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Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness

Regret and Repentance

Question: 
How one can repent for his past bad deeds?


Our Answer:

Repentance is the sincere regret and remorse we feel when we've done something dishonest, immoral, or otherwise harmful to others or ourselves. Anyone with a healthy conscience regrets doing something wrong. It's arrogant and blind to think that we may do as we please, no matter what the consequences. A repentant person naturally wants to undo whatever wrong has been done, or try to counteract the misdeed with pious activity. The past can't be changed, however, and good deeds can't nullify bad ones.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.18.31, Purport:

"Repentance comes in the mind of a good soul as soon as he commits something wrong."

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 9.9.6, Purport:

"There are methods of prayaschitta, or atonement, but they are inadequate to cleanse one of sinful reactions. One can be cleansed of sinful reactions only by devotional service, as stated in regard to the history of Ajamila:

"Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krishna can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays." (SB 6.1.15) If one is under the protection of a devotee and sincerely renders service unto him, by this process of bhakti-yoga one is certainly able to counteract all sinful reactions."

Vedic scriptures give many prescriptions for how to become free from the consequences of improper behavior, but such reformative measures, prayaschitta, can't free us from the mentality that produced the misbehavior. Neither can pious activity eradicate our stubborn desire to enjoy life independently from the supreme enjoyer, the Supreme Person, Krishna. This is why Krishna consciousness—which begins with hearing about Him or hearing His instructions—is the most direct means of atonement for any wrongdoing.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.17:

"Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted."

Second Chance, 15: "Atonement":

"Chanting the holy name of Krishna counteracts all sins—more than one can possibly commit . . .This is why we are stressing the chanting of Hare Krishna so much. Pious activities, austerity, sacrifice—everything is done simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. There is no need of any other process of yoga, atonement, or austerity and penance. Simply by chanting without offense one achieves the results of all other ritualistic performances prescribed in the Vedas."

When we agree to allow Krishna—the supreme authority—to manage our lives, and we follow His instructions, He promises to free us from all reactions to our past misdeeds. Even if we've surrendered to Krishna but still commit some sinful activity, the only recommended process for purification is to continue on the path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, and make stronger efforts to avoid relapses.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.19.1, Purport:

" . . . repentance is natural for a good man . . ., and such repentance delivers a devotee from all kinds of sins accidentally committed. The devotees are naturally faultless. Accidental sins committed by a devotee are sincerely regretted, and by the grace of the Lord all sins unwillingly committed by a devotee are burnt in the fire of repentance."

Bhagavad-gita, 9.30:

"Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination."

Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Introduction:

"If one reads Bhagavad-gita very sincerely and with all seriousness, then by the grace of the Lord the reactions of his past misdeeds will not act upon him." (Gita-mahatmya 2)

The simple act of chanting God's names with faith can eradicate the reactions of more sins than anyone can commit. This is one reason why pure devotees of God continuously chant His names while always conscious and regretful of their past sinful behavior. Krishna intensely wants us to return to Him, and He often creates situations for His devotees that appear to be karmic reactions but are actually divinely dispensed curative treatments meant to inspire us to completely abandon all irrational hopes for material enjoyment. Through constant, humble service to God, devotees always seek His mercy and accept whatever comes as His benediction.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.2.7, Purport:

". . . Simply by chanting one holy name of Hari, a sinful man can counteract the reactions to more sins than he is able to commit." (Brihad-vishnu Purana)
"If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear." (Garuda Purana)
"By once chanting the holy name of the Lord, which consists of the two syllables ha-ri, one guarantees his path to liberation." (Skanda Purana)

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 10.14.8:

"My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim."

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 10.14.8, Purport:

". . . a devotee earnestly awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord even while suffering the painful effects of previous sinful activities. Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions.

"The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity's tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord's devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Krishna consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord's special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead . . ."

Our fundamental regrettable misdeed is leaving Krishna's company and coming to the material world. By doing so, we've made our lives endlessly difficult. We've become entangled in a long, long chain of karma, good and bad activities, that keeps us undergoing repeated birth, death, old age and disease. We should regret this, repent our poor judgment, and get to work on reestablishing our relationship with Krishna.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.29.29, Purport:

" . . . In full Krishna consciousness, he [the devotee] regrets his past experiences in material existence. This regret is very beneficial because it purifies the living entity of material, conditional life. He then prays to the Lord to engage in His service, and at that time, Krishna grants liberation from the clutches of maya."

Bhagavad-gita, 18.66:

"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."

More source notes on this topic:

  • Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 1.43, Purport:
    "There is a system in the varnashrama institution by which before death one has to undergo the process of atonement for his sinful activities. One who is always engaged in sinful activities must utilize the process of atonement called the prayascitta. Without doing so, one surely will be transferred to hellish planets to undergo miserable lives as the result of sinful activities."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.1.15, Purport:
    "As for atonement, if one has caught even a slight glimpse of devotional service, all needs to undergo prayaschitta, atonement, are superseded. Therefore atonement is certainly unnecessary when one has achieved spontaneous love . . ."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.3.34, Purport:
    "He [Krishna] can turn the external energy into internal by His will. Therefore by His grace the external energy, which is employed in illusioning those living beings who want to have it, subsides by the will of the Lord in terms of repentance and penance for the conditioned soul. And the very same energy then acts to help the purified living being make progress on the path of self-realization."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.26.21, Purport:
    ". . .the devotee accepts a reversal of his position in life as a benediction by the Lord and consequently offers the Lord more obeisances and prayers, thinking that the punishment is due to his past misdeeds and that the Lord is punishing him very mildly. The punishment awarded by the state or by God for one's own faults is actually for one's benefit . . . If one accepts punishment as a reward dealt by the master, he becomes intelligent enough not to commit the same mistake again."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.8.26, Purport:
    "It is said in the shastras that by once uttering the holy name of the Lord, the sinner gets rid of a quantity of sins that he is unable to commit. Such is the power of uttering the holy name of the Lord. There is not the least exaggeration in this statement. Actually the Lord's holy name has such powerful potency."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.20.26:
    "It is firmly declared that the steady adherence of transcendentalists to their respective spiritual positions constitutes real piety and that sin occurs when a transcendentalist neglects his prescribed duty. One who adopts this standard of piety and sin, sincerely desiring to give up all past association with sense gratification, is able to subdue materialistic activities, which are by nature impure."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.20.26, Purport:
    " . . . Those persons directly engaged in self-realization . . . need not give up their regular duties and perform special penances to atone for an accidental falldown. . . To purify an accidental falldown, one who is engaged in transcendental realization need not adopt any procedure beyond his own spiritual practice . . . one should not practice Krishna consciousness or self-realization superficially or casually; rather, one should sincerely and earnestly desire freedom from one's past sinful life . . . one must constantly practice Krishna consciousness. Thus, essential piety is to give up material sense gratification and engage in the loving service of the Lord. One who engages his senses, mind and intelligence twenty-four hours a day in the Lord's service is the most pious person, and the Lord personally protects such a surrendered soul."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.20.27-28
    "Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.20.27-28, Purport:
    "Therefore, although sincerely lamenting occasional lapses into sense enjoyment, he [a devotee] never gives up his enthusiasm to serve Lord Krishna. If a devotee becomes too morose or discouraged in devotional service, he may drift into an impersonal consciousness or give up his devotional service to the Lord. Therefore, the Lord here advises that although one should sincerely repent, he should not become chronically depressed. One should understand that because of his past sins he must occasionally suffer disturbances from the material mind and senses, but one should not therefore become a devotee of detachment, as do the speculative philosophers."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.5.42:
    "One who has thus given up all other engagements and has taken full shelter at the lotus feet of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is very dear to the Lord. Indeed, if such a surrendered soul accidentally commits some sinful activity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated within everyone's heart, immediately takes away the reaction to such sin."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.5.42, Purport:
    "Since devotional service is itself the most purifying process, a sincere devotee who has accidentally stumbled on the path should immediately resume his pure devotional service at the lotus feet of the Lord. And thus the Lord will protect him, as stated in Bhagavad-gita ( 9.30)"
  • Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.30, Purport:
    ". . .it may be seen that a person in Krishna consciousness commits some act which may be taken as most abominable socially or politically. But such a temporary falldown does not disqualify him. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that if a person falls down but is wholeheartedly engaged in the transcendental service of the Supreme Lord, the Lord, being situated within his heart, purifies him and excuses him from that abomination. The material contamination is so strong that even a yogi fully engaged in the service of the Lord sometimes becomes ensnared; but Krishna consciousness is so strong that such an occasional falldown is at once rectified. Therefore the process of devotional service is always a success."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.2.27, Purport:
    "When one is elevated to the platform of devotional service by the grace of the Lord and the spiritual master, one first regrets his past sinful activities. This helps one advance in spiritual life. . . the duty of a pure devotee is to regret his past sinful activities in illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. Not only should one give up his past bad habits, but he must always regret his past sinful acts. This is the standard of pure devotion."
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.2.34, Purport:
    "We must be conscious of the difference between our present and past conditions and should always be very careful not to fall from the most exalted life."

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If Krishna is the Father of all living beings, why is there so much pain in this world?

Question: 
If Krishna is the Father of all living beings, why is there so much pain in this world?

There are many ways to look at this question. First it can be considered that the father sometimes has to punish the son/daughter in order to teach him a lesson. Often the son sees this as pain and suffering, but in reality it is instructional. If we accept that the material world is only a reflection of our real home in the spiritual world and that we are spiritual - only temporarily in the body - then we can understand that our entire existence here is a training for us to see that the material world is a place of suffering, it is temporary, and we should aspire to get out and reach the spiritual world.

Another point is that Krishna places us here with instructions how we should live a God-centered life, or even just a pious life, according to scriptures, while honoring each other, the earth, etc. However, if we choose to ignore the instructions then the consequences are not God's fault, but rather the reactions to our own behavior. God is just letting the consequences come.

In order to understand this, one must understand the nature of true love. If one is forced or drugged into "love," that love is not real. You may agree to love but you are agreeing because there is a gun at your head, or because you are not in control of your mind. Only one who loves voluntarily in full understanding of their emotion and sacrifice is in true love.

Krishna wants true love. He wants us to turn to Him because we want to love Him and sacrifice for Him. For Him to get true love He must leave us alone to make our decision. If we are looking for happiness and love in the material world we cannot have pure Love of God. If we turn to Him, however, He will reciprocate with us.

Otherwise, He creates a place where we can try material love and enjoyment. Although conditions often appear very painful here, in reality we cannot get hurt because we are spiritual beings, only temporarily here in the material world. Krishna leaves us here to make our choices. We have the instructions (in scripture) how to live here in the best way possible, but we must freely choose to follow. He won't get involved - except when we ask Him to. Then things become clear and we can see things as they are.

Read more Q and A

What are some characteristics of the "spiritual world"? What is life there like?

by Laxmimoni dasi

The spiritual world is infinite, and to describe exactly what kind of life exists there is basically impossible, especially when our frame of reference is so limited. It would even be very difficult to try and describe life in India to someone from the United States.

Different places have different types of 'life' and different people will judge the descriptions they hear by different expectations, thus deciding what they think is "good" and what's "undesirable" based on faulty ideas of what the reality is. Please keep that in mind while I try to give you a hint of what is there.

At least I can say that in the spiritual world there is no birth, death, disease and old age. Each living being there has an eternal loving relationship with Krishna, in one of 5 basic emotional relationships: (1) passive, (as plant or animal for example), (2) as servant, with great awe and respect, (3) as a friend, (of two types, either as an equal, close friend, or as a friend mixed with some degree of respect and veneration), (4) as a parent, and finally (5) as a lover.

Each spiritual soul has one of these relationships with the Lord and is totally happy in that exchange, eternally. There, every word is a song, every step is a dance, and everything and everyone is engaged in loving service to the Lord and to each other. Nothing deteriorates, yet nothing is stagnant either (see I told you it was inconceivable ;-)

Different activities are going on daily, yet they are always fresh and exciting. Srimati Radharani cooks for Krishna and never makes the same dishes twice, devotees are chanting Krishna's glories and never tire of saying them, and never run out of things to say!

I would suggest that for you to get a more intimate and clear understanding of life in the spiritual world you read Krishna Book by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. It's available from Krishna.com or any Hare Krishna temple, wherever you may be. This book will help you to understand more deeply the wonderful pastimes of the Supreme Person and His friends and family in the Spiritual World.

Does the mind determine the consciousness of a person?

by Laxmimoni dasi

No. The mind is one of the senses...it is the chief of the senses. Generally it's always scheming, "the senses want this thing so how can I get it?" It's the job of the intelligence to become strong to control the mind and in turn control the senses. That's what yoga is for - to develop sense control by controlling the mind with the spiritual intelligence so when the senses are asking for something the intelligence will say to the mind, "don't chase after that thing, it's bad for us, better to chant Hare Krishna!" and then the mind will be controlled and focus on chanting.

The consciousness of a person is to some extent determined by past karma, in the sense that you get a body with certain inclinations and desires due to previous karma, and also the consciousness is determined by the association one keeps. As you associate with people, you will take on their inclinations...also what you eat greatly affects your consciousness; if you eat sinful food, non-offered food, or food in the passionate and ignorant modes, then that will lead your consciousness in that direction. If you associate with saintly persons your consciousness will become saintly; you'll act in a saintly manner and develop saintly habits.

One thing you should know about karma...both good and bad karma are bad! Both good and bad karma make you take birth in this material world! Good karma may get you a better situation, with a better body, etc. and bad karma may make your life miserable, but ultimately any material body is miserable; it's temporary and dies, it gets old and diseased...so best to act for Krishna, free of personal desire, and thus avoid all karma whatsoever.

Does faith require actions, or can one have faith without showing any actions externally?

by Laxmimoni dasi

This is a tricky question because of the word "requires." I guess you can say faith doesn't require actions; one can be lying in a hospital unable to move and still have great faith in God. But faith generally inspires actions that show how one feels. You might say, "If I love someone, do I have to prove it by my actions?" Well, if you don't act like you love someone then how will they know? Or if you act like you don't love them, but say you do, maybe they won't believe you!

Krishna is in the heart, so you can't fool Him. He knows just how much faith you have, but still actions speak loudly, sometimes louder than words, so if you don't act as if you have faith, you might want to ask yourself "why not?"

What makes a person (like myself) inclined toward transcendental realization at all?

by Laxmimoni dasi

Very often a living entity has performed pious acts in previous lives, which cause one to be attracted to transcendental, spiritual subjects. It is certainly possible that you are such a soul, that, having had previous spiritual activity but not yet reaching perfection, you are continuing on your spiritual path.

The human form of life is very precious and to come into contact with Krishna, even more rare. The soul who actually takes up the process seriously is even rarer still, and, finally, Krishna says that one who achieves perfection, sa mahatma sudurlabhah - "such a great soul is very rare."

So, if you can remain fixed in your determination and engage steadily in Krishna's service, you can achieve perfection - as you are already a rare soul.

Can someone become truly renounced simply as a result of being depressed with material life, or is renunciation only possible for highly educated spiritualists?

by Laxmimoni dasi

True renunciation means giving up the desire for personal sense gratification and working only to satisfy the senses of the Lord. One who gives up something because they don't want to suffer is still acting for personal sense gratification. Thinking that, "I want to avoid suffering" is a selfish motive, and therefore not true renunciation. It will be temporary and will not result in self-realization.

If consciousness doesn't arise from any material combination, what is the Krishna conscious explanation of cloning?

by Laxmimoni dasi

Cloning just produces another body; a soul must still enter that body for there to be conscious life in it. The materials that are being combined are all coming from cells originally created by God.

There's a joke about a scientist who comes to God and says, "Now I can create life by myself. We no longer need God. You are finished." God replies, "please demonstrate." The scientist then begins to pick up some chemicals from the earth, and the Lord stops him, saying, "No! You must supply your own ingredients!"

From what I've read on cloning, it seems that that one sheep has been the only notable "success," whereas others' efforts, especially in the human sphere, haven't been very successful. Ultimately, it's Krishna's will, enacted through His material energy, which places a soul within a body, no matter how the body is created.

Are there any demigods who are pure Vaishnavas? If so, are they equal to sannyasis?

by Laxmimoni dasi

There are many demigods that are great Vaishnavas, and others who are tinged with various degrees of material desire, but still they are Vaishnavas. The present Lord Brahma is a pure devotee.

Being a sannyasi (renounced preacher) does not necessarily make one a pure devotee. Many sannyasis, though in the renounced order, are impersonalists and not Vaishnavas at all. However the word, "sannyasa" is also used to indicate someone who has a renounced mentality and is dedicated to the service of the Lord by his mind, words and actions. Although he may not be in Sannyasa vesh (dressed in saffron cloth), he is a sannyasi because of his mentality.

This is the level of sannyas that Lord Krishna is speaking of in the 6th chapter of Bhagavad-gita in verses 1 & 2. So in one sense, all pure Vaishnavas are sannyasis, (renounced from the desire for personal material sense gratification), but not all sannyasis (those in the renounced order of life) are pure Vaishnavas!

How one can dovetail desires for knowledge and renunciation in Krishna consciousness?

Actually, Krishna Consciousness is based on the Vedas. Veda literally means "knowledge," so there should be no problem in dovetailing one's desire for knowledge.

There are two types of knowledge; that which deals exclusively with mundane things, and that which deals with the relationship between the material word, the spiritual energy and the spirit soul (you and I). Mundane knowledge can be dovetailed by using the results of that knowledge in the service of Krishna, and the other knowledge can be used to extricate yourself from the cycle of repeated birth and death. And within the Vedic literature there's knowledge about politics, military science, medicine, agriculture, drama etc.; practically everything can be seen in relationship to Lord Krishna, far more than one can know in one lifetime.

As far as the propensity for renunciation; that is also easily "dovetailable." Real renunciation is described in the Bhagavad-gita chapter 6, verse 1:

sri-bhagavan uvaca
anasritah karma-phalam
karyam karma karoti yah
sa sannyasi ca yogi ca
na niragnir na cakriyah

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.'"

We often think of renunciation as "giving up" something - living in poverty, or walking rather than driving a car – however, since nothing is ours in the first place (it all belongs to Krishna!), what can we renounce? We may walk into a bank and shout, "I renounce all the money in this bank!" But since the money isn't ours in the first place, it's a crazy declaration to make. Therefore, Lord Krishna describes renunciation as above: doing one's duty without being attached to the results, giving the results to Krishna. This is true sannyas, or renunciation.

Both rejection of something and attachment to something are signs of personal desire. We want to avoid those things which give us pain or discomfort and get those things which we perceive as giving us happiness. Or perhaps we want to appear renounced or wealthy, so that we can gain fame or adoration. All these motivations are selfish. A true renunciate will see pebbles and gold, friends and enemies, as the same...neither hating nor desiring anything...but simply doing one's duty to the best of his/her ability, and allowing the Lord to do His will in terms of awarding or withholding the result.

I hope that this is helpful.
Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi