In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that one should surrender unto Him, giving up all other engagements. The Lord also gives His word there that He will protect surrendered souls from the reactions of all sinful activities. Srila Rupa Gosvami says that the distresses from sinful activities are due both to the sins themselves and to sins committed in our past lives. Generally, one commits sinful activities due to ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse for evading the reaction-sinful activities. Sinful activities are of two kinds: those which are mature and those which are not mature. The sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment are called mature. The many sinful activities stored within us for which we have not yet suffered are considered immature. For example, a man may have committed criminal acts but not yet been arrested for them. Now, as soon as he is detected, arrest is awaiting him. Similarly, for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distresses in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment.
In this way there is a chain of sinful activities and their concomitant distresses, and the conditioned soul is suffering life after life due to these sins. He is suffering in the present life the results of sinful activities from his past life, and he is meanwhile creating further sufferings for his future life. Mature sinful activities are exhibited if one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is suffering from some legal implication, if one is born in a low and degraded family, or if one is uneducated or very ugly.
There are many results of past sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment, and we may be suffering in the future due to our present sinful activities. But all of these reactions to sinful deeds can immediately be stopped if we take to Krsna consciousness. As evidence for this, Rupa Gosvami quotes from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Eleventh Canto, 14th Chapter, 18th verse. This verse is in connection with Lord Krsna's instruction to Uddhava, where He says, "My dear Uddhava, devotional service unto Me is just like a blazing fire which can burn into ashes unlimited fuel supplied to it." The purport is that as the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Krsna consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities. For example, in the Gita Arjuna thought that fighting was a sinful activity, but Krsna engaged him on the battlefield under His order, and so the fighting became devotional service. Therefore, Arjuna was not subjected to any sinful reaction.
Srila Rupa Gosvami quotes another verse from the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, 33rd Chapter, 6th verse, in which Devahuti addresses her son, Kapiladeva and says, "My dear Lord, there are nine different kinds of devotional service, beginning from hearing and chanting. Anyone who hears about Your pastimes, who chants about Your glories, who offers You obeisances, who thinks of You and, in this way, executes any of the nine kinds of devotional service-even if he is born in a family of dog-eaters [the lowest grade of mankind]-becomes immediately qualified to perform sacrifices." As such, for anyone who is actually engaged in devotional service in full Krsna consciousness, how is it possible that he has not become purified? It is not possible. One who is engaged in Krsna consciousness and devotional service has without doubt become freed from all contaminations of material sinful activities. Devotional service therefore has the power to actually nullify all kinds of reactions to sinful deeds. A devotee is nevertheless always alert not to commit any sinful activities; this is his specific qualification as a devotee. Thus the Srimad-Bhagavatam states that by performing devotional service a person who was born even in a family of dog-eaters may become eligible to take part in the performance of the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. It is implicit in this statement that a person born into a family of dog-eaters is generally not fit for performing yajna, or sacrifice. The priestly caste in charge of performing these ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas is called the brahmana order. Unless one is a brahmana, he cannot perform these ceremonies.
A person is born in a brahmana family or in a family of dog-eaters due to his past activities. If a person is born in a family of dog-eaters it means that his past activities are all sinful. But if even such a person takes to the path of devotional service and begins to chant the holy names of the Lord-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-he is at once fit to perform the ritualistic ceremonies. This means that his sinful reactions have immediately become neutralized.
It is stated in the Padma Purana that there are four kinds of effects due to sinful activities, which are listed as follows: 1) the effect which is not yet fructified, 2) the effect which is lying as seed, 3) the effect which is already mature, and 4) the effect which is almost mature. It is also stated that all these four effects become immediately vanquished for those who surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, and become engaged in His devotional service in full Krsna consciousness.
Those effects described as "almost mature" refer to the distress from which one is suffering at present, and the effects "lying as seed" means that in the core of the heart there is a certain stock of sinful desires which are like seeds. The Sanskrit word kutam means that they are almost ready to produce the seed, or the effect of the seed. An "immature effect" refers to the case where the seedling has not begun. From this statement of Padma Purana it is understood that material contamination is very subtle. Its beginning, its fruition and results, and how one suffers such results in the form of distress, are part of a great chain. When one catches some disease, it is often very difficult to ascertain the cause of the disease, where it originated, and how it is maturing. The suffering of a disease, however, does not appear all of a sudden. It actually takes time. And, as in the medical field, for precaution's sake, the doctor injects a vaccination to prevent the growing of contamination, the practical injection to stop all the fructifications of the seeds of our sinful activities is simply engagement in Krsna consciousness.
In this connection, Sukadeva Gosvami speaks in the Sixth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2nd Chapter, 17th verse, about the story of Ajamila, who began life as a fine and dutiful brahmana, but in his young manhood became wholly corrupted by a prostitute. At the end of his wicked life, just by calling the name of "Narayana [Krsna]," he was saved despite so much sin. Sukadeva points out that austerity, charity and the performance of ritualistic ceremonies for counteracting sinful activities are recommended processes, but that by performing them one cannot remove the sinful desire-seed from the heart, as was the case with Ajamila in his youth. This sinful desire-seed can be removed only by achieving Krsna consciousness. And this can be accomplished very easily by chanting the maha-mantra, or Hare Krsna mantra, as recommended by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In other words, unless one adopts the path of devotional service, he cannot be one hundred percent clean from all the reactions of sinful activities.
By performing Vedic ritualistic activities, by giving money in charity and by undergoing austerity, one can temporarily become free from the reactions of sinful activities, but at the next moment he must again become engaged in sinful activities. For example, a person suffering from venereal disease on account of excessive indulgence in sex life has to undergo some severe pain in medical treatment, and he is then cured for the time being. But because he has not been able to remove the sex desire from his heart, he must again indulge in the same thing and become a victim of the same disease. So medical treatment may give temporary relief from the distress of such venereal disease, but unless one is trained to understand that sex life is abominable, it is impossible to be saved from such repeated distress. Similarly, the ritualistic performances, charity and austerity, which are recommended in the Vedas may temporarily stop one from acting in sinful ways, but as long as the heart is not clear, one will have to repeat sinful activities again and again.
Another example is given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam of the elephant who enters into a lake and takes a bath very seriously, cleansing his body thoroughly. Then as soon as he comes onto shore he again takes some dust from the earth and throws it over his body. Similarly, a person who is not trained in Krsna consciousness cannot become completely free from the desire for sinful activities. Neither the yoga process, nor philosophical speculations, nor fruitive activities can save one from the seeds of sinful desires. Only by being engaged in devotional service can this be done.
There is another evidence in the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, 22nd Chapter, 37th verse, wherein Sanat-kumara says, "My dear King, the false ego of a human being is so strong that it keeps him in material existence as if tied up by a strong rope. Only the devotees can cut off the knot of this strong rope very easily, by engaging themselves in Krsna consciousness. Others, who are not in Krsna consciousness but are trying to become great mystics or great ritual performers, cannot advance like the devotees. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to engage himself in the activities of Krsna consciousness in order to be freed from the tight knot of false ego and engagement in material activities."
This tight knot of false ego is due to ignorance. As long as one is ignorant about his identification, he is sure to act wrongly and thereby become entangled in material contamination. This ignorance of factual knowledge can also be dissipated by Krsna consciousness, as is confirmed in the Padma Purana as follows: "Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness is the highest enlightenment, and when such enlightenment is there, it is just like a blazing forest fire, killing all the inauspicious snakes of desire." The example is being given in this connection that when there is a forest fire the extensive blazing automatically kills all the snakes in the forest. There are many, many snakes on the ground of the forest, and when a fire takes place, it burns the dried foliage, and the snakes are immediately attacked. Animals who have four legs can flee from the fire or can at least try to flee, but the snakes are immediately killed. Similarly, the blazing fire of Krsna consciousness is so strong that the snakes of ignorance are immediately killed.
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