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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Repeat-sin and material Vaikuṇṭha

I consulted Dr Satya Nārāyan Dās on two Bhāgavat-verses

"Prabhuji, I have been arguing with myself about the meaning of the following verse, particularly whether or not repetition of sin does or does not create more karma. Could you please have a brief look and comment on this?

samāna-karmācaraṇaṁ patitānāṁ na pātakam
autpattiko guṇaḥ saṅgo na śayānaḥ pataty adhaḥ

Śrīmad Bhāgavat (11.21.17)

I find the BBT translation here clearer than the one of the Gita Press:

"The same activities that would degrade an elevated person do not cause falldown for those who are already fallen. Indeed, one who is lying on the ground cannot possibly fall further. The material association that is dictated by one's own nature is considered a good quality."

The concept of na śayānaḥ patatyadhaḥ, if you lie on the floor you cannot fall any deeper, fascinated me from first reading. This verse confirms once more my opinion that ignorance is an excuse and sin and virtue are relative (autpattiko guṇaḥ saṅgo), though, as the BBT commentary prudently warns us, this verse and its principle does not provide a license to sin to initiated Vaiṣṇavas. As for the statement na śayānaḥ pataty adhaḥ ('One who lies down cannot fall any deeper"), repeating a sin does create more karma - in the orient women often turn to prostitution if they untimely lose their honour, thinking it is all lost anyway. However, one should not think that, because of a perceived loss of virtue, a repetition of the same sin will not cause accumulation of more bad karma. Śrīdhara Swāmī comments on this verse:

doṣasya kvacid doṣatvābhāve guṇatve codāharanaṁ darśayati. samānasya tasyaiva karmanaḥ sura-pānāder ācaraṇam apatitānāṁ patana-hetur api jātya karmana vā patitānāṁ punaḥ pātakam adhikāra-bhraṁśakaṁ na bhavati, pūrvam eva patitatvāt. ato’tra doṣasyāpi doṣata nastīty arthaḥ

'One man's fault is another man's virtue or at least lack of fault. It is the same act (samāna karma), but if an apatita (brahmin or Vaiṣṇava) drinks alcohol, it is the cause of his/her falldown, but for those anyway fallen (śūdras or non-devotees) this does not cause further degradation because it is their normal way to be. Thus, though it is a flaw (for some) there is no flaw."

It seems the phrase autpattiko guṇaḥ saṅga can be interpreted in 2 ways - 'material association that is dictated by one's own nature', and 'sex for procreation' (autpattika saṅga), because Śrīdhar Swāmi continues: tatha saṅgo’pi yo yāter doṣaḥ, sa gṛhasthasyautpattikaḥ pūrva-svīkṛto na doṣaḥ, api tu guṇaḥ. ṛtau bhāryām upeyāt ity-ādi-vidhānāt. "Saṅga (sex) is a fault for a sannyāsī, but not for the gṛhastha if he/she indulges in it for procreation - then it is a virtue instead. The Śrutis say 'ṛtau bhāryām upeyāt' - the wife must be approached in the season."

Dr. Satya-nārāyana Dās replied:
“The above verse is not a blanket allowance for the ignorant to sin. The verse is spoken for spiritualists and not for ignorant people. After this the Lord also speaks of the whole process of degradation, akin to the one described in the Gītā’s verse saṅgāt sañjayate kāmaḥ -verse (2.62-63). Although one sleeping on the ground will not fall because there is nowhere to fall, if he keeps on sleeping he will be so much caught in tamas that he will have a tough time getting up. Similarly if an ignorant person continues doing an activity which is forbidden for a spiritualist he may not incur sin (meaning going to hell, he is already in hell) he will make his saṁskāras stronger which will condition him.
Yes sin and piety are relative."

The second verse I inquired about is Śrīmad Bhāgavat 3.29.13:

sālokya-sārṣṭi-sāmīpya-sārūpyaikatvam apy uta
dīyamānaḿ na gṛhṇanti vinā mat-sevanaḿ janāḥ

“Pure devotees do not accept residence in My world, wealth equal to Mine, proximity to Me, a form equal to Mine or oneness with Me if it does not go with devotional service to Me.”

Dear Prabhuji,
Rādhe Rādhe
“Regarding SB 3.29.13 sālokya-sārṣṭi-sāmīpya - the verse ends with vinā mat-sevanaḿ janāḥ  Does that mean that there is a possibility of getting the five types of mukti also without sevā? If so, what is one doing the whole day in Vaikuṇṭha, without sevā? I thought sevā was anyway the only way to attain Vaikuṇṭha......”

Dr. Satyanarayana Das replied:
“The meaning is that a pure devotee does not want to have mukti but only sevā. But for sevā one or more of the four types of muktis may be necessary and so a pure devotee accepts it. But there may be other type of devotees who want, say sālokya mukti and do bhakti for that purpose. The Sri sampradaya is one example of this. Their goal is mukti through bhakti. Lord Chaitanya said bhakti is above mukti. Before him most bhaktas had mukti as the aim. What do they do in Vaikuntha? Of course bhakti. They are not averse to bhakti, they practiced bhakti to achieve mukti. But their predominant desire was to have salokya etc.”

“Secondly, in śāstra often a temporary trip to Vaikuṇṭha is promised as a reward for fruitive pious activities to fruitive workers, along with their families. Can we take such statements seriously or perhaps this applies to the Vaikuṇṭha in the material world's milk ocean [kṣīra sāgara]?”

Dr. Satyanarayana Das:
“Yes the temporary trip to Vaikuṇṭha is not a false statement. This is possible as a reward for pious action desired by the executors. It is granted in the Vaikuṇṭha manifest in the material world.”


  1. "It is granted in the Vaikuntha manifest in the material world.”


  2. It is called Shvetadweep (Svetadvipa), it lies in the kheer saagar (ksira sagara) or milk ocean, and is described in the first chapter of the 10th Canto, among others.