What If A Devotee Intentionally Commits A New Sin? by Srila Haridasa Thakura
“If the bound soul, baddha jiva, takes shelter of the pure name, which is śuddhasattva, transcendental and pure at all times, very quickly all anarthas, including weakness of the heart, will be eradicated. When one becomes fixed in the holy name, he will no longer think of committing sin and the effects of past sins will no longer influence him. This is due to his heart being purified by service to the holy name. “Sin may be analyzed in three stages. A sinful action is the final stage. This is caused by a seed of sin, or a desire to sin. That desire or seed originates in ignorance, which is the root cause. All three are considered the causes of the suffering of the jiva. However, Krishna is always merciful, ever looking to the welfare of His parts and parcel jiva s. He is not able to tolerate seeing their sufferings and consequently He always tries to help them. By prosecuting the process of bhakti, the thirst for material stimulation or the lust of the senses, is dispelled from the heart.
One is then able to look with contempt on the endeavor to obtain a beautiful woman or acquire wealth. One thus lives satisfied in his constitutional service to the Lord. The devotee accepts everything favorable to the cultivation of bhakti and rejects everything unfavorable to that. He regards Krishna as his sole protector and maintainer and he gives up all ideas based on the selfish concept of “I and mine.” Thinking himself lowly and worthless, the devotee can continuously chant the holy name. Whoever takes shelter of the name in this way can neither think of nor perform any sinful activity.
“It is guaranteed that quickly one will be purified from all sinful influence by this method. However, inevitably there is a phase between sinful life and the pure state and in this interim period there may be some relation with past sin, that is, some trace of his vanishing former sins. However, new sin is not being committed and the past sin is quickly dissipating. The more one engages in chanting the holy name, the quicker that sinful contamination will vanish. Krishna promised Arjuna that He would never let His devotee fall into trouble. Since trouble is caused by sin, this indicated tht Krishna mercifully takes away all sin from the devotee. Only with great trouble is the jñānī able to control sin, but without Krishna’s shelter, he will soon fall from his spotless position. Therefore, as scripture concludes, only by taking shelter of the Lord in bhakti is one’s spiritual safety guaranteed.
“If by accident a devotee happens to commit a sin, he does not resort to the purificatory rites of prāyaścitta (atonement) or karma-kānda rituals. That sin is temporary and by chanting it will be washed away, leaving no residual influence. However, there is another type of sin. If someone intentionally commits a new sin out of unchecked material desire, thinking that there will be no bad effect because of the name’s power in destroying sins, that person is not a contentious devotee but is known as a charlatan. From his offense against the name he will certain reap lamentation, fear and death. Thus, two types of sinful activities may be distinguished: an unpremeditated sin and a premeditated sin. In the view of the scriptures there is a marked difference between the two.
“In the case of unintentional sin, one can counteract it by prāyaścitta, but if one even thinks of committing sin on the strength of the holy name, so serious is the offense that there is no remedial measure. Even endless torture by the servants of Yamaraja cannot deliver a person from the offense. And if thinking of committing the offense to the name brings such suffering, how much more will be the suffering from actually committing such an act?
“An example is given. In scripture one hears that the holy name removes the effects of more sins than one can commit in ten million lifetimes. In countless places the scriptures state that by nāmābhāsa. all five types of sin, even the greatest sin, can be removed. Upon hearing this information a person of a cheating mentality, maystart chanting the holy name with an ill motive.
In the same way, a similarly crooked person may give up his regular duties work as troublesome and take the cloth of a renunciate, but continue to associate with women and wealth for sense gratification. Using the elevated position of a renunciate as a means of enjoying like a householder is a great disturbance to the social order and the universal harmony. Either as a householder or as a renunciate, there is no impediment to chanting the holy name and perfecting one’s life, provided one carries out his devotions according to the standard rules. However, to cherish the idea of committing sin under the shelter of the name is a great offense, and it will block all progress on the path of bhakti.
“One who is at the nāmābhāsa (middle) stage of chanting, is always in danger of committing this offense, especially if he does not have good association. However one who has advanced to the topmost stage of chanting śuddha-nāma does not commit this aparādha (offense). Those who have taken shelter of the pure name do not, at any time or in any way come near to committing any of the ten aparādhas. However, as long as one has not attained the stage of chanting the pure name, there is every danger of the onslaught of offense, and therefore the person in nāmābhāsa stage should be cautious of the mentality of committing sin on the strength of the holy name. Those who have the shelter of the pure name always live in association of pure Vaisnavas and are ever vigilant to avoid offenses. They are determined not to allow their mind to move from thought of Krishna, for even a moment. But one not on this platform should live in fear of offenses, particularly the offense of committing sin on the strength of chanting the holy name. This person should constantly chant the Lord’s name, and by the grace of the guru, acquire the understanding of relationship (sambandha jñāna), which will in turn give him authentic Krishna bhakti and allow him to purely chant the holy name of Krishna. If by fate one commits this offense, one should purify himself by associating with pure Vaisnavas. Sinful desires are like thieves on the road to bhakti, and the pure Vaisnavas are the protectors on that road. If someone loudly calls out to them the protector comes and the thief flees. O brothers, call their name in love and do not fear, for the Lord Himself has said, ‘I am your protector.”‘ Whoever vows to exclusively serve the feet of the Vaisnavas, considering himself the lowest of the low, is granted the right to joyfully chant the touchstone of the holy name of Krishna.
—Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi » The Holy Name Chapter 9 » Committing Sin on the Strength of the Name » Translated by Bhanu Swami.