Animals and Karma

I am very confused about the law of karma, which states that our current body and condition is a result of our action in past lives. However, if we were, say, a plant or animal in a past life, how can a living being without consciousness be expected to perform actions that will eliminate karma and free us from reincarnation? And if we only ever have an opportunity for liberation in our form as a human, then what is the point of being reincarnated in all those other forms of life?
Via the Internet

Our reply: Consciousness is what makes a body alive. When consciousness leaves the body, there is death. Animals and plants are alive and have been shown to demonstrate symptoms of consciousness. But only in the human form of life can one accrue and burn away karma. In all other forms, the soul or consciousness simply suffers and enjoys the results of actions done in the human form. So animals and plants, even though they have consciousness, cannot perform actions to eliminate karma.

The living entity is reincarnated in plant and animal forms because of material desires. Such births are a kind of bondage. When one develops the mentality of an animal, disregarding the opportunity afforded by the human form to cultivate spiritual life, one is given the opportunity to continue that mentality in an animal form. That is the reason for the existence of all the other forms of life.

What Is Moksha?

Why should I pray to God to give me moksha? How would I come to know that I am following the path of moksha? What would happen to me if I attained moksha? Don’t you think one should take birth time and again to devote time to prayer and doing the best for the society in which one is living instead of getting moksha?
Bharat Bhushan
Via the Internet

Our reply: Moksha means to be released from material life, which is life without Krishna. When we practice bhakti-yoga, we are already living a life with Krishna and so have attained moksha.

Yes, you are right. A pure devotee does not pray to Krishna to give moksha, because the devotee does not mind whether he is in this world or goes back to Krishna. All the devotee wants is to keep serving the Lord wherever he is.

By following the path of bhakti-yoga as explained by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, you can know that you are following the path of moksha. When you practice bhakti-yoga and take shelter of Krishna, you will become free of material desires, develop pure devotion to Krishna, and directly experience Him. This is similar to eating, by which one gets satisfaction, nourishment, and relief from hunger.

In his prayers, Prahlada told the Lord that he did not want moksha but wanted to continue to do the best for the society by giving all people devotion to Krishna. By getting devotion, one becomes freed of all problems.

Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma

From reading your books I have learned that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and from Him come Maha-Vishnu, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, and Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. He also expands as Brahma to create, as Vishnu to protect and maintain, and as Shiva to annihilate. Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are demigods and Lord Vishnu is not. Lord Vishnu is rather said to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In so many places, Srila Prabhupada has cited both Krishna and Vishnu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Shiva is not like other demigods. He is much higher than them. Even Lord Rama used to worship Shiva before commencing major activities.

In ranking, Krishna comes first, then Maha-Vishnu, and then other Vishnus. But Vishnu is cited as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I find this confusing. Please help me.
Durga Basnet
Via the Internet

Our reply: Yes, Krishna expands as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to manage the material creation. Brahma is almost always a jiva (infinitesimal soul) and not Vishnu-tattva (God). Shiva is not a jiva, nor is he Vishnu-tattva. Shiva is almost like Vishnu, just as curd is milk but not milk. So Shiva is Vishnu but not totally identical.

Vishnu, even though coming from Krishna, is still the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should know that ultimately everything spiritual always exists. So the jivas, Vishnu, and Krishna are eternal and always exist. When we say that Vishnu comes from Krishna, it means that the form of Vishnu does not manifest all the qualities that Krishna manifests. We jivas also come from Krishna, but we manifest even fewer qualities.

In summary, Krishna expands (or manifests fewer qualities) as the Vishnus, and one of these Vishnus (Kshirodakashayi) maintains this world. Brahma is a jiva, and Shiva is a powerful demigod.


In the January/February issue, the Chaitanya-charitamrita was identified as a sixteenth-century text. It was actually completed in 1615.

In the January/February issue, the article “Cow Protection in Europe” contained several errors because we mixed up photos of the Hare Krishna farms in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

On page 39, the caption should read “The temple at New Vraja-dhama in Hungary.” Also on page 39, in the text of the article under the subheading “Cows at the Manor,” the second sentence should begin, “Before we arrived in Hungary at the New Vraja-dhama farm, which hosted the conference, . . .”

On page 41, the photo caption should read “. . . garden production at New Vraja-dhama. . .” and “. . . in the restaurant of the New Vraja-dhama temple.”

We apologize for these errors.