“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।
icchādveṣasamutthena dvandvamohena bhārata।
sarvabhūtāni saṃmohaṃ sarge yānti parantapa।।
Friend1: You knew this day was coming. I finally have to ask.
Friend2: I can’t even begin to guess.
Friend1: This is a carryover from other faiths.
Friend2: What is being compared? Other than what? You think Krishna consciousness is a faith?
Friend1: You know what I mean. When discussing competing philosophies, religions, what have you – they are known in common conversation as faiths. I understand that sanatana-dharma is the eternal way of living. It is different from ordinary religion.
Friend2: Because it is not something you accept or reject. You neither inherit it from your parents nor pass it on to someone else. You don’t believe in it, either. Sanatana-dharma is simply the way things are. We don’t say that we believe in the law of gravity or in the effect of sunshine on the plants.
Friend1: Those are scientific principles.
Friend2: And so sanatana-dharma is the science of an existence. Anyway, what about these other faiths?
Friend1: There is this concept of being a sinner. You have to repent. That is the only way to salvation. Every person must make this acknowledgment.
Friend2: What if you are unable to make the distinction?
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: If the mental capacity is lacking to understand piety, sin, birth, death, and the like, what is the outlook? Is such a person doomed? A child has no chance at salvation? The living being who doesn’t make it out of the womb is forever shut off from eternal life?
Friend1: Listen, those are good questions. I don’t have answers for you, since these faiths only mention eternal life with respect to heaven and hell. They don’t deal with the past or the artificial drawing of timelines, such as between birth and death.
Friend2: Alright, so what are you bothering me about, then?
Friend1: This concept of everyone being a sinner. Is it true? Does sanatana-dharma have something similar?
Friend2: In the science of self-realization you get the genuine idea of piety and sin. Piety, punya, is moving closer towards the original, constitutional position. Sin, papa, is the opposite. It’s like the hot and cold game.
Friend1: Therefore, sin is not in my best interest. I would be better off moving closer towards liberation. What about at the time of birth, though? What is the situation? Where is the individual in terms of the scale of progress?
Friend2: Shri Krishna provides some clarity in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that every person is born into delusion. They are overcome by the dualities of attachment and aversion. This is the primary effect of a sinful condition. In other words, I forget about God. The fact that I am in a condition where body and spirit are different means that there is a hint of sin. Liberation is removing the duality.
Friend1: I see. Does everyone need to repent?
Friend2: Escape the illusion. Out of the darkness and into the light. Nothing to repent, since we’ve committed too many mistakes to count. Goswami Tulsidas says that the cumulative effect of the many past lives can be erased in an instant. Today, right now. No need to wait until tomorrow or the afterlife, even.
बिगरी जनम अनेक की सुधरै अबहीं आजु |
होहि राम को नाम जपु तुलसी तजि कुसमाजु ||
bigarī janama aneka kī sudharai abahīṃ āju |
hohi rāma ko nāma japu tulasī taji kusamāju ||
“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)
Friend1: Would an outsider consider that sectarian?
Friend2: Who cares what they think? Rama is the holy name. It is one way to address the Almighty. That sound is transcendental. It is not part of the illusion, though it may be heard when in the conditioned state. The more a person hears such a name, the more purified they become. The darkness dissipates more quickly when there is good association, sat-sanga. More than just repenting, understand that there is a higher way of living. Liberation is not the end; it is the very essence of eternal life. It is full of joy and bliss; it is not miserable or full of suffering. Get a taste through the wisdom offered by the acharya, who recommends staying with the holy names through the power of mantra meditation: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With maha-mantra stay,
For good association’s way.
Whether as sinner or not,
Birth in this body got.