Disclaimer: Don’t confuse between falling and returning from Vaikuntha, this is a famous blunder by devotees who support no-fallvaad, who generally quote acaryas and scriptures saying no one ‘returns’ from Vaikuntha to prove no one ‘falls’ from Vaikuntha, when everyone agrees unanimously that no one returns or falls again from Vaikuntha. We are discussing of our initial falldown.
Brahma-vaivarta Purana (Prakriti Khanda, Chap. 26, verses 27-31) —
स याति देहं त्यक्त्वा च पदं विष्णोर्निरामयम्। पुनरागमनं नास्ति तेषां निष्कामिणां सति ॥ ये सेवन्ते च द्विभुजं कृष्णमात्मानमीश्वरम्। गोलोकं यान्ति ते भक्ता दिव्यरूपविधारिणः ॥ ये च नारायणं भक्ताः सेवन्ते च चतुर्भुजम् । बैकुण्ठं यान्ति ते सर्वे दिव्यरूपविधारिणः ॥ सकामिनो वैष्णवाश्च गत्वा वैकुण्ठमेव च । भारतं पुनरायान्ति तेषां जन्म द्विजातिषु ॥ कालेन ते च निष्कामा भविष्यन्ति क्रमेण च । भक्ति च निर्मलां बुद्धि तेभ्यो दास्यति निश्चितम्
❝ The selfless devotee of Vişņu, after his death, achieves the abode of Vişnu and being selfless, he never comes back from that place. Such of the devotees as adore the two armed lord Krsna, proceed to Goloka after death taking to a divine form. Such of the devotees as meditate upon the four armed Vişnu, taking to divine form, go to Vaikuntha. But the Vaisnavas who adore Vişnu purposefully, have to come back to the land of Bharata, after staying in Vaikuntha and are reborn as Brāhmaṇas. After the passage of time they also get turned into selfless devotees of lord Vişņu because the lord also bestows on them his devotion and spotless wisdom.❞
Objection — It could be argued that such verses are not referring the actual Vaikuntha itself where the Supreme Lord resides personally, rather, they could be referring prapanca-vaikuntha, the material manifestation of Vaikuntha which is ruled by a Jiva. Srila Prabhupada explained the concept of prapanca-vaikuntha in his purport to SB 4.9.20-21. Ramanuja Sampraday calls this as “Karya-vaikuntha”.
Refutation — This argument could be applied on some other verses such as that of Kalki Purana, as will be cited ahead, but not here. This verse is talking of one Vaikuntha, not two. And that Vaikuntha is the actual Vaikuntha only. It said, ❝The selfless devotee of Vişņu, after his death, achieves the abode of Vişnu and being selfless, he never comes back from that place….The Vaisnavas who adore Vişnu purposefully, have to come back to the land of Bharata.❞ The meaning is clear. Prapanca-vaikuntha is not being discussed here, at all.
Objection — One doesn’t fall down for the second time, no one returns to the material world.
Refutation — In general no one falls down for the second time from Vaikuntha, to say it doesn’t happen at all is wrong. The following conversation took place on a morning walk in Denver, on July 3, 1975 —
Devotee (3): You had said on a, earlier on a morning walk, on a tape, that if one enters into the spiritual world that–you were asked that he will never have to return–and you said that if it’s a desire, he can return to the material world.
Prabhupada: So what is your objection?
Devotee (3): I was just wondering if the spirit soul being in the spiritual world is eternally liberated, how can he return. By desire?
Prabhupada: Yes. If he desires, he can come again. That option is always there.
The second fall is negligible, the fallen is highly protected by the Lord and is ensured comfortable residence, and he returns to Vaikuntha very soon, as the quoted verse itself says. So does the other verses which are yet to be quoted. Therefore it’s said no one returns from Vaikuntha, because not only it’s a rare case, the second fall is for name sake.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.28.53-4) —
अपि स्मरसि चात्मानमविज्ञातसखं सखे ।हित्वा मां पदमन्विच्छन् भौमभोगरतो गत: ॥ हंसावहं च त्वं चार्य सखायौ मानसायनौ ।अभूतामन्तरा वौक: सहस्रपरिवत्सरान्
❝ The brāhmaṇa (Krishna) continued: My dear friend, even though you cannot immediately recognize Me, can’t you remember that in the past you had a very intimate friend? Unfortunately, you gave up My company and accepted a position as enjoyer of this material world. My dear gentle friend, both you and I are exactly like two swans. We live together in the same heart, which is just like the Mānasa Lake. Although we have been living together for many thousands of years, we are still far away from our original home.❞
Objection — Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur in his commentary on this verse says that it is referring to the relationship & separation between the soul and Maha-vishnu at the beginning of that creation among the infinite creations of material worlds. He also said “The jiva gave up the Lord at the beginning of creation of the universe because of previous karmas.” As there is no first world cycle, and before each individual world cycle manifests, the infinite number of individual souls under the influence of karma remain within Mahā-Viṣṇu in susupti, or deep sleep and content less experience. Thus not only is there is no mention of fall down from Vaikuṇṭha by the acarya, but he gave a completely different interpretation.
Refutation — But in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.54, Srila Prabhupada gives this explanation: ❝The original home of the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the spiritual world. In the spiritual world both the Lord and the living entities live together very peacefully. Since the living entity remains engaged in the service of the Lord, they both share a blissful life in the spiritual world. However, when the living entity wants to enjoy himself, he falls down into the material world. Even while in that position, the Lord remains with him as the Supersoul, his intimate friend.❞
Srila Prabhupada unequivocally states: “Since the living entity remains engaged in the service of the Lord, they both share a blissful life in the spiritual world.” In other words, Srila Prabhupada takes the friendly relationship as the original relationship between the living entity and the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world, and not the relation between a conditioned soul and Maha-vishnu. The conditioned souls with Maha-vishnu are in a state of susupti, or deep dreamless sleep, and not an active relationship of service.
Here we have a case of an apparent difference between the acaryas. We propose that we should accept Srila Prabhupada’s version. It is not that Srila Prabhupada always accepted the versions of previous acaryas. Here is one example. In his purport to Bhagavatam texts 3.11.36-37, Srila Prabhupada comments: ❝According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti, the Brahma-kalpa in the beginning of the first half appears to be the Padma-kalpa. We can, however, simply abide by the text and understand that the present millennium is in the second half of the duration of the life of Brahma.❞
If there is an apparent difference between the statements of Srila Prabhupada and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, it is better proposed that we should accept the version of Srila Prabhupada, and place the statement of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, if apparently contradictory, in the category of “differences among the acaryas.” We should accept that in reality, he is saying the same thing as Srila Prabhupada, but in a way that we cannot yet understand.
But it could also be only a matter of different interpretation, that’s it. These interpretations aren’t contradictory, but they are digging various different meanings out of the same, sometimes for to give a different interpretation apart from the most obvious reading of that text. Srila Vishwanath Chakrawarti Thakur’s interpretation doesn’t negate or disagrees that jīvas fall from Vaikuṇṭha. There are innumerable such instances where different ācāryas often give different interpretation to the same. A simple example would be Bhagavad-gītā 11.15, where Arjuna informed that he sees Lord Brahma & Śiva within Lord’s universal form. This is the most obvious meaning of it, “brahmāṇam īśaṁ”, īśaṁ is a very prominent name of Lord Śiva. However, many ācāryas gave a totally different meaning and didn’t interpret īśaṁ as Lord Śiva. While Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa gives the most unique interpretation, for he interprets īśaṁ as Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu.These interpretations aren’t contradictory, but they are digging various different meanings out of the same, sometimes for to give a different interpretation apart from the most obvious reading of that text. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura named his Bhagavad-gītā commentary as Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī, which means “The shower of essential meanings”, and his Bhāgavatam commentary as Sārārtha-Darṣiṇī.
Yet if we are to only accept Vishwanath Chakrawarti Thākur’s interpretation, that would simply mean that the Jīva eternally existed in the repeated material creations, known as the nitya-samsaris, we didn’t came from any tatashtha region. It would directly refute the narration of the no-falldown theory also, particularly that of the Gaudiya-Mutt. Original no fall-down theory as that of Ramanuja Sampraday & Madhva Sampraday suggests we are nitya-samsaris, ever present in the material world, not that we came from tatastha region or border-line of the two worlds. The tatastha theory is nowhere supported by most of the no fallvadis themselves. Neither Vishwanath Chakrawarti Thakur, nor any of the Goswamis, ever said anything about tatastha theory, it was later found in the works of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur & Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, which, as explained in this article, was their transcendental preaching strategy.
Śrimad Bhagavatam (12.5.5) —
देहे मृते जीवो ब्रह्म सम्पद्यते पुन: ॥
“After leaving the body, the Jiva again [पुन:] attains his spiritual identity.”
Kalki Purana (Chap. 25, verses 14-17) —
cakankita sila ganga maranadapi tatksanat jyotir maya vumānena sadyo bhutva caturbhujau praptau vaikuntha nilayam sarva loka namaskrtam tatra sthitva yugasatar brahmano lokamagatau brahma loke pañca satan yuganam upabhuya vai devaloke kalavasad gatam yuga catuhsatam | tato bhuvi nrpāstávat baddha sinuraham smaran haver anugraham loke salagrama silásramam
❝ Because we had given up our lives while touching a salāgrāma-šilā on the shore of the holy Gandaki River, we were instantly awarded four armed forms and ascended to Vainkuntha in an effulgent celestial chariot. We resided there for one hundred yuga cycles and then were transferred to Brahmaloka. In Brahmaloka, we resided for five hundred yuga cycles and then descended to Svargaloka, where we resided for four hundred yuga cycles.
After residing in the heavenly planets, we were born in this mortal world. I can clearly remember how everything was made possible simply by the mercy of the salāgráma-sila and Lord Hari.❞
Objection — Here it could be argued that it is prapanca-vaikuntha which is being referred.
Refutation — And I would agree here, but the fact that scriptures always mention them as Vaikuṇṭha and never as Dhruva-loka, that shows that fall-down happens in Vaikuntha aswell. Thus the objection is self refuting. Either way the motive of the objection stands refuted.
Sri Sanatkumara samhita (verses 163-4) —
idam ānanda-kandākhyaṃ viddhi vṛndāvanaṃ mama yasmin praveśa-mātreṇa na punaḥ saṃsṛtiṃ viśet mad-vanaṃ prāpya yo mūḍhaḥ punar anyatra gacchati sa ātma-hā mahādeva sarvathā nātra saṃśayaḥ
❝ Know that My Vrindavana is filled with bliss. One who enters it never again enters the world of birth and death. One who, after entering My forest, leaves and goes somewhere else is a great fool. O Siva, it is as if he killed his own soul. Of this there is no doubt.❞
Devi Bhagavatam (29th Chapter, verses 25-28) —
सकामाच्च प्रधानश्च निष्कामो भक्त एव च । कर्मभोगी सकामश्च निष्कामो निरुपद्रवः || स याति देहं त्यक्त्वा च पदं यत्तन्निरामयम् । पुनरागमनं नास्ति तेषां निष्कामिनां सति ॥ सेवंते द्विभुजं कृष्णं परमात्मानमीश्वरम् | गोलोकं प्रति ते भक्ता दिव्यरूपविधारिणः || सकामिनो वैष्णवाश्च गत्वा वैकुण्ठमेव च । भारतं पुनरायांति तेषां जन्म द्विजातिषु ॥ काले गते च निष्कामा भवत्येव क्रमेण च । भक्ति च निर्मलां तेभ्यो दास्यामि निश्चितं पुनः॥
❝ The selfless devotees, after they quit their bodies, go to a place free from sickness or disease, pure and perfect. From there they do not come back. The selfless devotees assuming the divine forms go to the Goloka and worship the Highest God, the Highest Self, the two-armed Krisna. The selfish Vaisnavas go to Vaikuntha; but they come back to earth and get into the wombs of the twice-born. By degrees they also become selfless when they certainly acquire pure undefiled Bhakti.❞
Satvata Tantra (3.11) —
utpatti-pralayau caiva vidyavidye gatāgati esam jnanam vadanty anga jnanam sad-vidham uttamam
❝ O pious one, transcendental knowledge is of six kinds, knowledge of: 1. the creation of the material unierses, 2. the destruction of the material universes, 3. ignorance, 4. knowledge, 5. going (to the material world), and 6. returning (to the spiritual world).❞
Vishnu-dharmottara Purana —
King Vajra said; “O Brahmana, because time has no beginning therefore even if one person achieved liberation in each of the by gone kalpas, by now the world would be empty.”
Markandeya replied: “When someone is liberated, the Supreme Lord who possesses unlimited potency, creates another jiva (replaces) and thus always keeps the world full.”
The above verse from Vishnu-dharmottara was quoted by Srila Sanatana Gosvami himself in his work “Brihad Vaishnava Toshani”, an extensive commentary on the Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana, while commenting on Srimad Bhagavatam (10.87.30). Here the saying of Markandeya Rishi that Jīvas are created is not literal. It rather means that some Jīvas fall down to material world from the spiritual world & also act as a replacement of the liberated soul into the material world. Sri Baladeva Vidyabhushan in his Vedanta Sutra’s 3rd Pada, 1st Adhikara’s introduction says — ❝Individual spirit souls always existed, there not being a point in time when they were created.❞ Then in Adhikarana 11, Sutra 16, Acarya says — ❝The individual spirit souls are said to be created because they are effects of the Supreme. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has two potencies, and these are said to be His effects. In this way the scriptural description of the souls’ creation is not contradicted. In this way the scriptures are correct, and in this way, also, the individual spirit souls are never born.❞
Brahma-vaivarta Purana (Prakriti Khanda, Chap. 27, verses 95-97) —
शुक्लां वाप्यथा कृष्णां करोत्येकादशों च यः । वैकुण्ठे मोदते सोऽपि यावद्वै ब्रह्मणो वयः ॥ भारतं पुनरागत्य हरिभक्तिं लभेद्ध्रुवम् । पुनर्याति च वैकुण्ठं न तस्य पतनं भवेत् ॥
“The one who performs the Ekādasī-vrata during the bright or dark fortnight remains in Vaikuntha up to the age of Brahmā. Thereafter he is reborn in the land of Bharata and undoubtedly achieves the devotion of lord Visņu. With the influence of the same he goes back to Vaikuntha from where he never falls back.”
Narada Pancaratra (5th Ratra, 6th Chapter, verses 9-11) —
aśvamedham rajasuyam bārhaspatyam tathā trikam ati-ratram vajapeyam agnistomam tatha subham kṛtva yat phalam apnoti śrutvā tat phalam apnuyat kārttike căstamim prapya pathed va suyad api sahasra-yuga-kalpāntam vaikuntha-vasatim labhet tatas ca brahma-bhavane sivasya bhavane punaḥ
“The results one achieves by performing sacrifices, such as the aśvamedha, rajasuya, barhaspatya, trika, atirätra, vājapeya, and agniștoma, are easily achieved by hearing this prayer. If one recites or hears this prayer on Aștamī, in the month of Kārttika, he becomes qualified to reside in Vaikuntha for thousands of kalpas. Thereafter, he goes to Brahmaloka, Śivaloka or Indraloka and then eventually returns to Vaikuntha.”
There can be infinite such references. Whenever scriptures say about regaining our natural position, getting back to Goloka, that itself is an evidence of fall-down. Where is the question of regaining or going back, if we were never there? Scriptures are flooded with sayings that our true knowledge got covered, then where is the question of knowledge getting covered when we never possessed the knowledge? Scriptures say that we are were originally pure, but where is the question of being pure? Those falling from the border line of the two worlds were already fallen and impure, bereft of knowledge.
All Glories To Srila Prabhupada!