confirms that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail [Bg 8.6].
“I also understand that everyone follows Krishna in all respects. Whether they are an atheist or a true believer, there is always some connection to the origin of the material and spiritual worlds. In the system of karma, I am serving the shadow portion of the Almighty, His separated, inferior energy known as matter. Whether I get promoted to a higher species, demoted to a lower one, or remain as a human, I am still under the jurisdiction of karma, which is closely associated with the changing of bodies.
“My question is about the people who develop and maintain the spiritual consciousness through to the time of death. They are no longer mired in a material existence. They are joyful since they realize Brahman. They know their true identity as spirit. Is every person in this category headed for the same destination? Does the ‘state of being’ principle apply here? If so, how?”
1. Merge into the body of Narayana
As we are dealing in terms of eternity, which correlates to the mathematical principle of infinity, it is difficult to explain the concepts using any frame of reference from our personal experience. There is no perfect analogy, but one His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada makes is to the child of parents.
Let us suppose that one child is disgusted with their experiences in life. They no longer wish to be subject to the changing of seasons, the ups and downs in mood, the joys through attachments and the longings due to separation, and the terrifying predicament of guaranteed death.
Despite the best efforts of the parents to educate them and mold them into self-sufficient adults, the child wants a do-over. They want to return into the womb of the mother. They felt safe and protected in that situation, though they don’t remember the experience.
Merging into the body of Narayana is something like returning to the womb. The possibility is there. The Supreme Lord, who is the source of men [nara], does not reject the proposal. As everyone follows Him in all respects, He facilitates desires. He does not stand in the way of free will.
ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते
तांस् तथैव भजाम्य् अहम्
मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
“All of them – as they surrender unto Me – I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)
The Brahman-realized soul has this opportunity. If they are an impersonalist, this is the intended destination, whether explicitly stated or not. From the one have come many, and the many can return to the one at any time.
2. Serving Krishna in a transcendental relationship
We compare the devotee to the child who wants to grow up and serve the parents perfectly and without end. They feel so indebted to the mother and father that they cannot let go of the relationship. Even if the parents tell them to enjoy, to forget about them, this particular child will never listen. The parents are powerless, in a sense, as the love on the other side is too strong.
Devotees, those who follow bhakti-yoga, serve while in their material existence, which gradually eradicates the influence of karma. Upon quitting the body, they get to continue in that service in whatever the next life brings. It may be in the spiritual world of Vaikuntha or some other place that requires the presence of saintly people.
Even if they are sent to the hellish region, they will always remember the original person. They will keep Him in the heart and continue to serve Him. Based on Krishna’s position as best well-wishing friend, He facilitates such desires.
Rather keep identity mine,
And God in heart to shine.
Every birth subsequent forthcoming,
Whether as saint or hellish becoming.
Desire such that Lord not to stop,
Firm this resolve I’ve got.
Knowing that future assured,
Since bhakti by Krishna insured.