Every Sinner Has a Future

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The Seven Social Sins:

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.

Politics without principle.

MAHATMA GANDHI

Sin is a crime in the eyes of God. Crime is the term usually reserved for violating man-made rules. A crime is punishable in the court of law. A sin may also be a crime; however, there are sins that are not crimes, and there are crimes that are not sins. To illustrate with a few examples, wasting food is a sin, but not a crime. Parking the car in a ‘no parking zone’ is a crime, but not a sin. If a doctor refuses to attend to a patient in an emergency just because the patient is not in a position to pay the doctor’s fees, the doctor commits both a sin and a crime. One may decide to commit neither sins nor crimes, but the difficulty arises when the only choice is between committing either a crime or a sin. For example, if young people are compulsorily drafted by the government for a war which does not have much justification, the young man who refuses to fight commits a crime, whereas the one who fights commits the sin of killing innocent people.

Not all crimes are detected. Not in case of every crime that is detected is a suspect found. Not in every case where a suspect is available is the evidence enough to convict the accused. The result is that several crimes go unpunished. In contrast, all religious and spiritual traditions agree that no sin escapes the penetrating gaze of the Divine. However, they may differ in the way they look at the consequences of sin. The consequences may be suffering on earth in this life, suffering in hell, or suffering on earth in the next life, or some combination of these. In the Hindu tradition, specially as expounded by Sri Aurobindo, the approach to sin is rather sophisticated. First, the Divine that is watching all our thoughts and actions is not seated outside us somewhere high up in the sky, but is the God within us. Secondly, the Divine within not only watches us, but also guides us. However, It has also given us the free-will to ignore its guidance, and that is how we commit sins. The aspect of the Divine that guides us is an aspect of our soul, and Sri Aurobindo has called it the psychic being. Thirdly, the psychic being is also responsible for an in-built system of reward and punishment. When we act upon the voice of the psychic being, we experience joy. On the other hand, when we ignore the psychic being in favour of the voice of the head or the heart, we feel uneasy. Apart from this immediate reward or punishment, there are long term consequences of sin. First, sins tend to send the psychic being to sleep – it cannot be killed, but it can become dormant. That makes it more difficult to access the voice of the psychic being. It amounts to being ignored by the Divine. We are left to our poor devices of the mind to guide our lives. Secondly, sin widens the disharmony between the mind-intellect combine (the surface personality, or the superficial self) and the psychic being (the deepest Self). This is the root of all the distress in human life. Thirdly, each sin amounts to one step towards spiritual decline. Since the purpose of life is spiritual growth, each sin takes us away from realizing the goal of life. That is why, sins deprive us of a sense of fulfillment irrespective of how much success, wealth or power we might achieve on the material plane. Finally, the Divine ignores us, but never abandons us. After each step away from the goal of life, we still retain the capacity to move towards it. However, the further away we move from the goal, the longer and more tortuous becomes our journey towards the goal. In contrast, good thoughts and deeds make the journey shorter and simpler. Thus the Divine does not really relish inflicting pain and suffering on us for our sins. Sins have consequences, and the Divine has in its scheme also the provision for redirecting us towards the goal. Hence no sinner is beyond redemption. We get infinite opportunities for switching from the wrong path to the right one. By making the switch, a sinner today may be a saint tomorrow; in fact, many of the saints of today were sinners yesterday. That is why, it has been said that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. This vedantic wisdom has important implications for life. It makes us conscious of our sins, but once the sin has been committed, we do not let the sin weigh us down with a perpetual sense of guilt. We regret the sin, ask the Divine for forgiveness, and resolve not to repeat the same sin. We also renew our aspiration to grow spiritually by letting the voice of the psychic being prevail in the choices that we make in future.   

Author: Ramesh

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