A devotee of the Lord is never a disturbing element in society—on the contrary, he is a great social asset. Since no sincere devotee is attracted to sinful actions, as soon as a man becomes a pure devotee he can do inestimable selfless service to society for the peace and prosperity of all concerned, in this life and in the next. But even if such a devotee commits some offense, the Lord Himself rectifies it in no time. Therefore, there is no need for a devotee to cultivate materialistic knowledge, nor does a devotee need to renounce everything and live as a hermit. He can simply remain at home and execute devotional service smoothly in any order of life. And there are instances in history of extremely cruel men becoming kindhearted simply by the execution of devotional service. Knowledge and abnegation of an inferior way of life follow automatically in the life of a pure devotee without his having to make extraneous effort.
This spiritual art and science of devotional service is the highest contribution of Indian sages to the rest of the world. Therefore everyone who has taken his birth in India has an obligation to perfect his life by adopting the principles of this great art and science and distributing it to the rest of the world, which is still ignorant of the ultimate aim of life. Human society is destined to reach this stage of perfection by gradual development of knowledge. Indian sages, however, have already reached that position. Why do others have to wait for thousands and thousands of years to attain their heights? Why not give them the information immediately in a systematic way, so that they may save time and energy? They should take advantage of a life for which they may have labored millions of years to attain.
A Russian fiction writer is now contributing suggestions to the rest of the world that scientific progress can help man to live forever. Of course, he does not believe in a Supreme Being who is the creator. Yet we welcome his suggestion because we know that actual progress in scientific knowledge will certainly take men to the spiritual sky and inform the scientist that there is a supreme creator who has full potencies beyond all materialistic scientific conceptions.
As mentioned, every living being is eternal in form, but he has to change his outer coverings, gross and subtle, and this changing process is technically known as life and death. As long as a living being has to put on the shackles of material bondage, there is no relief from this changing process, which continues even in the highest stage of material life. The Russian fiction writer may speculate, as fiction writers are apt to do, but saner people with some knowledge of natural law will not agree that man can life forever within this material world.
A naturalist can see the general course of material nature simply by studying a piece of fruit. A small fruit develops from a flower, grows, stays for some time on a branch, becomes full-grown, ripens, then begins to dwindle daily until it finally falls from the tree and commences to decompose into the earth and at last mingles with the earth, leaving behind its seed which in its turn grows to become a tree and produces many fruits in time, which will all meet the same fate, and so on and so on.
Similarly, a living being (as a spiritual spark, a part of the Supreme Being) takes its organic form in the womb of a mother just after sexual intercourse. It grows little by little within the womb, is born, then continues growing, becomes a child, boy, youth, adult, old man, then finally dwindles and meets death, despite all the good wishes and hopeful pipe dreams of fiction writers. By comparison, there is no difference between man and the fruit. Like the fruit, the man may leave behind him his seeds of numerous children, but he cannot exist eternally within his material body due to the law of material nature.
How can anyone ignore the law of material nature? No material scientist can change the stringent laws of nature, however boastful he may be. No astronomer or scientist can change the course of the planets—he can only manufacture a paltry toy planet which he calls a satellite. Foolish children may be impressed by this and may give a great deal of credit to the inventors of modern satellites, sputniks, etc., but the saner section of humanity gives more credit to the creator of the gigantic satellites, namely the sun, stars and planets of which the material scientist can see no end. If a small toy satellite has a creator in Russia or America, it is reasonable that the gigantic satellites have their creator in the spiritual sky. If a toy satellite requires so many scientific brains for its manufacture and its orbiting, what kind of subtle and perfect brain created galaxies of stars and maintains them in their orbits? Thus far the atheistic class have not been able to answer this.
Nonbelievers put forward their own theories of the creation, which usually result in statements such as, "It's hard to understand," "Our imagination cannot conceive it, but it's quite possible," "It's incomprehensible," and so forth. This only means that their information has no authoritative basis and is not backed by scientific data. They simply speculate. However, authorized information is available in the Bhagavad-gītā. For instance, the Bhagavad-gītā informs us that within the material world there are living beings whose duration of life covers 4,300,000 x 1,000 x 2 x 30 x 12 x 100 solar years. We accept the Bhagavad-gītā as authority because this book of knowledge was so accepted by India's great sages like Śaṅkarācārya, Śrī Rāmānujācārya, Śrī Madhvācārya and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The Bhagavad-gītā indicates that in the material world all component forms are subject to decay and death, regardless of their duration of life.
Therefore all material shapes are subject to the law of change, although potentially the material energy is conserved. Potentially, everything is eternal, but in the material world matter takes shape, remains for some time, develops into maturity, grows old, begins to dwindle and at last disappears again. This is the case with all material objects. The materialist's suggestion that beyond the material sky there is "some other form" which is beyond the boundary of visibility and which is strange and inconceivable is but a faint indication of the spiritual sky. However, the basic principle of spirit is much closer—for it functions within all living beings. When that spiritual principle is out of the material body, then the material body has no life. Within the body of a child, for instance, the spiritual principle is present, and therefore changes take place in the body and it develops. But if the spirit leaves the body, the development stops. This law is applicable to every material object. Matter transforms from one shape to another when it is in contact with spirit. Without spirit there is no transformation. The entire universe develops in that way. It emanates from the energy of the Transcendence because of the spiritual force which is His, and it develops into gigantic forms like the sun, moon, earth, etc. There are fourteen divisions of planetary systems, and although they are all different in dimension and quality, the same principle of development holds true for all. The spiritual force is the creator, and by this spiritual principle only, transformation, transition and development take place.