Answers by HH Romapada Swami
Question: I’m wondering how individual free will factors into the verses and purports describing the species of demoniac life. Specifically BG 16.19 -20.
Srila Prabhupada’s purport states: “In this verse it is clearly indicated that the placing of a Particular individual soul in a particular body is the prerogative of the supreme will.”
“As for the demoniac, it is clearly said here that they are perpetually put into the wombs of demons, and thus they continue to be envious, the lowest of mankind.”
These statements seems to indicate that the individual (in human form by indication of the word mankind), at some point, loses his free will to serve Krsna. The verses and subsequent purports of BG 16 also would seem to apply to most of society. Is it proper to think of the majority of mankind as demoniac?
Answer: As You know, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth is fully independent, svarat and the living entities being parts and parcels of the Lord, have minute independence/free will. Minute free will is an inherent quality of the soul and it can never be taken away from a living entity at any time (in the material or spiritual world). We choose (due to our minute free will), and there are outcomes for our choices but these outcomes cannot be independently determined or created. All endeavors, following a free will choice which we make, are fully dependent in their outcome upon the Will or Sanction of the Supreme. Karmana daiva netrena - under sanction of Superior authority [SB 3.31.1]. We have our desires and our free will, but they are supervised by the Supreme, according to natural laws. Thus, our freedom to ‘create our destiny’ is VERY restricted! We really have not so much control, ultimately. Within our restricted freedom, we can choose if we are going to act according to God’s laws or not. That is within our control. But ultimately Krishna is the supreme controller, the actual and ultimate doer.
Our present material position has been determined by our past activities. This does not mean that we are like programmed robots without any free will. Within our present circumstances, we have some freedom - just as a tethered cow can move in a small circle. Depending on how we choose to act now, in accordance with the Supreme Lord’s laws or against His laws, we can get greater or lesser facilities thus binding ourselves further, or we can get totally liberated by fully surrendering to Him.
The statement you quoted from Srila Prabhupada’s purport BG 16.19 “In this verse it is clearly indicated that the placing of a particular individual soul in a particular body is the prerogative of the supreme will” is very nicely explained in SB 3.31.1:
TRANSLATION The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.
PURPORT As stated in the last chapter, after suffering different kinds of hellish conditions, a man comes again to the human form of body. The same topic is continued in this chapter. In order to give a particular type of human form to a person who has already suffered hellish life, the soul is transferred to the semen of a man who is just suitable to become his father. During sexual intercourse, the soul is transferred through the semen of the father into the mother’s womb in order to produce a particular type of body. This process is applicable to all embodied living entities, but it is especially mentioned for the man who was transferred to the Andha-tamisra hell. After suffering there, when he who has had many types of hellish bodies, like those of dogs and hogs, is to come again to the human form, he is given the chance to take his birth in the same type of body from which he degraded himself to hell.
Everything is done by the supervision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Material nature supplies the body, but it does so under the direction of the Supersoul. It is said in Bhagavad-gita that a living entity is wandering in this material world on a chariot made by material nature. The Supreme Lord, as Supersoul, is always present with the individual soul. He directs material nature to supply a particular type of body to the individual soul according to the result of his work, and the material nature supplies it.
Question: “As for the demoniac, it is clearly said here that they are perpetually put into the wombs of demons, and thus they continue to be envious, the lowest of mankind.”
These statements seems to indicate that the individual (in human form by indication of the word mankind), at some point, loses his free will to serve Krsna.
Answer: Bhurijana Prabhu writes in ‘Surrender Unto Me’ 16.20: Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana comments: Arjuna may ask, “But, after many lifetimes, they should eventually receive Your mercy, by which they will be freed from their demoniac births.” Lord Krsna answers: “These foolish persons take birth in demoniac forms of life birth after birth. Failing to achieve Me, they descend to lower forms of life, even taking birth as dogs.” In the phrase “failing to achieve Me,” the word eva, “certainly,” indicates: “There is no possibility of My mercy falling upon them. It is even difficult for them to achieve a good form of life that would be a prerequisite to obtaining Me.” The following question can then be raised: “But the Supreme Lord automatically has His every desire fulfilled. He can make even the unqualified qualified.” The answer is: “Yes, He could, if He had such a desire. But actually He does not have even the seed of that desire. Thus the author of the Vedanta-sutra has described the Lord’s partiality in the sutra, vaisamya-nairghnyena: the Supreme seems to be unfair because of His partiality to some and His enmity toward others.”
Srila Prabhupada writes strongly in his purport to text 20: “It is clearly stated that the demoniac people, life after life, are put into the wombs of similar demons, and, not achieving the mercy of the Supreme Lord, they go down and down, so that at last they achieve bodies like those of cats, dogs and hogs. It is clearly stated that such demons have practically no chance of receiving the mercy of God at any stage of later life.”
Birth after birth they suffer, especially by being born into lower species.
Because such souls have no desire to get out of material existence, they don’t. They don’t want Krsna’s mercy, and He doesn’t give it to them.
According to Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Arjuna now asks Krsna: “People hearing this are going to want to give up these qualities. What can they do to accomplish this?” Krsna answers this question, and in this way presents us with our own choice either adopt demonic life and become degraded or reject it and obtain the supreme destination.
SB 3.30.34 also sheds further light: TRANSLATION
Having gone through all the miserable, hellish conditions and having passed in a regular order through the lowest forms of animal life prior to human birth, and having thus been purged of his sins, one is reborn again as a human being on this earth.
Just as a prisoner, who has undergone troublesome prison life, is set free again, the person who has always engaged in impious and mischievous activities is put into hellish conditions, and when he has undergone different hellish lives, namely those of lower animals like cats, dogs and hogs, by the gradual process of evolution he again comes back as a human being.
As long as one has rebellious and envious mentality one will only get more and more bound. Freedom in this world is very restricted. Any conditional rule will only chain us more and more. But when rebellious mentality is completely gone, one’s freedom is practically unlimited as demonstrated by Narada Muni - SB 1.6.37 (what a contrast!):
Suta Gosvami said: Thus addressing Vyasadeva, Srila Narada Muni took leave of him, and vibrating on his vina instrument, he left to wander at his free will.
Every living being is anxious for full freedom because that is his transcendental nature. And this freedom is obtained only through the transcendental service of the Lord. Illusioned by the external energy, everyone thinks that he is free, but actually he is bound up by the laws of nature. A conditioned soul cannot freely move from one place to another even on this earth, and what to speak of one planet to another. But a full-fledged free soul like Narada, always engaged in chanting the Lord’s glory, is free to move not only on earth but also in any part of the universe, as well as in any part of the spiritual sky. We can just imagine the extent and unlimitedness of his freedom, which is as good as that of the Supreme Lord. There is no reason or obligation for his traveling, and no one can stop him from his free movement. Similarly, the transcendental system of devotional service is also free. It may or may not develop in a particular person even after he undergoes all the detailed formulas. Similarly, the association of the devotee is also free. One may be fortunate to have it, or one may not have it even after thousands of endeavors. Therefore, in all spheres of devotional service, freedom is the main pivot. Without freedom there is no execution of devotional service. The freedom surrendered to the Lord does not mean that the devotee becomes dependent in every respect. To surrender unto the Lord through the transparent medium of the spiritual master is to attain complete freedom of life.
Question: The verses and subsequent purports of BG 16 also would seem to apply to most of society. Is it proper to think of the majority of mankind as demoniac?
Answer: If you consider that only 25 percent of Lord’s creation is in the material world, then it would seem like only minority of mankind is demoniac. But yes in Kali Yuga in this planet at the current time, it does seem like majority of mankind is demoniac. But even many of these demoniac personalities are getting saved from the most dangerous type of fear (BG 2.40) because of the ajnata sukriti that is being created in their lives by the presence of devotees.
How extraordinarily merciful is our loving Lord Krsna!