Friday, June 28, 2013

what is sin?

Verse 3.36: Arjuna said: O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

**I'd like to dedicate this post to two bhakti yogis - my father and Dr. Carl Herzig (Kalachandji Dasa). Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights and realizations.**

Today's post was written in fact, I started it yesterday! I knew I wanted to focus on the word sin when all of a sudden I realized, "I don't know what the bhakti yoga definition of sin actually is!!!" It served as a reminder as to why I started writing on the Gita.

This blog is a humble effort to make the Gita practical, relevant and understandable to those are reading it and/or are interested in - yoga, self-discovery and life. Well...that's one of the reasons why I write. ;) The other is so that I can continue to learn, grow and understand the Gita better so that I can become a better bhakti yogi.

That's why I'd like to preface this post by saying - this is just an introduction to the topic of sin. By no means is it a comprehensive and complete explanation.

Awhile back, I wrote a post on how each of us view words, situations and ideas based on our own experiences. Certainly, this holds true when one hears the word "sin". I'm sure that all of you have different definitions based on cultural context, religious/spiritual traditions, and personal opinion.

Personally, I've always found sin to be a somewhat vague concept and so I was curious to find out what the bhakti texts had to say. After hearing from two of my bhakti mentors and doing further research, I was able to distill it down to this:

Sins are impediments, in the form of attitudes and activities, that prevent one from experiencing their natural state of "eternal joy".

Now that might sound a bit simplistic to some and I would have to agree. However, it does help to shed a bit more light on the subject matter. An impediment is a hinderance or obstruction and that's exactly what sins do. Specifically, they impede us in two ways:

1) Prevent us from understanding that we are eternal souls.
2) Prevent us from connecting (i.e. yoga) with the Supreme.

So what are those attitudes and activities that prevent us from experiencing eternal joy? Let's start with activities first as they're a bit easier to tackle. Essentially, any activity that results in karma (whether good or bad) acts an impediment. Why's that? Because we don't always get the result of our karma in one lifetime. In order to receive that karma one needs to take on another temporary material body.

The solution is that we perform activities that result in no karma (akarma). This naturally leads us to the question of attitude. When one performs any action with the attitude of enjoying the result, one automatically receives karma. As we previously discussed when exploring the topic of non-attachment, when we perform our activities, all the while giving thanks to the Supreme, we incur no karma. It's not that one can't enjoy...don't get me wrong. It's about offering it to the Supreme in gratitude first; then we enjoy.

This is just the beginning of our exploration into the topic of sin, so stay tuned! Tomorrow we'll find out the answer to Arjuna's very interesting question - By what are we sometimes impelled to perform sinful actions acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?


  1. Vrndavana, this is an amazing reflection - so many people these days do not want to even hear the word "sin". But, it's exactly what they need to realize that they commit when not seeking God and honoring their eternal souls.
    Our pastor told us that the Greek translation for "sin" means "missing the mark" as in shooting an arrow at a target. We can miss by an inch or we can miss by a mile - still, we miss! In other words, sin is sin, no matter how large or small.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights, my friend. So glad to have a friend on this spiritual journey.

    1. What you say is so true Martha about many people not wanting to hear the word sin. Although I can't speak for everyone, I do believe that for some it could be because they feel guilty (something I'm saving for another post!). But as one of my mentors, Carl, told me...sin is just as much about forgiveness as it is about "missing the mark". Btw, I love that! It makes so much sense.

      Thank you so much for sharing that! I always learn such new and insightful things from you! So glad to have you as a friend on this spiritual journey as well! Blessings and hugs back!

  2. Vrndavana, I love your interpretation here! I have never resonated with the harsh, rigid and judgmental version of many organized religions. Your premise rings true for me - that "Sins are impediments, in the form of attitudes and activities, that prevent one from experiencing their natural state of 'eternal joy'." I am not interested in judging the world; I'm interested in becoming the best version of myself that I can manage on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. In this respect, Truth, for me, is that we are accountable and responsible for the Self that we present to the world. What I present reflects back to me, so it makes sense for me to govern my thoughts and actions and put energy into embracing my natural state of eternal joy. That is where/how/why I want something exponential to occur!



    1. Hi Dawn! I love what you said about "I'm interested in becoming the best version of myself that I can manage on a daily, moment-by-moment basis." That's very practical and doable.

      Also, impediments are something we can overcome by blessings, knowledge and perseverance. It's so much more positive and encouraging, is it not? :D


  3. Like others, I appreciate this view of sin as a block to God's joy and peace, rather than as something evil. I like Martha's reminder that the word means error, or missing the mark. An error can be corrected, a block can be removed, both without condemnation and judgment and punishment. I look forward to further posts on this topic.

    1. I'm sorry for the late reply Galen. Thank you so much for your comment! It's viewing sin as a block it gives one more inspiration to remove that the barrier as opposed to just thinking it is hopeless.