“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)
“I am beginning to see clearly. I should have noticed it before, but no one really thinks to that high a level. It is almost like you have to step back and examine the big picture. Otherwise, you are in your own little bubble, following the behavior of everyone around you.
“My realization is that we are stuck in something like a prison. Imagine, if you will, being sentenced to a correctional facility. It doesn’t have to be solitary confinement or anything serious. Suppose you get a large compound upon which to roam. The key is you can’t venture outside; that is why the prison analogy works.
“One day you are staying in one room, following a certain routine. Perhaps you spend some time outside, engaging in recreational sports or just walking along the various paths to immerse yourself in nature.
“The next week you get transferred to another location within the same prison system. Maybe the accommodations are better. A softer mattress. A quieter floor. Direct vision of the outside world, seeing into the horizon. Perhaps you get a glimpse of the ocean, even.
“Regardless the exact nature of the time spent, you are still in prison. I feel as if the entire world is this way. Wouldn’t that be a fair comparison? What are we all doing here, then? It seems that everyone is trying to fill the time spent in this prison, from which they know they will eventually leave, by force. At the time of death, do we go back into the prison?
“If that is the case, why does it exist in the first place? The creator of the system would have to be the greatest villain, taking joy and pleasure from torturing so many living beings. Is that how we should understand God?”
This realization indicates actual intelligence. A person may learn how to program a supercomputer, to the point that direct human intervention is not needed to operate a motor vehicle. Another genius figures out how to keep shrinking the size of the popular smartphone, while at the same time increasing storage capacity, battery life, and computing power.
Yet this utilization of intelligence does not further the cause of the individual by itself. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that living beings can be found in all the different universes. They take on different shapes and sizes based on the external covering, which correlates to the scientific principle of species.
In various capacities, these living beings are either suffering or enjoying the results of their work. We do not have to accept the metaphysical or mystical explanation to validate this truth. Take something basic like the aftermath of a party.
One person ate and drank too much at the get-together, and so the next day they suffer in terms of increased lethargy and a strong headache. They must rest the entire day in order to properly recuperate. Another person barely indulged their senses at the party, and so the next day they are enjoying as per normal.
Wherever they may be found – in the sky, on land, beneath the earth, within the water – the living beings are suffering or enjoying. Even if they ascend to the heavenly region after death, the same principle applies.
Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita that He is ultimately responsible for the creation of these places. It is His material nature operating on the individual souls, giving them different species in which to reside. The cycle of birth and death can repeat ad infinitum, as the entire cosmic manifestation appears and disappears on a schedule.
No one is trying for a solution on how to escape the cycle, and so the acharya within the Vedic tradition makes this their topmost goal in the facility of extended travel and widespread dissemination of the highest wisdom.
The spiritual leader wants me to escape; they do not believe in false enjoyment for a temporary benefit. Why be concerned with reaching heaven if even that realm will one day be destroyed? Why worry about promotion to a better caste in the next life when the same struggles of a material existence will apply?
जल थल नभ गति अमित अति अग जग जीव अनेक |
तुलसी तो से दीन कहँ राम नाम गति एक ||
jala thala nabha gati amita ati aga jaga jīva aneka |
tulasī to se dīna kaham̐ rāma nāma gati eka ||
“There are an infinite number of living beings, both moving and nonmoving, who have many different abodes, with some residing in the earth, some in the sky, and some in the water. But O helpless Tulsi, for you Shri Rama’s holy name is your only home.” (Dohavali, 37)
Goswami Tulsidas understands that the living being can end up practically anywhere in the future, and so he has decided that the holy name of the Lord is his only home. That will be the reason for his existence, for utilizing the vibrancy accompanying the eternal existence of spirit.
This decision is the way to escape the cycle of birth and death. Karma does not apply to the devoted soul, who thinks only of the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. Wherever they end up turns into something like the spiritual world, as they are in constant connection to the Divine through sound, remembrance, and contemplation.
With some freedom giving,
In this large prison living.
Though variety to see,
Still a jail to be.
Acharya the way out giving,
When on the spiritual side living.
Such that creating permanent home,
Through holy name alone.