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Papa and Punya
(HinduDharma: Religion In General)

Nobody wants to be known as a sinner, but all the same we keep transgressing the bounds of morality and disobey the divine law. We wish to enjoy the fruits of virtue without being morally good and without doing anything meritorious.

Arjuna says to Bhagavan Krsna: "No man wants to commit sin. Even so, Krsna, he does evil again and again. What is it that drives him so? ". The lord replies "It is desire. Yes, it is desire, Arjuna ".

We try to gain the object of our desire with no thought of right or wrong (Dharma or Adharma). Is fire put out by ghee poured into it? . No, it rises higher and higher. Likewise, when we gratify one desire, another, much worse, crops up. Are we to take it, then, that it would be better if our desires were not satisfied? - No. Unfulfilled desire causes anger, so too failure to obtain the object we hanker after. Like a rubber ball thrown against the wall such an unsatisfied desire comes back to us in the form of anger and goads us into committing sin. Krsna speaks of such anger as being next only to desire (as an evil).

Only by banishing desire from our hearts may we remain free from sin. How is it done? We cannot but be performing our works. Even when we are physically inactive, our mind remains active. All our mental and bodily activity revolves around our desires. And these desires thrust us deeper and deeper into sin. Is it, then, possible to remain without doing any work? Human nature being what it is, the answer is "No". "-- It is difficult to quell one's thinking nor is it easy to remain without doing anything-- ", says Tayumanavasvamigal. We may stop doing work with the body, but how do we keep the mind quiet? The mind is never still. Apart from being until itself, it incites the body to action.

We are unable either to efface our desires or to cease from all action. Does it then mean that liberation is beyond us? Is there no way out of the problem? Yes, there is. It is not necessary that we should altogether stop our actions in our present immature predicament. But instead of working for our selfish ends, we ought to be engaged in such work as would bring benefits to the world as well as to our inward life. The more we are involved in such work the less we will be drawn by desire. This will to some extent keep us away from sin and at the same time enable us to do more meritorious work. We must learn the habit of doing work without any selfish motives. Work done without any desire for the fruit thereof is Punya or virtuous action.

We sin in four different ways. With our body we do evil; with our tongue we speak untruth; with our mind we think evil; and with our money we do so much that is wicked. We must learn to turn these very four means of evil into instruments of virtue.

We must serve others with our body and circumambulate the Lord and prostrate ourselves before him. In this way we earn merit. How do we use our tongue to add our stock of virtue? By muttering, by repeating, the names of the Lord. You will perhaps excuse yourself saying: "All our time is spent in earning our livelihood. How can we think of God or repeat his names? " A householder has a family to maintain; but is he all the time working for it? How much time does he waste in gossip, in amusements, in speaking ill of others, in reading the papers? Can't he spare a few moments to remember the Lord? He need not set apart a particular hour of the day for his japa. He may think of God even on the bus or the train as he goes to his office or any other place. Not a paisa is he going to take with him finally after his lifelong pursuit of money. The Lord's name (Bhagavannama) is the only current coin in the other world.

The mind is the abode of Isvara but we make a rubbish can of it. We must cleanse it, install the Lord in it and be at peace with ourselves. We must devote atleast five minutes every day to meditation and resolve to do so even if the world crashes around us. There is nothing else that will give us a helping hand when the world cosmos is dissolved.

It is by helping the poor and by spreading the glory of the Lord that we will earn merit.

Papa, sinful action, is two-pronged in its evil power. The first incites us to wrong-doing now. The second goads us into doing evil tomorrow. For instance, if you take snuff now you suffer now. But tomorrow also you will have the same yearning to take the same. This is what is called the vasana that comes of habit. An effort must be made not only to reduce such vasana but also cultivate the vasana of virtue by doing good deeds.

It is bad vasana that drags us again and again into wrong-doing. Unfortunately, we do not seem to harbour any fear on that score. People like us, indeed even those known to have sinned much, have become devotees of the Lord and obtained light and wisdom. How is Isvara qualified to to be called great if he is not compassionate, and does not protect sinners also? It is because of sinners like us that he has come to have the title of "Patitapavana" [he who sanctifies or lifts up the fallen with his grace]. It is we who have brought him such a distinction.

"Come to me, your only refuge. I shall free you from all sins. Have no fear (sarvapapebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah). " The assurance that Sri Krsna gives to free us from sin is absolute. So let us learn to be courageous. To tie up an object you wind a string round it again and again. If it is to be untied you will have to do the unwinding in a similar manner. To eradicate the vasana or sinning you must develop the vasana of doing good to an equal degree. In between there ought to be neither haste nor anger. With haste and anger the thread you keep unwinding will get tangled again. Isvara will come to our help if we have patience, if we have faith in him and if we are rooted in dharma.

The goal of all religions is to wean away man- his mind, his speech and his body- from sensual pleasure and lead him towards the Lord. Great men have appeared from time to time and established their religions with the goal of releasing people from attachment to their senses, for it is our senses that impel us to sin. "Transitory is the joy derived from sinful action, from sensual pleasure. Bliss is union with the Paramatman. " Such is the teaching of all religions and their goal is to free man from worldly existence by leading him towards the Lord.

"Hindu Dharma" is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here