Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada's instructions in question-and-answer form.
Question: Is this world really a prison house for the conditioned souls?
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada: "Those who do not desire anything from this material world are called niskincana devotees. In their opinion, there is nothing, no object or entity in this world, that can give us perpetual happiness. This earth is a prison house for the conditioned soul. As a result of our aversion to Krsna we have become prisoners here and are thus suffering so much pain and agony. As prisoners we are under the control of the jailor of this prison house – our mind – and consequently we conceive of our sorrow to be happiness. By this we attain our due distress. Every fool who runs after sense enjoyment in this illusory material world will find himself entangled by nescience in the clutches of maya.
Those who are grha-vrata, who have taken a vow to enter into and enjoy worldly life, think, "We must get a servant and, now that we have become grha-vrata, we shall easily manage everything and easily understand everything with the help of our very own senses." The desire to become a politician, a litterateur, a scholar, a wealthy person, an altruist, the leader of a nation, an intellectual or a materialist in general is nothing but the desire to become the master of maya.
However, Prahlada Maharaja says, "Do not let your senses wander towards the outside worlds. Do not hold external material objects in esteem." We have become deha-atmavadis (those who consider the body to be the self) and grha-vrata (those who have taken a vow to enter into and enjoy worldly life), and thus we dress ourselves up as masters of this world. We view this world with eyes that seek selfish gratification and enjoyment, and we think that all should be our servants, ever prepared to wait upon us.
All elements like earth, water, fire, air, ether; as well as the moon, the sun, the planets, the constellations; plants, animals, trees and creepers – all are ripe for my enjoyment. We think, "I am the enjoyer of this world; everyone in it is meant to serve me." But do we ever consider whom this world is actually for? It is an instrument to be used in the service of Jagadisvara, the Lord of the Universe. If we are not engaged in hari-bhajana then we do not even have the right to take a piece of straw from this world."