Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 132 - What is Sin?
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 4:53pm
Q: What is sin? Is it a condition we have no chance to overcome without intervention on our behalf by someone who is ordained? Are we sinners, or are we divine? I am confused.
A: Jesus said, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” In the East, this same process is stated with one word, “karma,” which means action and its consequences, including latent impressions accumulated deep inside us over multiple lifetimes.
With yoga practices, we stimulate the nervous system’s natural abilities to dissolve the many latent impressions of karma stored deep inside. We experience these impressions as limitations and tendencies in our thoughts, feelings and actions. These impressions are obstructions to our experience of the truth within us. As we clean them out, we come to know the divine truth within and we are set free from the binding influences of our past actions. Then we are naturally inclined to conduct ourselves in ways that do not build up obstructions that will limit us in the future – acting more and more as a channel of divine love. So, yoga has a direct impact on this whole process of sowing, reaping, and the latent impressions of karma.
None of this directly answers your questions about sin. I wanted to lay out the practical aspects of yoga’s role first. Action, results of action, and the means for dissolving the binding results of action. That is how yoga fits in.
What is sin? If you look it up in the dictionary, you will see it focuses on the negative aspects of “As you sow, so shall you reap,” and “karma.”
Sin is defined as, “An offense against religious or moral law, an
offense against God.”
Sowing and reaping is one thing, a process of nature, really. It just happens as we act in ways that are either in the direction of or away from purifying our nervous system and expressing divine love. What we put in is what we get out. If we do yoga practices and favor opening over closing, we give ourselves a big advantage in this process.
Sin is a step outside the natural process of “as you sow…” and karma. It is an “offense.” An offense to who? Sin is colored with human judgment. If you do thus-and-so, you commit sin. You are doing bad. You are offending God. Who decides this? Most often, it is we who decide it through our guilt and shame over our actions. Maybe we have been conditioned by others since childhood to feel that way about ourselves. In our still-limited state of awareness we tend to act in ways that bind us, and in our conscience (the divine morality in us) we feel remorse. If we do not judge ourselves, others will certainly be there to do it for us. In doing so, they place themselves in the position of intermediary between us and our salvation. And there you have it, the psychological structure that holds most of the world’s organized religions together.
The concept of sin is a human coloring of natural law. Sin is a spin on a process of nature. It rises out of our guilt and/or someone else’s judgment. Overindulgence in the concept of sin can lead to a sense of hopelessness, and an unhealthy dependence on others for our salvation, when, in truth, there is only one place we will ever find it, within ourselves.
Expecting someone else, ordained or not, to relieve us of our sins is a formula for failure. Real religion is not a business transaction where we give this and get that. It does not happen like that.
Surrendering to a high ideal is something else. It is a private matter in our heart, not subject to anyone else’s scrutiny or judgment. As long as we are letting go for a higher ideal deep in our heart, our bhakti will have great purifying power, and draw us to spiritual practices.
If we have been trained to see ourselves as hopeless sinners, it will be wise to reconsider it carefully. For if we do not believe in our own divinity, it will be difficult to find the desire necessary to make the journey home. Our identity as sinners is a label we put on ourselves, while our identity as divine beings is a demonstrable human condition we can claim as our own.
Saints and saviors over thousands of years have demonstrated again and again the ability we all have for human spiritual transformation.
Sitting to meditate for the first time can shatter the illusory grip of sin. It won’t free us completely from all obstructions in us on the first day, but it is the beginning of a road we can travel that will reveal increasing divine light as we purify and open our nervous system further each day.
The guru is in you.