The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God)



The month starts on a rather negative note! Evil is not absolute, but has a frightening ephemeral existence that it will not do to ignore. But it is also futile to waste our life lamenting over it. Krishna gives it just the status it deserves - as a pointer to the wrong road, as a warning sign, as a beacon to guide the navigator.

Where does this evil exist? What is sin? Now does one overcome sin? Does the Lord forgive us? Can we get the better of our fate? These questions have been discussed endlessly by both scholars and laymen.

One day I was explaining to a few students the law of karma, vis-a-vis the above problem and remarked: "If you do not want a seed you have sown to sprout, you must pull it out. For this purpose you will have to dig down to the same depth as originally, to get hold of the seed." A member of the audience burst out laughing; that is exactly what she had done the previous day!

Rajas (activity) based on tamas (stupidity) is sin or evil. In order to cancel it we should resort to rajas based on sattva (purity). The intensity and the "depth" should be at least the same in both cases. Should there be any difference, the latter should go deeper than the former.

Tapas or penance or austerity has always been resorted to for the purpose of absolution. What does tapas do? It burns (tapas means burning) the veil (evil mis-spelt), reveals the truth and corrects the error of perception. We had taken the unreal body, senses and the world to be the reality; and hence had fallen into the trap of evil. That misconception must be replaced by the right knowledge of God as the self and sole reality. Not by merely uttering a set formula like aham brahmasmi but by affirming God as the only reality through our thought, word and deed. To make sure that there is no self-deception, we deliberately mortify the body and the senses. It is often the self-deluding ego that rebels against this, advancing a convenient philosophy in excuse. (On the other hand, if repentance is done mechanically without burning the veil of ignorance, this very tapas may feed the ego!)

The "pain" thus self-inflicted in wise austerity also cancels the external karma. The karma which demands "restoration of balance" is thus faced (not evaded) and worked out willingly. It also removes the guilty conscience. Krishna gives a new meaning to tapas: a simple, austere life and goodness. You will readily see how this positively destroys the veil of ignorance by denying the mind and senses the delusion-fattening food of self-indulging pleasure.

However, evil done to another is not entirely rooted out by any amount of self-punishment. The offended must forgive the offender. The Holy Bible makes this clear. There is an interesting incident in the life of lord Gauranga, which illustrates this. Though he actually took upon himself the sins of a villain, the latter could not gain peace of mind till those whom he had offended had forgiven him.

God-realization or self-realization is like an earthquake compared to our feeble attempts to pull out the seeds sown. It destroys all sins, all sinful tendencies and that root of all sins - ignorance of God.

True atonement (at-one-ment) is when the self is realized to be one with God, and all evil realized as dream and non-existent. Even an attempt to realize the self frees one from great fear, says the Lord; and sincere prayer to the Lord can earn for us his all-forgiving mercy. When does one know that his forgiveness has been earned? When evil thought does not even arise in the mind.


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