Sin and Suffering
Pāpa - Duḥkhe
Sin and Suffering
Loose us from the yoke of the sins of our Fathers and also of those we ourselves have committed. Release your servant, as a thief is set free from his crime or as a calf is loosed from its cord.
Rig Veda 7.86.5 ve, 516
Why Is There Suffering in the World?
The nature of the world is duality. It contains each thing and its opposite: joy and sorrow, goodness and evil, love and hate. Through experience of these, we learn and evolve, finally seeking Truth beyond all opposites. Aum.
There is a divine purpose even in the existence of suffering in the world. Suffering cannot be totally avoided. It is a natural part of human life and the impetus for much spiritual growth for the soul.
Knowing this, the wise accept suffering from any source, be it hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, famine, wars, disease or inexplicable tragedies. Just as the intense fire of the furnace purifies gold, so does suffering purify the soul to resplendence.
So also does suffering offer us the important realization that true happiness and freedom cannot be found in the world, for earthly joy is inextricably bound to sorrow, and worldly freedom to bondage.
Having learned this, devotees seek a satguru who teaches them to understand suffering, and brings them into the intentional hardships of sādhana and tapas leading to liberation from the cycles of experience in the realm of duality.
The Āgamas explain:
“That which appears as cold or as hot, fresh or spoiled, good fortune and bad, love and hate, effort and laziness, the exalted and the depraved, the rich and the poor, the well-founded and the ill-founded, all this is God Himself; none other than Him can we know.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
This is the dramatic moment in the life of Gautama the Buddha when he saw, for the first time, illness, old age, death and suffering. While Buddhists view suffering as the root obstacle to liberation, Hindus see it as part of God’s divine purpose.
What Is Sin? How Can We Atone for It?
Sin is the intentional transgression of divine law. There is no inherent or “original” sin. Neither is there mortal sin by which the soul is forever lost. Through sādhana, worship and austerities, sins can be atoned for. Aum.
What men term sin, the wise call ignorance. Man’s true nature is not sullied by sin. Sin is related only to the lower, instinctive- intellectual nature as a transgression of dharma.
Still, sin is real and to be avoided, for our wrongful actions return to us as sorrow through the law of karma.
Sin is terminable, and its effects may be compensated for by penance, or prāyaśchitta, and good deeds which settle the karmic debt.
The young soul, less in tune with his soul nature, is inclined toward sin; the old soul seldom transgresses divine law. Sins are the crippling distortions of intellect bound in emotion.
When we sin, we take the energy and distort it to our instinctive favor. When we are unjust and mean, hateful and holding resentments year after year and no one but ourselves knows of our intrigue and corruption, we suffer.
As the soul evolves, it eventually feels the great burden of faults and misdeeds and wishes to atone. Penance is performed, and the soul seeks absolution from society and beseeches God’s exonerating grace.
The Vedas say:
“Loose me from my sin as from a bond that binds me. May my life swell the stream of your river of Right.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Does Hell Really Exist? Is There a Satan?
There is no eternal hell, nor is there a Satan. However, there are hellish states of mind and woeful births for those who think and act wrongfully—temporary tormenting conditions that lift the fiery forces within. Aum.
Hell, termed Naraka, is the lower astral realm of the seven chakras below the Mūlādhāra.
It is a place of fire and heat, anguish and dismay, of confusion, despair and depression. Here anger, jealousy, argument, mental conflict and tormenting moods plague the mind.
Access to hell is brought about by our own thoughts, words, deeds and emotions—suppressed, antagonistic feelings that court demons and their aggressive forces.
Hell is not eternal. Nor is there a Satan who tempts man and opposes God’s power, though there are devilish beings called asuras, immature souls caught in the abyss of deception and hurtfulness.
We do not have to die to suffer the Naraka regions, for hellish states of mind are also experienced in the physical world.
If we do die in a hellish state of consciousness—burdened by unresolved hatred, remorse, resentment, fear and distorted patterns of thought—we arrive in Naraka fully equipped to join others in this temporary astral purgatory.
The Vedas say:
“Sunless and demonic, verily, are those worlds, and enveloped in blinding darkness, to which all those people who are enemies of their own souls go after death.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Hindus acknowledge no satan, no evil force opposed to God, and no eternal hell. However, there is a dark, miserable state, the Narakaloka, where souls suffer the results of their actions. Even this is not apart from Śiva, who reigns in all worlds.
What Is the Consequence of Sinful Acts?
When we do not think, speak and act virtuously, we create negative karmas and bring suffering upon ourselves and others. We suffer when we act instinctively and intellectually without superconscious guidance. Aum.
We are happy, serene and stable when we follow good conduct, when we listen to our conscience, the knowing voice of the soul. The superconscious mind, the mind of our soul, knows and inspires good conduct, out of which comes a refined, sustainable culture.
Wrongdoing and vice lead us away from God, deep into the darkness of doubt, despair and self-condemnation. This brings the asuras around us. We are out of harmony with ourselves and our family and must seek companionship elsewhere, amongst those who are also crude, unmindful, greedy and lacking in self-control.
In this bad company, burdensome new karma is created, as good conduct cannot be followed. This pāpa accumulates, blinding us to the religious life we once lived.
Penance and throwing ourselves upon the mercy of God and the Gods are the only release for the un-virtuous, those who conduct themselves poorly. Fortunately, our Gods are compassionate and love their devotees.
The ancient Vedas elucidate:
“The mind is said to be two-fold: the pure and also the impure; impure by union with desire— pure when from desire completely free!” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
A man is brutally wounding himself for his misdeeds as Lord Śiva softly touches the axe blade, indicating this punishment should cease. It is we who cause our own suffering when we act immorally, and we who earn our forgiveness through penance.
Does God Ever Punish Wrongdoers?
God is perfect goodness, love and truth. He is not wrathful or vengeful. He does not condemn or punish wrongdoers. Jealousy, vengefulness and vanity are qualities of man’s instinctive nature, not of God. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
There is no reason to ever fear God, whose right-hand gesture, Abhayā mudra, indicates “fear not,” and whose left hand invites approach.
God is with us always, even when we are unaware of that holy presence. He is His creation. It is an extension of Himself; and God is never apart from it nor limited by it.
When we act wrongly, we create negative karma for ourselves and must then live through experiences of suffering to fulfill the law of karma. Such karmas may be painful, but they were generated from our own thoughts and deeds.
God never punishes us, even if we do not believe in Him. It is by means of worship of and meditation on God that our self-created sufferings are softened and assuaged.
God is the God of all—of the believers within all religions, and of the nonbelievers, too. God does not destroy the wicked and redeem the righteous; but grants the precious gift of liberation to all souls.
The Āgamas state:
“When the soul gradually reduces and then stops altogether its participation in darkness and inauspicious powers, the Friend of the World, God, reveals to the soul the limitless character of its knowledge and activity.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
When, to a man who knows, all beings have become one with his own Self, when furthermore he perceives this oneness, how then can sorrow or delusion touch him?
Śukla Yajur Veda, Īśa Upaniṣad 7. ve, 815
I glorify Him who is of wonderful radiance like the sun, who is the giver of happiness, lovely, benevolent, and the One whom all welcome like a guest.
He bestows vigor upon the worshipers; may He, the fire divine, remove our sorrow and give us heroic strength and all sustaining riches.
Rig Veda 10.122.1. rvp, 4617
I go for refuge to God who is One in the silence of eternity, pure radiance of beauty and perfection, in whom we find our peace. He is the bridge supreme which leads to immortality, and the spirit of fire which burns the dross of lower life.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.19. upm, 96
When a seer sees the creator of golden hue, the Lord, the Person, the source of Brahma, then being a knower, shaking off good and evil and free from stain, he attains supreme equality with the Lord.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upanishad 3.1.3. upr, 686
Only by a tranquil mind does one destroy all action, good or bad. Once the self is pacified, one abides in the Self and attains everlasting bliss.
If the mind becomes as firmly established in Brahman as it is usually attached to the sense objects, who, then, will not be released from bondage?
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upaniṣad 6.34. ve, 422
Words cannot describe the joy of the soul whose impurities are cleansed in deep contemplation—who is one with his atman, his own Spirit. Only those who feel this joy know what it is.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 6.34. upm, 103
Even though he causes pain to his patient by applying certain remedies, the physician is not taken to be the cause of the suffering, because in the final analysis he has produced the good that was sought after.
Mṛigendra Āgama, Jñāna Pāda 7.A.18. ma, 184
If we have sinned, awake, asleep, knowing, unknowing, through evil nature, may Agni banish far from us all such hateful wicked deeds.
Rig Veda 10.164.3. ve, 488
Disputes, worldly associations and quarrels should be avoided. Not even spiritual disputations should be indulged in, whether good or bad. Jealousy, slander, pomp, passion, envy, love, anger, fear and misery should all disappear gradually and entirely.
Devīkālottara Āgama, Jñāna Pāda 77-78. rm, 116
And even if thou wert the greatest of sinners, with the help of the vessel of wisdom thou shalt cross the sea of evil. Even as a burning fire burns all fuel into ashes, the fire of eternal wisdom burns into ashes all works.
Bhagavad Gita 4.36-37. bgm, 64
The virtuous wife, devotee true and jñāni great—those who do exceeding harm to shock these, their life and wealth will in a year disappear.
Tirumantiram 532. tm
O, my Lord, the five senses have taken possession of my body and driven me away from your holy feet. I am confused and troubled at heart, like the curd which is being churned. Bestow enlightenment upon me.
Tirumurai 4. hy, 11
As the intense fire of the furnace refines gold to brilliance, so does the burning suffering of austerity purify the soul to resplendence.
Thirukural 267. ww
As a man’s shadow follows his footsteps wherever he goes, even so will destruction pursue those who commit sinful deeds.
Thirukural 208. ww
A physician takes various roots, mixes them together into one medicine and with it cures the disease. Likewise, the great, All-Knowing Physician, by giving to the soul its body, faculties, the world and all its experiences, cures its disease and establishes it in the bliss of liberation.
Natchintanai, “Seek the Profit...” nt, 11-12