Consciousness means to be endowed with free will. Without free will no consciousness can be conceived. Consciousness means free will. This individual point of consciousness (jiva) means very meager free will. By the exercise of his free will the jiva is asserting itself. It may go that side (Vaikuntha), or this side (the land of exploitation). Some jivas are going that side; some are coming this side from the marginal plane.

Free will is the first action of coming into the land of exploitation. It is by free choice. Svabhava, or independence, is already there in the jiva – the very nature is there. But as the resulting consequence, we see that some jivas have taken their chance on this side. They did not accept submission, but wanted to dominate. With this germinal idea of domination, the jiva enters into the world of exploitation. The consequence of exploitation is added to his free will, then that is the basis of all these developments in variegated nature. The original starting point is like that — the vulnerability of the free thinkers. Free thinking is vulnerable because it is very meager, small, anu-chaitanya, anu-svairiatva – limited freedom, limitation of free will. That is the cause of this world.

Maya is automatically the effect of the outcome of the vulnerable free will of the jiva. The world exists, just as the prison house exists due to evil desires for the encroachment on another’s property. If that misdeed is absent, then the prison house is absent. Prison houses are necessary. Kara-kartri – Durga-devi is kara-kartri. It is mentioned in Brahma-samhita, chayeva yasya bhuvanani vibharti durga. Kara-kartri – prison keeper.  Why prison?  There are prisons because there is vulnerability in the choice of freedom, leading to encroachment on another's property. Otherwise no world is necessary. But because it is possible, prison houses are there. If disease is absent, hospitals are absent. No disease — no hospital. No crime — no prison house. No misuse of free will – no world! 

No blame for the existence of this world or our suffering should be put on the shoulders of Krishna, nor on Maya. You and you alone are responsible for your own suffering. You are weak — your thinking, your capacity, your everything is weak.

Once in Puri, one gentleman came to our Guru Maharaja, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, and put a question, "How did our life in bondage begin? How it first started? Who is responsible – God, Maya, or jiva? There are three factors –God is there with His paramount power, Maya is there which comes to capture the jiva, and the jiva is independent we are told. Then how did it begin? What was the first cause of such a beginning – the jiva's contact with the world? The jiva is free, and God is, of course, absolutely free and Maya is there. Maya is playing with us. But when it first starts, who is responsible?"
Then Prabhupada answered but that gentleman couldn’t follow what he was saying. In various ways the gentleman was pushing his question and Prabhupada was very much feeling disturbance. A few other persons from our matha including Professor Sanyal, Vasudeva Prabhu and Hayagriva Prabhu were also present. I could not tolerate this, so I offered obeisances to Prabhupada and asked his permission that. "He cannot follow your urgent statements, so please order me to answer his question." Then Prabhupada happily said, "Yes, you may talk with him."

I told that man, "One by one let us analyze. Suppose if for the pleasure of God, God is the cause – then what is the next step?  What it will be?  The jiva is suffering from misery, and God is the cause of the suffering of the jiva – can you adjust it? He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is all-benevolent and He is the cause of such suffering? He is seeing the fun, and so many jivas, they are under misery, suffering like anything. He can deliver them also, but He does not do so. Can you accept that conception of Godhead?"
The gentleman replied, "No I can't."
"Then He cannot be the cause of the suffering of the jivas."
The gentleman agreed, "Yes."
"Then if Maya is the cause, so many other questions come. Is Maya more powerful than the jiva and God? Maya is torturing the jiva and the omniscient God is seeing the fun. Then there is no justice in the world. God is aloof and Maya is attacking and torturing the jiva. Is that the position of God?"
Then a few other steps also I explained, "The sufferer is responsible for his own suffering. If we leave the responsibility on the shoulders of Maya, these are the difficulties – on the shoulders of God, these are the difficulties. The cause of the suffering of the jiva, of the soul, must be within him (the jiva). It begins in this way – first it starts with free will. In the beginning it is like that of curiosity and then when you connect once with Maya, then Maya gets some influence over you. In this way, God does not come to interfere with the freedom of the soul.

Consciousness means endowed with freedom. But the jiva is a particle of consciousness, so his freedom is also a particle. The vulnerability of the free will of the jiva soul is the cause, the first starting point. Then Maya comes. Just as when one begins taking any intoxication – first it starts with something like curiosity, and then the intoxication gets some position, some impulse is created, momentum, then he loses his freedom. The free will of the jiva gradually comes into the clutches of Maya losing it's own free choice. Then that gentleman admitted, “It is true.”

Free will is there and that is the rub. Some say in disappointment, "Why has Krishna given such dangerous free will to us, by misusing which we are under eternal suffering? Why has He given? He is omniscient – He is all-knowing. Then knowingly we can misuse. Why He has given such a thing to us? Why has an adult given a dagger in the hand of an infant, that he may stab himself?"

However, devoid of free will, the jiva is only a material thing. Free will is very valuable and with the help of that, the jiva can taste rasa. The tongue has been given to taste sweet also, not only bitter things. If the tongue is devoid of taste, then also he will not be able to experience sweetness at any time. Because we are only touching bitter things to the tongue, we are abusing the Creator, "Why has He given us the tongue and we are tasting these bitter things?" But at the same time, to taste sweet things the tongue is necessary.

In the service of Krishna, free will is necessary – for the serving purpose of the Lord. Temporarily coming in connection with bitter things, we shall abuse the Creator, "Why has He given?” Some bad things are disturbing my ears, so should we think that the ears should be abolished? The eyes should be abolished because I have to see some undesirable sight? Because the eyes have been given, then the prospect is that we will have to see such charming beauty. If eyesight is withdrawn, then we are left as a stone. So free will is the very gist of everything. If that is snatched away, then we are reduced to stone. That is not desirable to anyone. Everything has got its bright side, and for that it has been created, it has been given to us. By misuse of free will we suffer, and by good use we thrive.

Some are coming into the world of exploitation to suffer, some to the world of dedication to thrive. And the beginning should be attributed to the innate tendency of the jiva, his innate nature, which is endowed with free will, free choice.
na kartritvam na karmani
lokasya srijati prabhuh
na karma-phala-samyogam
svabhavas tu pravartate

 The Absolute Truth does not create anyone’s sense of proprietorship, one’s actions or the results of those actions. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.  (Gita 5.14)

It is substantiated in the Bhagavad-gita that the jiva is responsible for entering into the land of exploitation. The first awakening of freedom, free will, is from the non-specified position when the jivas are all jumbled together — undifferentiated character, glowing only (Brahma-jyoti), they are coming with free will. By free choice they are going this side and that side.

Otherwise Krishna will be responsible for their distressed condition. But, in this verse (na kartritvam na karmani…) Krishna says, "I am not responsible for the activities of the jiva. I have given them freedom, and they are working freely. And the clash between them is the cause of their disturbance. But when they leave their wholesale attention to their social activity and come to Me, they will get relief from all."
The jiva’s own innate nature is responsible for that condition. The first awakening of the jiva is free will and free choice. Free means they can go this side and that side. Because the jiva is very tiny, anukta-prayukta, his free will is also not perfect. We have free choice. The result of that free choice is that some came this way, some went that side. It is unintelligible that Krishna is responsible for the jiva’s suffering. The responsibility is with the jiva because freedom is given to him.

Someone may say that, svarupe sabara haya golokete sthiti – in the innermost existence we all have connection with Krishna, but that is not true about the section that comes from the tatastha-sakti. Kara sarvani bhutani, kuthashto 'kara uchyate –all the jivas come from a particular potency of the Lord which is known as tatastha. Mahaprabhu says:

 jivera-svarupa hay krishnera nitya dasa
jivera tatashta shakti bhedabheda prakasha

 The constitutional position of the jiva is to be the eternal servant of Krishna. He is the marginal potency of Krishna and simultaneously different and non-different from Him. (Cc. Madhya. 20.108)

The internal potency is already going on smoothly, eternally, in svarupa-shakti – Vaikuntha, and Goloka. And the marginal potency is the mother of so many jivas that come here by the wrong exercise of their freedom. But there is adaptability within. Just as while he is in the marginal potency, in the buffer state, he can come this side, he can come that side also.  The jiva has got his adaptability with both sides. He is not in Goloka – he has not fell from there – but he has got his internal adaptability to come in favorable circumstances, then he will bloom to fruit and attain that position.

Free service is necessary, not forced labor. Devotion is not forced labor, but devotion is voluntary service. The jiva soul will be happy when freedom is there, but he cannot feel satisfaction if he is forced into service. Devotion is free cooperation and free service, and forced labor is not devotion nor is it service, nor is it dedication. By the nature of things, Krishna cannot interfere and He does not interfere. Not even God, what to speak of His devotees, will interfere with the free will of the jiva soul.  Freedom is indispensable for the soul and it cannot be snatched away.

Freedom does not mean absolute freedom. Because the soul's existence is small, his freedom is defective – there is the possibility of committing a mistake. Freedom of the minute soul does not mean perfect freedom. Complete freedom would be perfect reality, but the minute soul is endowed with the smallest atomic freedom. This is the position of the atoms of consciousness, and this is why they are vulnerable. They may judge properly or improperly; that is the position of those who are situated in the marginal position. If the soul were not endowed with the freedom to determine his position, we would have to blame God for our suffering. But we cannot blame God. The starting point of the soul's suffering is within himself.

This is in the clear introspection of the sadhaka. The very subtle-most thing, the starting point, cannot be detected by ordinary consciousness. The participation of the soul in this material world has been called anadi – that which has no beginning, because it affects before he enters into the factor of time and space –jadiya-kala. But one can see that this is limited. However lengthy it may seem to the victims of Maya, still it is a limited thing.

The jiva's connection with this mayika world is called anadi. Anadi means beginningless. But anadi has been explained in this way – why is it anadi? Because after he enters this phenomenal world, then he comes within the factor of space and time. Space begins – time begins. It is conditional. The time calculation of the world only begins when we enter the mayika ego and we come within the form of thought. Time, space, person – these are the forms of thought and they come from ego – this ego of the non-eternal aspect, the phenomenal aspect.

Everything in its innate nature has got a real connection with the Lord. The inner thing is more important than the outer impressions so that must be given preference. We must think in that way. Then we can find that this mayika existence is temporary, though it is told anadi. Anadi means before it enters this world of mundane thinking, the primal stage of conscious existence. So, although it is told as anadi (beginningless), still it has got adi (a beginning) in the spiritual record. 

From a plain sheet of uniform consciousness, when specifications begin, movement begins and then individual conscious units grow. Because it is conscious, it is endowed with free will, and by free choice from the buffer position, from the marginal position, they have to take one side – the side of exploitation, or the side of dedication. By exercise of their free will they start, and as a result we see that some come towards exploitation and some go towards dedication. If we are to analyze to the extreme, then we are to follow such a train of thought. Anadi bahira-mukha. Anadi means that which has no beginning. Then why after they enter the land of exploitation, do they begin to come within the form of thought, place and time? Before time, before the conception of this material time, there is movement – so anadi.  Firstly, bahira-mukhata means the tendency towards exploitation. At the beginning, the first tendency is towards exploitation. When jivas enter the area of exploitation, then that comes within the factor of time and space, the thought of the mundane world. So it is said, anadi bahira-mukha. Some enter this side and some may go towards Vaikuntha. In this way, the equilibrium is disturbed and the dynamic character of this world begins in the negative side.

The jiva has got his beginning, but does not come within the jurisdiction of the world of limitation until he exercises his free will. Out of curiosity he first enters into this land. From then he comes under the factor of this limited world. His participation is beyond the beginning of this limited world. Therefore, it is said, anadi. Anadi means does not come within the jurisdiction of this limited world. First participation begins, then entrance into the world of consideration. First there is subtle participation and then the jiva comes within calculation. Mundane calculation is not possible within the eternal world. The jiva comes within the jurisdiction of mundane calculation after subtle participation. The jiva’s beginning is before. Anadi – before this finite relativity.

It is a very intricate question – troublesome, intricate and puzzling. The nature of too much discussion may oppose faith. Ultimately, everything is adhoksaja. Krishna, Narayana – that is adhoksaja. We must have some respect for that and it is approachable only through faith – sraddha, and not by intellectual reason or argument. The solution is not within our mental scope. Mahaprabhu says acintya. It is not within the bound of your intellect.

So when we are discussing things it should be only to understand the shrauta-siddhanta (conclusions heard from the previous acharyas), the positive thing that has been given to us. We may try our best to use our experience to know the wholesale character of it, but too much of this will disturb our faith. The possibility is there. We must always keep it in the background of our discussion – that His ways are unknown and unknowable; we cannot bring Him within our fist.