The Residents Of the Spiritual Sky
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: When the order-carriers of Yamarāja, the son of the sun god, were thus forbidden, they replied, “Who are you, sirs, that have the audacity to challenge the jurisdiction of Yamarāja? Whose servants are you, where have you come from, and why are you forbidding us to touch the body of Ajāmila? Are you demigods from the heavenly planets, are you sub-demigods, or are you the best of devotees? Your eyes are just like the petals of lotus flowers. Dressed in yellow silken garments, decorated with garlands of lotuses, and wearing very attractive helmets on your heads and earrings on your ears, you all appear fresh and youthful. Your four long arms are decorated with bows and quivers of arrows and with swords, clubs, conchshells, discs, and lotus flowers. Your effulgence has dissipated the darkness here with extraordinary illumination. Now, sirs, why are you obstructing us?” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.32–36)
The sins Ajāmila had committed placed him within the jurisdiction of Yamarāja, the supreme judge appointed to consider the sins of the living entities. When forbidden to touch Ajāmila, the order-carriers of Yamarāja were surprised, because within all the three worlds no one had ever before hindered them in the execution of their duty.
The Viṣṇudūtas were coming from Vaikuṇṭha, and they appeared extraordinary, each with four arms. The servants of Yamarāja immediately received them with respect. They had no idea which planet the Viṣṇudūtas had come from, so they simply suggested, “You must have come from a very exalted planet, but why are you interfering with our business? We are Yamadūtas. It is our duty to arrest every sinful man, and Ajāmila has committed misdeeds throughout his life. Now, at the end of his life, we are authorized to take him to Yamarāja, the son of Vivasvān, the sun god, so why are you preventing us?”
The most significant word used in verse 32 is siddha-sattamāḥ, which means “the best of the perfect.” In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.3) it is said, manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye: out of millions of persons, one may try to become siddha, perfect – or, in other words, self-realized. A self-realized person knows that he is not the body but a spiritual soul (ahaṁ brahmāsmi). At present almost no one is aware of this fact, but one who understands this has attained perfection and is therefore called siddha. When one understands that the soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Soul and one thus engages in the devotional service of the Supreme Soul, one becomes siddha-sattama. One is then eligible to live in Vaikuṇṭha or Kṛṣṇaloka. The word siddha-sattama, therefore, refers to a pure devotee of the Lord.
Since the Yamadūtas are servants of Yamarāja, who is also one of the siddha-sattamas, they knew that a siddha-sattama is above the demigods and sub-demigods and, indeed, above all the living entities within this material world. The Yamadūtas therefore inquired why the Viṣṇudūtas were preventing them from carrying out the orders of such an exalted soul as Yamarāja.
It should also be noted that Ajāmila was not yet dead, for the Yamadūtas had been stopped before they could snatch the soul from his heart. Ajāmila was simply on the verge of death as the argument progressed between the Yamadūtas and the Viṣṇudūtas. The conclusion of that argument was to be a decision regarding who would claim the soul of Ajāmila.
The Viṣṇudūtas exactly resembled Lord Viṣṇu. The Yamadūtas had never seen them before, because the Yamadūtas stay in an atmosphere where only sinful activities are executed. Therefore they were astonished at the presence of these beautiful personalities and said, “By your bodily features you appear to be very exalted gentlemen, and you have such celestial power that you have dissipated the darkness of this material world with your effulgence. Why then should you endeavor to stop us from executing our duty?” It will be explained that the Yamadūtas, the order-carriers of Yamarāja, mistakenly considered Ajāmila sinful. They did not know that although he was sinful throughout his entire life, he was purified by constantly chanting the holy name of Nārāyaṇa.
The Viṣṇudūtas were so effulgent because they were residents of the spiritual world, where everyone and everything is self-effulgent. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.6), na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ: “My abode is not illuminated by the sun, the moon, fire, or electricity.” The Yamadūtas did not know where the Viṣṇudūtas had come from, but they could see that the Viṣṇudūtas were not ordinary, since they were so effulgent, they had four arms, and they were extremely beautiful.
The dress and bodily features of the residents of Vaikuṇṭha are accurately described in these verses. The residents of Vaikuṇṭha, who are decorated with garlands and yellow silken garments, have four arms holding a disc, flower, club, and conchshell. Thus they exactly resemble Lord Viṣṇu – except for one very prominent feature: the Kaustubha jewel, which the Lord wears on His chest. The residents of Vaikuṇṭha have the same bodily features as Nārāyaṇa because they have attained the liberation of sārūpya, but they nevertheless act as servants. All the residents of Vaikuṇṭha-loka know perfectly well that their master is Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, and that they are all His servants. They are all self-realized souls who are nitya-mukta, everlastingly liberated. Although they could conceivably declare themselves Nārāyaṇa, they never do so; they always remain Kṛṣṇa conscious and serve the Lord faithfully. Such is the atmosphere of Vaikuṇṭha-loka. Similarly, one who learns the faithful service of Lord Kṛṣṇa through the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will always remain in Vaikuṇṭha-loka and have nothing to do with the material world.
Beyond the Material World
In our conditioned state, we cannot know about the spiritual world. But the spiritual world exists. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.20), paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo: “Besides this inferior, material nature there is another, superior nature.” This material nature is one nature, comprised of millions and trillions of universes clustered together in one corner of the spiritual sky. We cannot even measure the sky covered by this one universe, within which there are innumerable planets; yet there are millions and trillions of universes in the entire material creation. And the entire material creation is only one fourth of existence. In other words, this whole material world is existing in one fourth of Kṛṣṇa’s energy. The other three fourths comprise the spiritual sky. Unfortunate persons think that this planet is all in all, but this is frog philosophy. A frog in a well cannot understand anything beyond the well, and he measures everything in terms of his well. When he is told about the ocean, he cannot imagine it. Similarly, persons with such a frog’s mentality imagine, “God is like this,” or “God’s kingdom is like that,” or “I am God,” or “There is no God.” But this is all foolishness.