kvacin nivartate ’bhadrat
kvacic carati tat punah
prayascittam atho ’partham
kvacit—sometimes; nivartate—ceases; abhadrat—from sinful activity; kvacit—sometimes; carati—commits; tat—that (sinful activity); punah—again; prayascittam—the process of atonement; atho—therefore; apartham—useless; manye—I consider; kunjara-saucavat—exactly like the bathing of an elephant.
Sometimes one who is very alert so as not to commit sinful acts is victimized by sinful life again. I therefore consider this process of repeated sinning and atoning to be useless. It is like the bathing of an elephant, for an elephant cleanses itself by taking a full bath, but then throws dust over its head and body as soon as it returns to the land.
When Pariksit Maharaja inquired how a human being could free himself from sinful activities so as not to be forced to go to hellish planetary systems after death, Sukadeva Gosvami answered that the process of counteracting sinful life is atonement. In this way Sukadeva Gosvami tested the intelligence of Maharaja Pariksit, who passed the examination by refusing to accept this process as genuine. Now Pariksit Maharaja is expecting another answer from his spiritual master, Sukadeva Gosvami.
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