“The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.1 Purport)
“Aren’t you the least bit curious as to previous births? This is based on the authorized information descending from parampara. The discplic succession explains that there are many births. The proof is from Shri Krishna, as explained to Arjuna.
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
“The distinction is that Krishna can remember the previous instances of appearance, whereas Arjuna cannot. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Arjuna represents the condition of the jiva, who is in the marginal position. They can either be in maya or the association of God, which is the eternal occupation.
“Once you accept the truth of continuous existence, there is the question of just exactly where the jiva originated. Is it from the shelter of the Divine, in the realm known as Vaikuntha? Or is it from the Brahman effulgence? The latter is something like a stateless existence. It would make more sense to come from Brahman, as there would not have been the insult to God in turning away from Him.
“Don’t you want to know? There is a debate over this topic. The origin of the jiva. Should we not concern ourselves with history? Should we not have a definitive answer? Why avoid the topic? I have heard that no one falls from Vaikuntha. What is the proper explanation?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that there is no need to trace out the history of when the living entity wanted to lord over material nature instead of remaining in the shelter of Bhagavan. This means that the “where” is not significant. The “when” has the same value.
The fact that we are here now proves that both the “where” and the “when” took place. More important is to where I am going next. For the surrendered soul, it is out. Out of where? The material world. No more in the cycle of birth and death. No more suffering through the dualities of attraction and aversion.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
There is also the teaching that the spiritual master is a liberated soul. In the story of Narada Muni, we hear that he was previously not in the position of brahmana. He accepted remnants from people described as vedanta-vadis. That contact eventually transformed him into the travelling glorifier of Narayana.
This does not mean that Narada was previously in illusion. He was always the same dedicated soul. The previous birth is merely a part of his journey within the manifest world. He is forever within the shelter of the one who is flawless, Achyuta.
The discplic succession continues. This means that there is the potential for a person to become a spiritual master, through proper association, understanding, and practice. Does this mean that such a spiritual master is originally from the brahmajyoti, that they have never had the association of Krishna?
It is seen that living beings follow a kind-of inherent nature from the time of birth. The child of the cow knows how to find milk. The human infant latches on to the mother. There is a certain expectation in terms of ability and potential for intelligence, moving forward.
सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर् ज्ञानम् अपोहनं च
वेदैश् च सर्वैर् अहम् एव वेद्यो
वेदान्त-कृद् वेद-विद् एव चाहम्
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
That potential is preprogrammed. There is intelligence at the foundation. If a living being happens to find the eternal occupation of bhagavata-dharma, it means that the desire to serve the Supreme Lord was always there. It can never be taken away; that is the meaning to dharma.
बिगरी जनम अनेक की सुधरै अबहीं आजु |
होहि राम को नाम जपु तुलसी तजि कुसमाजु ||
bigarī janama aneka kī sudharai abahīṃ āju |
hohi rāma ko nāma japu tulasī taji kusamāju ||
“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)
The proper focus is on moving forward. Goswami Tulsidas explains that the past mistakes can be corrected. In an instant. Immediately. Today. Mistakes from this life and previous ones. No need to be overly concerned with the time, place, or quantity. Whether the faults equal the size of a mountain or a molehill, the path forward liberates equally.
Equally to liberate,
Varied pasts to demonstrate.
One of sins too many,
Other free of blemishes any.
Whether first from light or other place,
Krishna’s shelter now to erase.
That condition with maya’s stance,
For transcendence the chance.