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Regret and Repentance

Repentance is the sincere regret and remorse we feel when we've done something dishonest, immoral, or otherwise harmful to others or ourselves. A repentant person naturally wishes they could undo whatever wrong they've done, or make up for the misdeed by doing something good.

However, we can't change the past, and good deeds don't nullify bad ones.

Some Vedic teachings prescribe atonement—prayaschitta—to get free from the consequences of past sins, but to prevent future misbehavior we need to correct the mentality that produces it. Only the process of Krishna consciousness has the power to completely change the way we see and act on the world.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that if we submit to Him as the supreme authority He frees us from all reactions to past misdeeds (karma). He also says there that even if His devotee commits some abominable activity, the surest route to righteousness is to continue on the path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service.

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The process of chanting God's names with faith is so powerful that it can destroy the reactions of more sins than anyone can commit. Krishna's devotees constantly chant His names and accept all painful situations—which may seem to be sinful reactions—as Krishna kindly removing their tendency to enjoy in the material world. They're always conscious and regretful of their past sinful behavior.

Our fundamental regrettable misdeed is leaving Krishna's company and coming to the material world. By doing so, we've become entangled in a seemingly endless chain of karma, birth, death, old age and disease. We should regret this, repent our poor judgment, and get busy reestablishing our relationship with Krishna.

QT Regret

We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • 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 . . ."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.1.15:

    "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."

  • 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."

  • 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."

  • 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."

  • 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, 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."

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