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Unintentional Sins And Suffering in Life

Posted on: 01 Dec 2018
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,

Smt. Bindiya Chaudhry asked: I am Parikshit's wife who already is a devotee of Swamiji and I too am one. There is a question that is boggling me. First shat shat pranam to the all mighty Swami Dattatreya the unimaginable God. Some sins are obvious like killing someone or hurting, but how do we save ourselves from committing non obvious sins that lead to our sufferings? Can one live a human life without committing sins? If sins are unintentional how do we avoid their repeat in future? I am currently suffering from a deep problem and am asking Swamiji for forgiveness for my sins. Is forgiveness possible in the same human birth?- Bindiya Chaudhry w/o. Shri Pariikshit, Lawyer, Delhi.

Sins Done Without Intention

Swami replied: Sins done unintentionally, like accidentally stepping on and killing ants while walking on the road, do not yield punishments. When the intention is absent, the person is not directing the work towards sin, and so the fruit of sin also does not arise (Jnaanaagnidagdhakarmaanam, PadmapatramivaambhasaaGita). The inert energy needed for doing any work is supplied by God and it is never linked with the fruit since it is inert. It cannot have any intention which gives direction to the work. Intention is part of awareness and awareness has two sides:

  1. The soul or Aatman is the basic inert energy that produces awareness
  2. The individual soul or Jiiva is the produced awareness and is a bundle of thoughts.

Aatman is inert energy (SthaanurachaloyamGita). It is not touched by the fruits of deeds since it cannot have any intention. This Aatman is the limited amount of energy present in the finite human body and is like a drop of water. The same inert energy or Aatman is also qualitatively the material of the entire cosmos, which is like the ocean. The difference between the Aatman present in a body and the entire inert energy in the cosmos, is only quantitative (Nityah sarvagatah—Gita). Jiiva or the individual soul is the awareness in the form of a bundle of thoughts. It is responsible for the intention, and giving direction to the work. Unintentional sins are excused because in case of such actions even the Jiiva, which is responsible for the intention, remains silent. Since the Jiiva is not involved in the deed, it can also be considered as inert like the Aatman. Hence, in unintentional deeds no fruit is given to the Jiiva. When a sin is done with intention, the Jiiva gets the fruit since intention always belongs to the Jiiva. When ants get crushed under the feet of a human being, the fruit of sin does not arise and reach the human being, since the case is similar to ants getting crushed under a car on the road. There is no difference between an inert car and the human being in this case since the intention to kill is absent in both.

On the other hand, the case of intentional sin leads to punishment. Further, a person, who plans to kill somebody, is a worse criminal than the person whom he employs to kill another. Of course, the employed person is not like an inert car since he takes money to kill and commits the sin of killing. But he is a criminal of a lesser grade. He too will be equally punished due to his intention of earning money through sinful means. Your husband, being a lawyer, can explain this point with more clarity. In the case of sins done with intention, the direct doer of the sin, the employer of the direct doer, the promoter and the supporter; all share the fruit of the sin equally (kartaa kaarayitaa chaiva, prerakashchaanumodakah...). According to the divine constitution, the lawyer who supports the sin through his arguments for the sake of earning money, and a corrupt judge who supports the sin through his biased judgement, also share the sin equally. Even if there is a total failure of justice in courts run by human beings, the judgement of God does complete justice.

Four Types of Work

Let us consider the four types of work mentioned in the Gita.

  1. Karma yoga is God’s work done by a devotee on the path of Nivrutti to attain the abode of God or Brahma Loka.
  2. Karma is good social work done by the devotee on the path of Pravrutti to attain temporary good fruits in heaven or in this world. Both karma and karma yoga are often used in the same sense, but they differ tremendously.
  3. Vikarma is sinful action. It is the deeds that should not be done, and if done, the fruit of such sin is punishment in hell or sometimes punishment in this world itself.
  4. Akarma is inaction. Inaction or the avoidance of action should be applied only to the case of sinful action. In other words, only sinful action should be avoided. Avoiding good worldly action or avoiding the work done for God, is not recommended (Karmanohyapi boddhavyam—Gita).

Karma, which is doing good deeds for the sake of selfish enjoyment, and vikarma, which is sin, are related to each other and they constitute the phase of Pravrutti. Both are done for selfish enjoyment. As long as the desire for selfish enjoyment is limited, the person performs karma or good deeds, whereas when the desire reaches its climax, it leads to sins. It is for this reason that Shankara opposed Mandana Mishra, the Puurvamiimaamsaa, for following the path of doing deeds (Yajna) to attain temporary heavenly enjoyments. During that time, the philosophy of Puurvamiimamsaa  had fallen to such a low level that the followers had begun to say God does not exist (Devo na kashchchit...).

Meaning of Inaction in the Gita

In the Gita, total inaction (akarma) is mentioned in a verse (Sarvaarambhaparityaagii), which is misunderstood by people. They feel that the verse recommends that we should avoid doing any worldly work. In another verse, Lord Krishna also says to Arjuna that he should only do God’s work (Matkarmaparamo bhava—Gita). This is correct only in the case of an exceptional Nivrutti devotee. In the case of ordinary human devotees, it is not possible to stop all worldly work and only work for God. Of course, the devotee of Nivrutti  indeed follows this line of thinking, and he lives as a renounced saint, begging for his food. But in the case of Pravrutti devotees, who are not saints, the practical worldly problems make them perform some worldly work. They have to do some professional work for their livelihood and maintaining their family (Shariiraayaatraapicha te—Gita). They also do some social service for the welfare of the world (LokasangrahamevaapiGita) but they do it for selfish reasons. Of course, social work also forms a part of Nivrutti, which is God’s work. Helping people through the propagation of the spiritual knowledge of Pravrutti and Nivrutti is a necessary aspect of God’s work. But social service, which is done for selfish fame without devotion to God, or which is done for the sake of enjoyment of worldly or heavenly pleasures, is quite different. It cannot be treated as perfectly good action, although it is not sin. In any case, the maintenance of one’s body and one’s family are basic responsibilities. Social service in the form of the propagation of spiritual knowledge is also an important part of God’s work. The Gita does not recommend giving up such necessary and good actions (Niyatasya tu samnyaasah...—Gita).

The Gita says that one should give up all intentions (Yasya sarve Samaarambhaah—Gita) so that all actions get dropped (Naivakurvan na kaarayan—Gita). These verses must also be taken in the sense of giving up the intention of doing sinful deeds, which will naturally lead to the stopping of the sinful deeds. It certainly does not mean giving up good deeds or God’s work. The same authority, the Gita, which says that one should give up the intentions that cause the deeds, also recommends doing certain actions. So, one should clearly understand that it only recommends giving up sins and not good deeds or God’s work.

A person who gives up sin and performs good deeds for the welfare of the world in order to get fame or to reach heaven for selfish enjoyment, is in the middle-state between sin and Nivrutti. The person doing sins is far from Nivrutti, while the person doing good deeds for selfish reasons is relatively closer to Nivrutti. Earth is better than hell and heaven is better than earth. But the abode of God is far higher than even heaven. If the devotee does social service due to his devotion to God and not due to the desire for heaven, then that devotee reaches God. A person doing good deeds only for the enjoyment of heavenly pleasures, returns to earth and continues to rotate in the cycle of repeated births (kaamaatmaanah…, Kshiine punye…—Gita). Whenever the Gita preaches inaction, it always applies only to the three main types of sins, which are known as the three main gates to hell. They are illegal sex, violence and greediness. These sins are always to be avoided (Tasmaadetat trayam tyajet—Gita).

Sin (Paapam) and merit (Punyam) are decided based on a deep analysis of various factors. Lust (Kaama) is a sin. But lust in a justified worldly bond is not a sin (Dharmaaviruddhah kaamosmi—Gita). In an unjust and illegal worldly bond, even a trace of mental love or lust is sin. Violence or hurting is a sin. But killing demons is not a sin. Similarly, when a preacher hurts a person in order to lead him or her on the right path of justice, it is not a sin. The sin lies only in hurting good people or in the violence done towards them. Greediness is a sin. But when due to the greed, one avoids unnecessary and wasteful expenditure, it is not a sin. It is a sin if due to one’s greed, one avoids making necessary and justified expenditures. Similarly, greed which causes a person to earn money through corrupt means is sin. Hence, deep analysis is very important (Buddhiyukto jahaatiiha—Gita) in deciding what is sin and what is not sin.

Reformation and Salvation

Reformation is a golden opportunity given by God to us. It consists of three steps. The first step is related to knowledge. It is realization or Jnana Yoga, which is identifying the sin through analysis. The second step is related to emotions and it involves sincere repentance before God with deep devotion to Him, which is Bhakti yoga. The third and final step, is the practical step of Karma yoga in which you should not repeat the same sin in your life. Many fail in the third step. It is of no use because the third step is practical and the first two steps are merely theoretical. A person can be said to be reformed only when he does not repeat the sin practically. Some clever people try to exploit this concept thinking that they will reform their souls, just before death! Such over-intelligence brings double punishment as no one can cheat God since He is omniscient!

It is perfectly correct to say that a soul cannot remain idle; simply keeping silent without doing any action. This is clearly told in the Gita “Nahi Kashchit kshanamapi”. Even the Veda recommends action “Kurvanneveha karmaani…”. God never asks you to become inactive like an inert stone. Such inactivity is not only impossible but is also useless in the spiritual path. You have to learn both activity and inactivity in life. Inactivity should be applied in the context of doing or even desiring to do a sin. In other words, one should avoid doing or even desiring to do a sin. Activity should be applied by ordinary human beings following Pravrutti in doing good deeds that help society. Activity should be applied by exceptional devotees following Nivrutti in doing God’s work. The Gita stresses on both activity and inactivity in the context of these two separate paths respectively. In both these paths, you should do the work without getting attached to the fruit due to selfishness. When you are detached from the fruit of the work, you can do the work perfectly by concentrating your entire energy on the work (Karmanyevaadhikaaraste—Gita).

Devotees like Shankara, Meera etc. jumped straight to God’s work, avoiding all worldly work from their very childhood. It is a direct jump to salvation from the worldly bonds which is called as Saakshaanmukti and is attained by forming a very strong bond with God. Devotees like Ramanuja, Janaka etc., walked towards the same goal of salvation from worldly bonds passing through all the four states of life, which are known as the Aashramas. This gradual walking towards the goal is called Kramamukti and is applicable to the majority of human beings.

Severe Punishment Without a Serious Sin

Sometimes, we are punished here severely, even though we have not committed a sin, which is deserving of such a severe punishment. We get confused in such a situation thinking that God is cruel and a sadist. Such thinking is only due to our ignorance. In fact, the punishments for our sins are usually given only in the upper sub-world called hell. The reason is that we should not be disturbed in this sub-world called earth or Martya Loka while performing our worldly and divine duties. The upper worlds and sub-worlds are called bhoga lokas, which are places for enjoying the good and bad fruits of our deeds. Earth, on the other hand is called a karma loka, which is a place for doing deeds. This is the general rule, but there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is that intensive sins done here are punished here itself immediately. Another exception is that sometimes, the punishment for a sin committed in the previous birth is received here on earth. This happens in the case of killing animals for food. The killed animal thinks while dying that it too will kill the killer in the same way. So the animal of the previous birth is reborn as a butcher while the butcher and the consumers of the meat in the previous birth are born as animals and are killed by the butcher. In both these exceptions, the soul receives severe punishments here due to intensive sins committed previously in this birth or in the past birth respectively.

The case mentioned above, in which the soul is severely punished here in spite of not having done an equally severe sin in this birth, is different from the above two exceptions. In this case, since no severe sin has been done in this birth, as per the general rule, the soul should not be punished here for any sin done by it in the past birth. Why then is the soul punished here severely? This case is covered under another exceptional rule. Note that God is all-in-all. He is the Maker of the rules, and is beyond all the rules. Whenever He breaks any rule, it is only for some good purpose. All these rules regarding a soul’s deeds and the rewards and punishments for the deeds are only for the soul’s reformation. God does not give any punishment to a soul out of revenge. He is the Doctor who is treating the patient. The soul is the patient, who is to be cured. Sometimes, God feels that a person will be benefited and his or her reformation will progress better if some punishment is given at a certain time. So, He brings to the present life, a punishment which the soul was supposed to face in a future lifetime. It is like the premature withdrawal of a deposit from a bank, which leads to a loss in the value of the deposit. So the punishment, when preponed to the present, reduces in value. This is a benefit to the soul. Additionally, it accelerates the reformation of the soul. So, the soul gets a double benefit! This exception is made in the best interest of the soul. It is like the Supreme Doctor, God, deciding to increase the dosage of antibiotics for a patient, deviating from the regular treatment plan, to speed up the recovery of the patient. This exceptional rule, like all other rules related to the administration of the deeds of souls, clearly shows the loving kindness of God, the Divine Father for the souls, who are His children.

 
   

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