The extent of reincarnation?

I was having an interesting discussion with a person online about reincarnation and wanted to know more about it. 

In specific, if a living entity dies, does he/she come back to that same material world (first assuming a lower birth, then assuming a low human, and finally a higher human (pious)). 

Also, do we all go to Yamaraja when we die, or is this for very specific cases only, as in when we commit horrible deeds and must go to a hellish planet?



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  • Volunteer

    my humble obeisances dear Devotees, All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
    When marriages are organized it is recommended to look to the family lineage of both sides. Because it is true if girl and boy remains untouched till marriage then in their lineage will take their own ancestors - but mostly ancestors of a boy. Because of that son is called as putra - one who liberates from the hell called put or ra (which one is son and hell i do not know).

    But daughter can do so if she has a son and that son will liberate her family ancestors of course of son is a real son i mean with good qualities.

    It is like when husband and wife are chaste to each other next life they again become wife and husband and that union becomes very strong. So if one gets one of ancestors as their child so that father and son or mother and son union will be very good. Which means they will understand each other better and they will have similar karmas.

    And in this way life after life they will help each other to progress.

    But if girl especially looses her purity before marriage then even if she marries to another man she will have children from the the lineage of her first man in this way her husband won't be able to liberate his ancestors from hell.


    Because every universe is covered with thick layers if soul is not fully freed from subtle body he can not leave this universe to another maybe to universe with 50 headed Brahma.

    Or else there are special vehicles who can take the soul within subtle body to another universe. But it seems impossible because those layers are meant to keep the soul within the subtle body in this universe only.

    And it is true if living entity is to much degraded then he goes to hell then comes back again to Earth planet as an animal or even lower insect then slowly goes through the process of evaluation.

    Usually, all those who leave this world or die meet with representatives of Yamaraja or he himself. Because all should pass the exam of questions and answers. But those sinners will be taken away in a horrifying way, but those who are Devotees of Vishnu are taken away by Vishnudutas themselves as was in the case of Ajamila.

    Devotees do not see Yamaraja.

    Your servant,  




    Lecture on BG 1.41-42 -- London, July 29, 1973:

    Sometimes due to sinful activities, too much attachment, a man becomes ghost. Ghost, there is ghosts. Bhūta preta piśāca. Not only this life, demonic life, but after death also, there are ghostly lives. They do not get this gross body. They remain in the subtle body, mind, intelligence, and ego. Due to their gross sinful life, they are punished by not getting a gross life. Because without getting a gross life, we cannot enjoy.


    The nondevotees' accounts are kept by Yamaraja for punishment. Similarly, devotees' accounts are kept by Krsna, personally

    Expressions researched:
    "the nondevotees' accounts are kept by Yamaraja for punishment. Similarly, devotees' accounts are kept by Krsna, personally"


    Nectar of Devotion Lectures

    Suppose we fall down. Śāstra says, tasya abhadra abhūd amuṣya kim. There is nothing inauspicity because whatever you have done sincerely, that is recorded in the book. In the Kṛṣṇa's book. Kṛṣṇa has got accountant. He keeps nice account of the activities of His devotees. That's a fact. Just like the nondevotees' accounts are kept by Yamarāja for punishment. Similarly, devotees' accounts are kept by Kṛṣṇa, personally.
    The Nectar of Devotion -- Vrndavana, October 20, 1972:

    Prabhupāda: First of all, he's trying to bring the devotee to the standard devotional service. Vidhi-mārga. Then gradually, when he becomes accustomed, then rāga-mārga will be revealed. Rāga-mārga is not artificial. It becomes, svayam eva sphuraty adhaḥ. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau... (Brs. 1.2.234). Everything, devotional relationship with Kṛṣṇa, you cannot establish artificially. Everyone has got a particular relationship with Kṛṣṇa in his original constitutional position. That will be revealed gradually as you advance in devotional service in the prescribed rules and regulations as they are directed in the śāstras and by spiritual master. When you are trained up properly, you come to the platform of rāga-mārga, then your devotional si... That is called svarūpa-siddhi. Svarūpa-siddhi. So svarūpa-siddhi is attained at a certain stage. Just like svarūpa-siddhi... The desire for sex life is there in every human being, but when the boy and the girl come to the mature stage, it become manifest. It is, is not learned artificially. Similarly, the rāga-mārga, svarūpa-siddhi, becomes revealed or manifest. Śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya. Udaya. This very word, udaya, is used. Just like sun. Sun becomes visible when the sun rises automatically. You cannot force the sun to rise at dead of night. That is not possible. Sun will rise. You just wait. When the time will be right, morning, six o'clock, you'll find the sun.

    Similarly, the devotional service, we have to execute with patience, with enthusiasm. Utsāhāt dhairyāt niścayāt tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt. We must be enthusiastic that we... "I shall engage myself very nicely in Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement." That is first qualification, enthusiastic. Dullness will not help you. You must be very enthusiastic. My Guru Mahārāja used to say, prāṇa ache yara sei hetu pracāra. A preacher can, a person can become a preacher if he has got life. A dead man cannot become a preacher. So you must be very enthusiastic that "I shall preach the glories of the Lord to my best capacity." It is not that one has to become very learned scholar to become a preacher. Simply it requires enthusiasm, "My Lord is so great, so kind, so beautiful, so wonderful. So I must speak something about my Lord." This is the qualification, enthusiasm. You may not know Kṛṣṇa very perfectly. It is not possible to know Kṛṣṇa very perfectly. Kṛṣṇa is unlimited. We cannot know Kṛṣṇa cent percent. That is not possible. But Kṛṣṇa reveals as far as possible you can understand. So if we are sincere servant of Kṛṣṇa, utsāhān, and if we serve patiently, then Kṛṣṇa reveals.

    The example is given in this connection. Just like a girl is married. Generally, a girl wants a child. But if she wants a child immediately after marriage, that is not possible. She must wait. She must serve her husband nicely. Utsāhān dhairyāt tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt. Just like a faithful wife. Time will come she will become pregnant and she will have child. So niścayāt means... Just like the girl must know because she's married, because she has got a husband, that there must be a child. It is a fact. It may be little later. Similarly, when you have entered into devotional service, bhakti-yoga, bhakti-mārga, your success is assured, provided you are enthusiastic and patient. Not that "Immediately I want a child," "Immediately I become fully Kṛṣṇa consciousness and perfect." No. There may be so many imperfections. Because we are in the imperfect atmosphere. But patiently, if you go on executing your duties in devotional service as it is directed in the śāstras and confirmed by the spiritual master, then rest assured that your success is guaranteed. This is the way. Utsāhān dhairyāt tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt. You must execute the duties.

    Just like we have asked our students to finish sixteen rounds chanting minimum. Sixteen rounds is nothing. In Vṛndāvana there are many devotees, they chant 120 rounds. Like that. So sixteen rounds is the minimum. Because I know in the Western countries it is difficult job to finish sixty-four rounds or 120 rounds, like that. Minimum sixteen rounds. That must be finished. Tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt. This is the direction. Observing the regulative principles. In this way, we must be abiding by the direction of the spiritual master and the śāstra. Then rest assured. Success is guaranteed. Go on reading, next.

    Pradyumna: "If our body at present..."

    Prabhupāda: Bring the light. Hm. Go on.

    Pradyumna: "If our body at present is engaged in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then it is guaranteed that we will have at least a human body in our next life."

    Prabhupāda: So one thing is guaranteed. If you engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and suppose you do not become perfectly mature, some way or other, you fall down... We should not fall down. Because if we have got enthusiasm and patience, we shall not fall down. But suppose we fall down. Śāstra says, tasya abhadra abhūd amuṣya kim. There is nothing inauspicity because whatever you have done sincerely, that is recorded in the book. In the Kṛṣṇa's book. Kṛṣṇa has got accountant. He keeps nice account of the activities of His devotees. That's a fact. Just like the nondevotees' accounts are kept by Yamarāja for punishment. Similarly, devotees' accounts are kept by Kṛṣṇa, personally. Ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham (BG 4.11). Unless he keeps account, how He says, "I respond to the devotee to the proportionate surrender"? Ye yathā māṁ prapadyante. The real business is surrender to Kṛṣṇa. If we surrender immediately, cent percent, then Kṛṣṇa also gives you the result immediately, cent percent. Kṛṣṇa says,

    sarva-dharmān parityajya
    mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
    ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
    (BG 18.66)

    If Kṛṣṇa relieves me from all kinds of sinful activities, then where is my miserable condition of life? Miserable condition of life is for them who are enjoying or suffering... There is no question of enjoyment. But it sometimes taken, enjoyment. The fruitive action, the result of fruitive action. So a devotee does not enjoy anything or suffer anything. Because a devotee does everything for Kṛṣṇa. So therefore for his personal self, there is no question of karma-phala. That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: yajñārthe karma anyatra karma-bandhanaḥ. If you act for Kṛṣṇa, that is nice. If you act otherwise, then it is karma-bandhana. Yajñārthe karma anytra. Anyatra. Anyatra means except Kṛṣṇa consciousness activities, the activities of the karmīs and the jñānīs and the yogis, they are all karma-bandhana, bound up. Suppose karmīs, they are going to the heavenly planet or higher planetary system for getting higher standard of life, to take birth by pious activities in nice family, to become rich. But that is bandhana. That is bondage.

    Similarly, the so-called mukti, jñānīs, they merge into the existence, Brahman existence, of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nirbheda-brahmānusandhana. Nirbheda, without any distinction, enter, merge into the Brahman. That is also bandhana, bondage. Why? Because we find in the śāstras: āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ patanty adhaḥ (SB 10.2.32). Āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padam. Paraṁ padam means brahma-pada, to merge into the effulgence, brahma-jyotir. That is called paraṁ pada. According to Vaiṣṇava, paraṁ pada means to go to Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka Vṛndāvana and be engaged as servant, eternal servant of the Lord. But according to the jñānīs, the paraṁ pada means merge into the effulgence of brahma-jyotir. Śāstra says that āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padam (SB 10.2.32). To go to that paraṁ padam, that is also not very easy. Kṛcchreṇa. Severe austerities and penances, one has to undergo to merge into the Brahman effulgence. Therefore you'll find, the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs, their stricture is very rigid. They must take bath thrice in, in a day and lie down underneath a tree and... Their renunciation is very rigid. Of course, those who are strictly following. In our Brahmā, Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa, there is little leniency. Because they live in Kṛṣṇa, so there is no need of very strict, rigid following. Although it is stated that they should live like this. But there is leniency. But Māyāvāda, they are very rigid in their principles of sannyāsa life. That is called āruhya kṛcchreṇa. Kṛcchreṇa, with great difficulty, they merge into the Brahman effulgence. Āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padam (SB 10.2.32). They attain in the perfectional stage. Not perfectional. Paraṁ padam. In the spiritual realm. But patanty adhaḥ. Again falls down. Again falls down means because in the effulgence there is no varieties.

    Srimad-Bhagavatam Lectures

    The sinful man taken to the Yamarāja, he is put into suffering, the same principle as a prisoner. He has to suffer for a time, six months or one year or sometimes more than that, just to atone for his sinful activities. So nobody can check. You can imagine that "There is no God, there is no Yamarāja, there is no punishment. Let me do." That is your fancy. But it is not the fact. Fact is, if we commit some sin we must suffer from it, and there is nobody in the world who can check it.
    Lecture on SB 6.1.32 -- Honolulu, May 31, 1976:

    Prabhupāda: So you are suffering. You are maintaining so many slaughterhouses, and when it will be mature, there will be war, the wholesale murder. Finished. One atom bomb—finished. You'll have to suffer. Don't think that "Innocent animals, they cannot protest. Let us kill and eat." No. You'll be also punished. Wait for accumulation of your sinful activities, and there will be war, and the America will drop the atom bomb, and Russia will be finished. Both will be finished. Go on now enjoying. It takes time. Just like even if you infect some disease, it takes time. Not that immediately you infect, and immediately the disease is there. No. It takes a week's time or so. What is called? A quarantine, quarantine...

    Devotee: Period of incubation.

    Prabhupāda: Ha? Incubation. So from Africa, if anyone goes anywhere, they require yellow fever injection. So if you haven't got yellow fever injection, then even in the airport, there is arrangement, you have to wait in the quarantine area for six days. You'll not be allowed. So this is... As you have got the laws and the punishment in this government, so why do you think there is no punishment and there is no God? This is utopian. Don't think like that. Utopian. There is God, there is his government, there are his agents, there are witnesses, and... Otherwise why there are different varieties of life? Different varieties of life. Why? Eight million, four hundred thousand species of life. Everyone is a living being. The trees are living being, the fishes are living being, the ants are living being, the mosquitos are living being, and the human being also living being, the demigods also living being, the cats, dogs—everyone is living being. It is simply in different dresses. They're living beings. But why they are situated in different position? According to karma, punished.

    So we should be very careful. This is... This human form of life is a chance to make your choice, whether you are to go on being punished like this in different forms of life or whether you shall go back to home, back to Godhead. Here is the chance. Manuṣyānāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye (BG 7.3). Out of many millions and millions of persons, one is intelligent enough, he can inquire that "Why I am suffering?" Everyone is suffering. That's a fact. Only the rascals, they think, "We're enjoying." Everyone is suffering. This is a place for suffering. Duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam (BG 8.15), Kṛṣṇa says, who has created this place. It is a place of suffering. Every moment you are suffering due to this body, due to the mind, due to the suffering imposed by other living entities. The mosquito will bite, the flies will disturb you, the bugs are there, and then the dogs will bark unnecessarily. You are passing, and his business is barking. Ha? "Bow! Bow! Bow!" (laughter) So this is also suffering. You don't like the next door the dog is barking. So in this way, if you are sober man, you don't want all this suffering, but it is imposed upon you. How do you think that you are living very happy? This is foolishness. It is not... This place, either ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokān punar āvartino... Wherever you go, you read from the śāstra, the demigods, they're supposed to be very happy in the upper planetary systems—they are also not in happiness. There is fight between the demons and the demigods and so on, so on. The same politics, same (indistinct), the same..., so many things. Here in the small scale, just like two birds, they fight also. You've seen them. So their fighting you neglect. But your fighting—there is atom bomb. And similarly there is fighting in upper planets also.

    So these things are going on, struggle for existence, survival of the fittest. This is nice theory. So here, anywhere you go... Just like your America is the richest country. Do you think there is happiness, there is no fighting, there is no disease, there is no death? No. Everything's there as it is in other countries, poverty-stricken countries. So you cannot avoid. The birth... Kṛṣṇa says, "Birth, death, old age and disease, these are your problems." Janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam (BG 13.9). Does it mean that these sufferings of birth, death and old age and disease, there is none in America or in other, moon planet? No. There is also same. Neither in greater portion, proportion. So there is stringent laws of the material nature everywhere, and there is God behind him, behind the nature. Mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram (BG 9.10). Everything is going on under the direction of the supreme controller, and these are officers, just like Yamarāja, strictly following the regulative principles, the order of sun-god.

    So this Ajāmila... We have already described his life—cheating, roguism and prostitute-hunter and so many things, that is his life. So he's subjected to the punishment, to be punished by the Yamarāja. So his order carriers have come to take him away. But, in the meantime, the Viṣṇudūtas came and asked them, "No. Don't touch him. Don't touch him." So they were surprised: "What is this?" Therefore they are asking, ke yūyaṁ pratiṣeddhāro dharma-rājasya śāsanam: "Who are you, interfering with government's law? Who are you?" They are surprising. "Nobody has checked us." Just like police... They come... Police comes to somebody's house, everyone knows there is some business, serious business. Who will ask the police, "Why you are entering here?" No. Nobody has right. (indistinct) But why this punishment? Just to save him from so many other punishments. That is the law in Manu-saṁhitā, that a murderer is killed, then his all sinful activities, reaction of life, finishes by that killing, by that hanging. Otherwise next life he has to suffer so many things. So when the king orders a murderer to be killed, it is his mercy. It is his mercy. Because he saves him from so many other entanglement. Better kill him so that his sinful reaction is finished. Similarly, Yamarāja, the sinful man taken to the Yamarāja, he is put into suffering, the same principle as a prisoner. He has to suffer for a time, six months or one year or sometimes more than that, just to atone for his sinful activities. So nobody can check. You can imagine that "There is no God, there is no Yamarāja, there is no punishment. Let me do." That is your fancy. But it is not the fact. Fact is, if we commit some sin we must suffer from it, and there is nobody in the world who can check it.



    Suffering in hellsHells (Naraka) - the lowest levels in the universe, places to suffer for committing specific vikarmas for a determined time. Yamadutas are bringing me to Yamaraja, the judge of the dead. He will determine the type and length of my punishment according to dharma sastras. After my punishment is over I will be born as an animal.

    "While living one may be proud of one's body, thinking oneself a very big man, minister, president or even demigod, but whatever one may be, after death this body will turn either into worms, into stool or into ashes. If one kills poor animals to satisfy the temporary whims of this body, one does not know that he will suffer in his next birth, for such a sinful miscreant must go to hell and suffer the results of his actions." (SB 10.10.10)

    "As directed by Citragupta, he suffers in hell. Having suffered tortures there, he is born in low species. ..."
    "When the expiatory and deterrent tortures in hell cease, the living beings are born again in human (or animal - 28) form with the characteristic traits of their sins. O foremost among birds, I shall tell you what these signs are." (Garuda Purana 2.10.88-89, 2.46.9-10,28)

    Yamadutas and VisnudutasYamadutas - "Those who have passed several years in the dreadful hell and have no descendants (to offer gifts) in their favor become messengers of Yama." (Garuda Purana 2.18.34)

    As a criminal is arrested for punishment by the constables of the state, a person engaged in criminal sense gratification is similarly arrested by the Yamadutas, who bind him by the neck with strong rope and cover his subtle body so that he may undergo severe punishment. (SB 3.30.20)

    Yamaraja judging a sinnerYamaraja - "The King of the pitas [ancestors] is Yamaraja, the very powerful son of the sun-god. He resides in Pitrloka with his personal assistants and, while abiding by the rules and regulations set down by the Supreme Lord, has his agents, the Yamadutas, bring all the sinful men to him immediately upon their death. After bringing them within his jurisdiction, he properly judges them according to their specific sinful activities and sends them to one of the many hellish planets for suitable punishments." (SB 5.26.6)



  • Volunteer

    Hare Krishna,

    Please accept my humble obeisances.

    I had theses questions when my dad died 4 years back.

    after funeral when pind dan (laddu made up from rice flour) ceremony was going on, we put some food items brought from home for crows. there were crows gathered and there was one leader crow, but he was not eating/touching food items.

    everyone around me was telling me that I must have done some offense towards my dad and hence crow not eating t.

    but by Krishna's grace I remembered that my dad used to love shrikhand (item made up of sweet curd in maharashtra) and my mom had given me one box of shrikhand but it was not kept in the dish for crow.

    so I took it out from the bag and kept in the dish and went few steps back and called Hare Krishna loudly.

    immediately leader crow came forward and ate entire shrikhand and flew away. then all other crow came forward and ate other food items.

    seeing this I thanked Krishna, and I became curious and started asking questions as how that leader crow knew that my dad loved shrikhand. but no priests or elderly people could answer my question. some said dad incarnate as crow but it was not possible since how crow can grow so big in just a half day.

    so after some months I was listening to Srila Prabhupada lectures, and there Srila Prabhupada mentioned about garuda puran and hence I got the scanned book from net and read entirely and many of my doubts got cleared. since my doubts and questions were piling up , I thought Srila Prabhupada mentioning garud puran is kind of sanket/direction to me, hence I read.

    some of the things I remember are as follows:

    1. after death the soul gets different body which does not have all the 5 elements in same quantity as our current body has. hence it is not visible to our eyes. the word used in garuda puran is "vayviya" वायविय body.

    2. the soul remains for 13 days around the house and could see his family members and friends. hence there is a tradition that many friends visit dead person's house during these 13 days.

    3. after 13 days the journey of the soul starts towards south direction. he will be accompanied mostly by yam duta as most of the persons perform some sort of sinful activities.

    4. journey towards yamaloka takes a year and then he is brought in front of Yamaraj. where the soul could see Yamaraj face to face . he will see different swarup of Yamaraj depending on his karma, he might see very scary look or calm look with white beard.

    5. in yamaloka, his next destination is told to him.

    6. during a year long journey, he gets to eat the food which his family members have offered in 12 shradha ceremonies which needs to occur on every month on specific tithi till last varsh shradha.

    7. during journey he will either face scorching heat or soothing sunshine depending on whether he performed specific charity or not.

    8. garuda asked Krishna in the puran as how someone can eat which is kept outside the house and he is travelling, then Krishna says crows eat and soul receives it. 

    9. if soul attains ghost body after death because of his karmas then he remains here only trapped inside ghost body.

    there are many things mentioned in puran but I do not remember all things. 

    again I am not expert and did not read the puran to follow whatever is mentioned in it, I read as after dad's death these questions were bugging. also I cannot provide you verse numbers from the book as it was scanned copy of sanskrit hindi translation. I do not know authenticity of the scanned book either.

    In that puran there is one sentense mentioned by Krishna to Garuda

    if someone has chanted Krishna Krishna Krishna, then I take him out of this just like someone plucking lotus from the dirty pond.

    tell everyone to just chant and love Him.... as simple as that...He will keep His promise....

    Hare Krishna, Hari bol

    your servant

    • Volunteer

      thank you prabhu, you have provided a wealth of knowledge!

      A few months ago a fellow college student asked me for my thoughts on her the death of her grandmother (apparently she still "felt" her in the house), at that time I recalled my knowledge from the Gita and said that the soul is eternal and she has probably moved on, but this information will be very helpful in conveying information if I need to in the future.

      Thanks Sushant Prabhu, please accept my humble obeisances! 

      All Glories to Sri Garuda!! All Glories to the chanting of the holy names!!


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