Thursday, July 23, 2009

Transcending Sin

Goddess Durga praying to Narayana “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Lord Jesus Christ is the founder of the modern day Christian religion. As the son of God, he was a dedicated preacher of God consciousness at a time when religion was on the decline. He challenged the established practices of society and begged people to put all their faith and trust in God. A preacher of the Vaishnava mold, he was so fearless in his efforts that he even willingly accepted crucifixion and forgave those who caused his death.

Christians commonly believe that Jesus died for their sins. This is definitely true, for a bona fide preacher spreading the message of God voluntarily accepts all the risks associated with such service. A preacher has no fear of even going to hell as long as God is satisfied with the work being done. However, just because Jesus died for our sins, does it mean that we should continue to willfully commit sins? America and much of the world has descended into a sinner’s paradise. Innocent cows are slaughtered by the millions each year, babies are being aborted in the womb, gambling is becoming more and more acceptable, and intoxication is so common that there is even a growing movement to increase the number of legalized drugs. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are legal activities, though regulated, but apparently those forms of intoxication aren’t enough. There is now a growing movement to legalize marijuana sale and use. Many are already smoking it illegally under the radar of the government.

So sinful life is very common today and leaders of the major religions don’t seem to be doing much to curb it. In Christianity, the proposed solution is to have those identified as “sinners” attend confessional meeting with priests. “Forgiven me father, for I have sinned” is how these sessions are generally started. Now this is a very nice system, for we should all beg forgiveness for our sins. Thinking of God in that way, we can purify ourselves. However, we see that many people don’t even bother attending confessionals, and if they do, they go right back to sinning after the session. Thus the system hasn’t proved to be very effective. Simple forgiveness is not enough. We should mold our lives in such a way so as to stop such sinful activity.

If confessionals don’t work, then what else can be done? How do we solve the problem? The Vedas tell us that there are four primary components to sinful life: meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. The regulative principles of devotional service state that one should refrain from these activities. Vedic literature also discusses various sins and means for atonement at great length. For example, if a brahmana, one who belongs to the priestly class of men, should happen to drink alcohol, it is recommended that he should force himself to drink burning hot alcohol as a means of punishment and atonement. There are many similar processes of atonement ranging from standing neck deep in cold water to fasting for days at a time, each of these relating to specific sins. These processes may represent a more potent form of sin eradication, but they still aren’t one hundred percent effective.

Lord Krishna appeared on this earth as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. Born as the eldest son of the great king of Ayodhya, Dashratha, Rama was the heir apparent to the throne. The king had decided to hand over the kingdom to Rama, but on the day set for the installation, Dashratha was forced to change his mind due to a promise he had made to his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Instead of being the new king, Lord Rama was ordered to live in the forest as a recluse for fourteen years. After such time had passed, He would then be allowed to return to the kingdom. Upon being given this directive, the Lord went to His palace to gather His things and inform His wife, Sita Devi, of the news. Rama told Sita to remain in the kingdom and faithfully serve the elders and the new king-to-be, Rama’s younger brother Bharata. Sita heard Rama’s request, and she immediately rejected it. She begged the Lord to take her with Him to the forest. As part of her plea, Sita confidently asserted that she was completely sinless and that the Lord should never forsake such a person.

“Do you confidently take me with you, Oh great hero. Just as the water left after drinking, you should renounce your impatience and indignation. There exists no sin in me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Sita Rama Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Narayana, or God. Raised in the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka, she was completely pure at heart and well versed in all the rules of propriety. However, it was not for this reason that she was sinless. Her greatest attribute was that she was completely devoted to Lord Rama, who was God Himself. From Sita’s example, we can see how one can actually transcend sinful life. Sin can never touch one who is completely devoted to God and who lovingly serves Him. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna’s final instruction to Arjuna was that he should surrender unto Him, become His devotee, and thus become free from all sinful reactions.

Sita knew all the rituals and rites pertaining to the Vedas, and she strictly followed them. However, her devotion to her husband superseded all of that. Lord Rama gave her all these reasons why she should remain at home, but Sita rejected all of them since she was completely Krishna conscious. Lord Rama eventually relented and allowed Sita to accompany Him in exile. The Lord is actually with all of us through His expansion as the Supersoul or Paramatma. Keeping our minds always fixed upon Him and connecting with the Supersoul, we will realize that God is our constant companion.

“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.8)

From Sita Devi’s example, we learn the one and only foolproof method of transcending sin. If we take to the process of devotional service by lovingly chanting the Lord’s name, hearing stories about Him, and offering Him prayers, then we will become truly sinless and God will always be with us.