Jump to content
Washington DC Message Boards

Unintentional Sins


Recommended Posts

Unintentional Sins



Sins done unintentionally, like accidentally stepping on and killing ants while walking on the road, do not yield punishments. When the intention is absent, the person is not directing the work towards sin, and so the fruit of sin also does not arise (Jñānāgni dagdha karmāṇam, padma patramivāmbhasā—Gita). The inert energy needed for doing any work is supplied by God and it is never linked with the fruit since it is inert. It cannot have any intention which gives direction to the work. Intention is part of awareness and awareness has two sides:


The soul or ātman is the basic inert energy that produces awareness

ii) The individual soul or jīva is the produced awareness and is a bundle of thoughts.

Ātman is inert energy (Sthāṇurachalo’yam—Gītā). It is not touched by the fruits of deeds since it cannot have any intention. This Ātman is the limited amount of energy present in the finite human body and is like a drop of water. The same inert energy or ātman is also qualitatively the material of the entire cosmos, which is like the ocean. The difference between the ātman present in a body and the entire inert energy in the cosmos, is only quantitative (Nityaḥ sarvagataḥ—Gītā). Jīva or the individual soul is the awareness in the form of a bundle of thoughts.

It is responsible for the intention, and giving direction to the work. Unintentional sins are excused because in case of such actions even the jīva, which is responsible for the intention, remains silent. Since the jīva is not involved in the deed, it can also be considered as inert like the ātman. Hence, in unintentional deeds no fruit is given to the jīva. When a sin is done with intention, the jīva gets the fruit since intention always belongs to the jīva. When ants get crushed under the feet of a human being, the fruit of sin does not arise and reach the human being, since the case is similar to ants getting crushed under a car on the road. There is no difference between an inert car and the human being in this case since the intention to kill is absent in both.

On the other hand, the case of intentional sin leads to punishment. Further, a person, who plans to kill somebody, is a worse criminal than the person whom he employs to kill another. Of course, the employed person is not like an inert car since he takes money to kill and commits the sin of killing. But he is a criminal of a lesser grade. He too will be equally punished due to his intention of earning money through sinful means.

Your husband, being a lawyer, can explain this point with more clarity. In the case of sins done with intention, the direct doer of the sin, the employer of the direct doer, the promoter and the supporter; all share the fruit of the sin equally (kartā kārayitā caiva, prerakaścānumodakaḥ...). According to the divine constitution, the lawyer who supports the sin through his arguments for the sake of earning money, and a corrupt judge who supports the sin through his biased judgement, also share the sin equally. Even if there is a total failure of justice in courts run by human beings, the judgement of God does complete justice.

Four Types of Work

Let us consider the four types of work mentioned in the Gītā.

i) Karma yoga is God’s work done by a devotee on the path of nivṛtti to attain the abode of God or Brahma Loka.

ii) Karma is good social work done by the devotee on the path of pravṛtti to attain temporary good fruits in heaven or in this world. Both karma and karma yoga are often used in the same sense, but they differ tremendously.

iii) Vikarma is sinful action. It is the deeds that should not be done, and if done, the fruit of such sin is punishment in hell or sometimes punishment in this world itself.

iv) Akarma is inaction. Inaction or the avoidance of action should be applied only to the case of sinful action. In other words, only sinful action should be avoided. Avoiding good worldly action or avoiding the work done for God, is not recommended (Karmaṇohyapi boddhavyam—Gītā).

Karma, which is doing good deeds for the sake of selfish enjoyment, and vikarma, which is sin, are related to each other and they constitute the phase of pravṛtti. Both are done for selfish enjoyment. As long as the desire for selfish enjoyment is limited, the person performs karma or good deeds, whereas when the desire reaches its climax, it leads to sins. It is for this reason that Śaṅkara opposed Maṇḍana Miśra, the Pūrva Mīmāṁsāka, for following the path of doing deeds (yajña) to attain temporary heavenly enjoyments. During that time, the philosophy of Pūrva Mīmāṁsā had fallen to such a low level that the followers had begun to say God does not exist (Devo na kaścit...).

Meaning of Inaction in the Gītā

In the Gītā, total inaction (akarma) is mentioned in a verse (Sarvārambha parityāgī), which is misunderstood by people. They feel that the verse recommends that we should avoid doing any worldly work. In another verse, Lord Krishna also says to Arjuna that he should only do God’s work (Matkarmaparamo bhava—Gītā). This is correct only in the case of an exceptional nivṛtti devotee. In the case of ordinary human devotees, it is not possible to stop all worldly work and only work for God. Of course, the devotee of nivṛtti indeed follows this line of thinking, and he lives as a renounced saint, begging for his food. But in the case of pravṛtti devotees, who are not saints, the practical worldly problems make them perform some worldly work. They have to do some professional work for their livelihood and maintaining their family (Śarīrayātrāpica te—Gītā).

They also do some social service for the welfare of the world (Lokasaṅgrahamevāpi—Gītā) but they do it for selfish reasons. Of course, social work also forms a part of nivṛtti, which is God’s work. Helping people through the propagation of the spiritual knowledge of pravṛtti and nivṛtti is a necessary aspect of God’s work. But social service, which is done for selfish fame without devotion to God, or which is done for the sake of enjoyment of worldly or heavenly pleasures, is quite different. It cannot be treated as perfectly good action, although it is not sin. In any case, the maintenance of one’s body and one’s family are basic responsibilities. Social service in the form of the propagation of spiritual knowledge is also an important part of God’s work. The Gītā does not recommend giving up such necessary and good actions (Niyatasya tu saṁnyāsaḥ...—Gītā).

The Gītā says that one should give up all intentions (Yasya sarve samārambhāḥ—Gītā) so that all actions get dropped (Naivakurvan na kārayan—Gītā). These verses must also be taken in the sense of giving up the intention of doing sinful deeds, which will naturally lead to the stopping of the sinful deeds. It certainly does not mean giving up good deeds or God’s work. The same authority, the Gītā, which says that one should give up the intentions that cause the deeds, also recommends doing certain actions. So, one should clearly understand that it only recommends giving up sins and not good deeds or God’s work.

A person who gives up sin and performs good deeds for the welfare of the world in order to get fame or to reach heaven for selfish enjoyment, is in the middle-state between sin and nivṛtti. The person doing sins is far from nivṛtti, while the person doing good deeds for selfish reasons is relatively closer to nivṛtti. Earth is better than hell and heaven is better than earth. But the abode of God is far higher than even heaven. If the devotee does social service due to his devotion to God and not due to the desire for heaven, then that devotee reaches God. A person doing good deeds only for the enjoyment of heavenly pleasures, returns to earth and continues to rotate in the cycle of repeated births (Kāmātmānaḥ…, Kṣīṇe puṇye…—Gītā). Whenever the Gītā preaches inaction, it always applies only to the three main types of sins, which are known as the three main gates to hell. They are illegal sex, violence and greediness. These sins are always to be avoided (Tasmādetat trayam tyajet—Gītā).

Sin (pāpam) and merit (puṇyam) are decided based on a deep analysis of various factors. Lust (kāma) is a sin. But lust in a justified worldly bond is not a sin (Dharmāviruddhaḥ kāmo’smi—Gītā).

In an unjust and illegal worldly bond, even a trace of mental love or lust is sin. Violence or hurting is a sin. But killing demons is not a sin. Similarly, when a preacher hurts a person in order to lead him or her on the right path of justice, it is not a sin. The sin lies only in hurting good people or in the violence done towards them. Greediness is a sin. But when due to the greed, one avoids unnecessary and wasteful expenditure, it is not a sin. It is a sin if due to one’s greed, one avoids making necessary and justified expenditures. Similarly, greed which causes a person to earn money through corrupt means is sin. Hence, deep analysis is very important (Buddhiyukto jahātīha—Gītā) in deciding what is sin and what is not sin.

Reformation and Salvation

Reformation is a golden opportunity given by God to us. It consists of three steps. The first step is related to knowledge. It is realization or jñāna yoga, which is identifying the sin through analysis. The second step is related to emotions and it involves sincere repentance before God with deep devotion to Him, which is bhakti yoga. The third and final step, is the practical step of karma yoga in which you should not repeat the same sin in your life. Many fail in the third step. It is of no use because the third step is practical and the first two steps are merely theoretical. A person can be said to be reformed only when he does not repeat the sin practically. Some clever people try to exploit this concept thinking that they will reform their souls, just before death! Such over-intelligence brings double punishment as no one can cheat God since He is omniscient!

It is perfectly correct to say that a soul cannot remain idle; simply keeping silent without doing any action. This is clearly told in the Gītā “Nahi kaścit kṣaṇamapi”. Even the Veda recommends action “Kurvanneveha karmāṇi…”. God never asks you to become inactive like an inert stone. Such inactivity is not only impossible but is also useless in the spiritual path. You have to learn both activity and inactivity in life. Inactivity should be applied in the context of doing or even desiring to do a sin.

In other words, one should avoid doing or even desiring to do a sin. Activity should be applied by ordinary human beings following pravṛtti in doing good deeds that help society. Activity should be applied by exceptional devotees following nivṛtti in doing God’s work. The Gītā stresses on both activity and inactivity in the context of these two separate paths respectively. In both these paths, you should do the work without getting attached to the fruit due to selfishness. When you are detached from the fruit of the work, you can do the work perfectly by concentrating your entire energy on the work (Karmaṇyevādhikāraste—Gītā).

Devotees like Śaṅkara, Meera etc. jumped straight to God’s work, avoiding all worldly work from their very childhood. It is a direct jump to salvation from the worldly bonds which is called as sākṣānmukti and is attained by forming a very strong bond with God. Devotees like Rāmānuja, Janaka etc., walked towards the same goal of salvation from worldly bonds passing through all the four states of life, which are known as the āśramas. This gradual walking towards the goal is called kramamukti and is applicable to the majority of human beings.

Severe Punishment Without a Serious Sin

Sometimes, we are punished here severely, even though we have not committed a sin, which is deserving of such a severe punishment. We get confused in such a situation thinking that God is cruel and a sadist. Such thinking is only due to our ignorance. In fact, the punishments for our sins are usually given only in the upper sub-world called hell. The reason is that we should not be disturbed in this sub-world called earth or Martya Loka while performing our worldly and divine duties. The upper worlds and sub-worlds are called bhoga lokas, which are places for enjoying the good and bad fruits of our deeds.

Earth, on the other hand is called a karma loka, which is a place for doing deeds. This is the general rule, but there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is that intensive sins done here are punished here itself immediately. Another exception is that sometimes, the punishment for a sin committed in the previous birth is received here on earth. This happens in the case of killing animals for food. The killed animal thinks while dying that it too will kill the killer in the same way. So the animal of the previous birth is reborn as a butcher while the butcher and the consumers of the meat in the previous birth are born as animals and are killed by the butcher. In both these exceptions, the soul receives severe punishments here due to intensive sins committed previously in this birth or in the past birth respectively.

The case mentioned above, in which the soul is severely punished here in spite of not having done an equally severe sin in this birth, is different from the above two exceptions. In this case, since no severe sin has been done in this birth, as per the general rule, the soul should not be punished here for any sin done by it in the past birth. Why then is the soul punished here severely? This case is covered under another exceptional rule. Note that God is all-in-all. He is the Maker of the rules, and is beyond all the rules. Whenever He breaks any rule, it is only for some good purpose.

All these rules regarding a soul’s deeds and the rewards and punishments for the deeds are only for the soul’s reformation. God does not give any punishment to a soul out of revenge. He is the Doctor who is treating the patient. The soul is the patient, who is to be cured. Sometimes, God feels that a person will be benefited and his or her reformation will progress better if some punishment is given at a certain time. So, He brings to the present life, a punishment which the soul was supposed to face in a future lifetime. It is like the premature withdrawal of a deposit from a bank, which leads to a loss in the value of the deposit. So the punishment, when preponed to the present, reduces in value.

This is a benefit to the soul. Additionally, it accelerates the reformation of the soul. So, the soul gets a double benefit! This exception is made in the best interest of the soul. It is like the Supreme Doctor, God, deciding to increase the dosage of antibiotics for a patient, deviating from the regular treatment plan, to speed up the recovery of the patient. This exceptional rule, like all other rules related to the administration of the deeds of souls, clearly shows the loving kindness of God, the Divine Father for the souls, who are His children.


God gave freedom to all souls so that they could do whatever they felt was good. God helped the souls in determining what is good and what is bad by preaching to them through holy scriptures, holy devotees and holy Incarnations. Freedom means the complete freedom for all souls in this creation to act in any direction, without the slightest force on the mind, either here or in the upper worlds. God always preaches to every soul to bring the realization of the truth to the soul and to reform the soul. The soul is expected to realize and get reformed only through this knowledge introduced into the mind of the soul. It is the only way the soul can be saved. The only force used by God on the mind of a sinner is imparting knowledge. He does not use any physical force or miraculous power to reform the sinner. The king tries to reform the sinner through physical force in the form of punishment, but such reformation is only temporary. Even the horrible punishments in hell cannot reform the soul permanently. Eternal reformation can never be attained through punishment. In spite of this defect of punishment, it is still used to reform the soul temporarily. Only the spiritual knowledge given by God-in-human-form can bring an eternal reformation in a soul.


Generally, the cloud rains everywhere and the rain makes the seed present in fertile soil to grow up into a plant. But a seed fallen on rocky soil cannot give rise to a plant immediately in spite of a lot of rain. Devilish or demonic souls are like the rocks present here and there on earth. The God-cloud does not use His miraculous power to change the rocky soil into fertile soil since God never interferes with souls using any type of force. Judas was like rocky soil. But due to his association with Jesus and continuously listening to His preaching, he realized, confessed his sin, and punished himself at the end. The priests of the temple never listened to the preaching of Jesus at all and so they never got reformed. They were like solid rocks. Judas was like soil having some rocky nature. So, the seed of reformation at least germinated in him, even though it germinated late.


For a person’s reformation, apart from the divine force of spiritual knowledge, the receptivity of the person’s mind is also important. There are some good souls with high receptivity for the knowledge. They are like good soil and they get reformed immediately on listening to the spiritual knowledge preached by the Human Incarnation of God. Then there are some average souls, who are like rocky soil. They take some time to get reformed like Judas. Both these types of souls are reformed and saved. But there are some other souls like the priests who crucified Jesus, who have no hope of reformation at all. They are like solid rocks and they are condemned forever. This worst type of souls is punished in the liquid fire of hell forever. Their punishment is forever because such souls will never get reformed. They are kept aloof from mankind in the lives of wild animals, worms and so on (Tānahaṁ dviṣataḥ...—Gita). God’s attempts to reform are confined only to the first and second types of souls who are like good soil and rocky soil respectively. The moment a soul is reformed, it is saved forever.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...