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Religion Library: ISKCON (Hare Krishna)

Afterlife and Salvation

Written by: Benjamin E. Zeller

Devotees who engage in lower but still exemplary forms of bhakti, such as shanta rasa, the rasa of reverence, and dasya rasa, the rasa of service, experience rebirth on the Vaikuntha planets, the other spiritual realms for devotees. On such planets Krishna appears in his various cosmic Vishnu forms, displaying his majesty to the devotees. ISKCON teaches that these planets, as spiritual realms, exhibit numerous heavenly qualities and none of the negative ones normally associated with materiality. On them the devotees engage in eternal service and adoration of Krishna.

While such spiritual realms offer eternal tranquility and the opportunity to rejoin Krishna, to go back to Godhead, ISKCON also accepts the reality of numerous other material planets throughout the cosmos, some better and some worse than the earth. A non-devotee might be reborn onto such a planet as a result of their karma. Some of these material planets exhibit characteristics similar to the spiritual heavens, such as physical beauty and spiritual tranquility, but none offers either eternal life or a true return to Godhead. Others are hellish places of torment, pain, and suffering. Individuals with particularly good karma might find themselves born onto a heavenly material realm, while those with exceptionally poor karma may experience a lifetime on a hellish planet. Yet neither sort of rebirth offers eternal solace or eternal damnation, for at the end of the reborn individual's (perhaps very long) lifetime, he or she experiences another transmigration. For a Hare Krishna devotee, only the path of bhakti offers a chance for everlasting rebirth onto a spiritual realm of Krishna.

Study Questions:
     1.    Why are many ISKCON members vegetarians?
     2.    How can Krishna change one's karma?
     3.    How do rasas influence rebirth?
     4.    Why is bhakti heavily emphasized?


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