Q: When did the ātman enter the material world?
A: The existence of the ātman in the material world is anādi, i.e., without beginning.
Q: So why is the ātman in the material world?
A: The question is ill-posed. An event that occurs in time can be traced back to a cause. But a beginningless existence means that there was no point in time when the ātman’s existence in the material world first ‘happened’. The question of a cause does not arise.
Q: Whose fault is it that the ātman exists in the material world ?
A: Again, there is no cause for it, therefore it is nobody’s fault.
Q: Aren’t the ātmans in the spiritual world different from those in the material world?
A: No, they are not different in their intrinsic properties. They differ in what energy they are controlled by- bhakti, or prakrti.
Q: It seems very unfair that for no fault of their own, the ātman is suffering in the material world.
A: The ātman is not suffering. All suffering is thought processing in the mind. The ātman remains unmodified.
Q: That is not very convincing.
A: It may not be, but that is how the mind and body works. Is there any evidence to contradict the fact that all suffering is ultimately a sensation in the mind? If we reject the existence of the ātman, who is suffering? If we accept its existence, who is suffering?