Self GrowthVideo

The Psychology of Sin

Artwork sketched by Tanvi Gada

The concept of Paap (Sin) isn’t new to anyone of us. It finds its place in our scriptures and ancient religious texts as well as in the functioning principles of modern societies and cultures. Every religious sect and community has established its most important guidelines and values based on the notion of ‘sin’, as much as subjects like knowledge, wisdom, love, devotion, salvation etc. The tales of all enlightened souls, including Lord Buddha, persuade us to live a life void of sin. So, what does sin actually mean? Today, most of us regard sin as ‘doing something wrong’. But it is partially correct as there is an obvious flaw in that assumption – what we believe as wrong or evil isn’t the same universally. For instance, Yogeshwar Sri Krishna urging Arjuna to fight the battle of Mahabharata wasn’t a sin, even though it meant killing millions. Meanwhile, our history also shows how we have time and again manipulated the boundaries of right and wrong in order to satiate our ever-expanding materialistic desires and ambitions, under the influence of Maya. Therefore the meaning of sin cannot be limited to wrongful and unjust actions as it overlooks a very significant part – the mind, which is the place of its origin.

All vices or sins, some of which include anger, greed, ego, lust, jealousy etc originate as a thought in the mind. And a thought is nothing but a form of energy. If we make use of this energy in a wise manner, it becomes a virtue. If not, it gets involuntarily re-allocated into sinful thoughts and actions. Moreover, we cannot predict the consequences of such acts or when we might have to face them, just as we cannot predict the fruits of our good deeds. What we can do is become more and more aware towards our unrighteous actions by properly understanding their nature. Clarity about sin is the first step towards avoiding it.

All vices or sins, some of which include anger, greed, ego, lust, jealousy etc originate as a thought in the mind. And a thought is nothing but a form of energy. If we make use of this energy in a wise manner, it becomes a virtue. If not, it gets involuntarily re-allocated into sinful thoughts and actions. Moreover, we cannot predict the consequences of such acts or when we might have to face them, just as we cannot predict the fruits of our good deeds. What we can do is become more and more aware towards our unrighteous actions by properly understanding their nature. Clarity about sin is the first step towards avoiding it.

Sri Guru explains the complete psychology of Sin in this colossal play of Maya, by introducing four fundamental questions –

  • What is the true nature of Sin?
  • Why do we tend to indulge in sinful acts?
  • What are the underlying causes that result in sin?
  • What are the consequences of Sin?

I. What is the true nature of Sin?

Different cultures and religions have different interpretations of sin. For instance, some customs and practices may be considered as sinful in a certain culture, while it may not be true for others. To avoid this confusion, Sri Guru gives us the most simple and clear definition of sin:

“Anything that leads us away from who we truly are, is a Sin. In the same way, a virtue is that which brings us closer to our true Self.”

Here, it is important to know that our ‘Self’ does not signify our physical body or our worldly identities. Rather, it means the Eternal-Conscious-Blissful state of being (Sat-Chitt-Anand Swaroop). Thus, sin constitutes anything that leads us astray from such a state of being. Let us understand this more deeply:

Drifting away from our Eternal Self

This relates to the thoughts or actions that make us forget the eternal nature of Self such as:

  • Choosing to ignore that which is everlasting and being continuously drawn towards the temporary and transient pleasures, those which are bound to disappear shortly. 
  • Letting fear and self-doubt dictate our lives in face of adversity, rather than courage and perseverance. 
  • Adopting or encouraging bad thoughts & deeds instead of good ones.
  • Being deeply affected by someone’s unjust words or actions which are bound to lose their effect in some time.
Drifting away from our Conscious Self

Self-awareness is one of those virtues we human beings are immensely blessed with. To discard something this valuable and ignorantly drift away in the current of good or bad thoughts is certainly a sin. It is similar to sleeping while leaving the sailboat at the mercy of strong winds in a thunderstorm.

A lot of us find it difficult to understand why we are so easily swept away by wrongful thoughts and feelings. The reason isn’t that we are completely unaware. The truth, ironically, is that we are quite aware and careless while indulging in immoral activities. It’s just that we have invested this jewel of awareness at the wrong place due to which our mind is subconsciously dragging us towards negative emotions and the pleasure derived from wrong and harmful acts. For example – a person dwelling in worthless fantasies does so because his mind derives pleasure from it and therefore keeps him preoccupied while he gambles away his precious time and energies. Without awareness, we are trapped in the vortex of sinful thoughts that weaken our willpower to hold onto the good within us.

Drifting away from our Blissful Self

As long as we regard the source of all our sorrows to be something on the outside, we are distancing ourselves from the state of bliss. It is quite simple – when we firmly believe that long-lasting happiness is somewhere out there in the world, all our efforts are concentrated in that direction. But since everything outside is influenced by the force of Maya, it doesn’t last as long as we expect it to, whether it is people, materialistic possessions or circumstances. However, this deep rooted belief of ours doesn’t seem to change, despite repeatedly failing to acquire happiness from them. Hence, it keeps us further away from the possibilities of realizing the joy that is beyond the realms of Maya, the joy that resides within.

II. Why do we indulge in sinful acts?

There are two possible explanations:

Immediate Pleasure: 

Indulging in certain wrongful thoughts and behavior can seem very tempting because of the immediate pleasure we receive from them. Our immature mind registers it as a feeling of satisfaction and happiness, unaware of the harm it might cause in the long term. For instance, someone who lies or steals compulsively does so because he finds it rewarding to lie and deceive others. He feels protected and comfortable under the shield of his false ego and vanity but is ignorant towards its massive long term burdens. Another common example can be, a person having eczema who keeps on scratching at the affected area of skin as he gets a sense of relief from doing so, even if it causes an infection. Our mind becomes a slave to such short-lived sense of relief and pleasure, which further emboldens it to keep pursuing similar sinful endeavors.

Feeling of Power:

Emotions like anger tend to make us feel powerful over the person or situation we are dealing with. This is perhaps the reason behind the aggression in our voice and actions during moments of rage – we are deriving the sense of ownership and control over others and that is what gives us the satisfaction, not necessarily the anger itself. But we don’t realize this. We don’t realize that all contentment lies not in our actions, but in the awareness of being involved in that action. The awareness of performing an action is our source of joy and not the action itself. So why not choose an action that doesn’t malign our mind with negativity? Why not evolve in the aura of a living Sadguru, instead of feeding our ego?

III. What are the underlying causes that result in sin?

Sri Guru highlights two underlying attitudes that lead to sin:

Blaming everyone else for our sufferings:

We strengthen the roots of sin inside our mind every time we hold others responsible for our pain and sorrow. Let us understand this through an interesting example. 

Suppose you have ordered something you wanted on Amazon and the delivery person arrives at the right date and time at your doorstep. Do you blame him for successfully delivering the product you asked for at the time and place of your choice? Certainly not. In fact, you will thank him for doing that. Similarly the people and situations that bring us pain are just messengers delivering us what we had accumulated through our past thoughts and actions. The good or bad happening in our lives is as per the cosmic law of cause & effect governing the universe. If we don’t accept it and start blaming everyone around, we are committing yet another sin and further damaging our chances to escape this vicious cycle.

Greedily accumulating wealth without any intention for helping those in need: 

In this rat-race of hoarding materialistic wealth and possessions, we are selfishly ignoring those who are not as fortunate. Despite having the resources and capability to make the world a better place, if we ungratefully waste away what destiny has given us then we are cultivating the attitude of a sinner. Such level of selfishness and greed changes the fabric of the mind which ultimately leads to moral and intellectual degradation.

IV. What are the consequences of Sin?

Although we may not be able to ascertain the exact time and nature of the consequences, it definitely helps us to know that whatever we are suffering is due to our past deeds which are now coming back to us in different forms. And this helps us rebuild the patience and acceptance we need in order to learn from those sufferings and move on. Here are the consequences of sin:

  • Physical ailments and chronic diseases.
  • Mental agony in the form of stress, anxiety, resentment, fear, peer pressure etc.
  • Disharmony in personal relationships with family and friends.
  • Humiliation among members of society and community.
  • Contamination of personal morals, ethics and values.
  • Spiritual decline (The most severe of all consequences)

Sin: From the Perspective of Neuroscience

Image result for nucleus accumbens

Sri Guru explains the nature of sin from the perspective of the human brain. There is a region in the brain known as Nucleus Accumbens which is regarded as the ‘pleasure dome’ in the body. When neurons are activated in this region, it results in the release of dopamine, a hormone that gives us the feeling of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. It is a necessary function in the brain that allows us to perform two fundamental activities as human beings in this existence – to survive and procreate. Let us understand this through an example: Suppose a person is starving for food. As soon as he finds something to eat, the brain starts sending signals to the Nucleus Accumbens which in turn releases dopamine, thus giving him the feeling of satisfaction. The person’s brain remembers this satisfying feeling so that he makes a conscious effort to look for food every single time his body requires nourishment to function properly. In this way, the transmission of signals associated with hunger and release of dopamine are both essential for our survival. In a similar manner, Mother Nature ensures the propagation of our species through procreation. 

So how does this relate to sin? When we exploit this natural instinct of survival and procreation for our selfish pursuits (like by consuming large amounts of food beyond our bodily requirement or by excessively indulging in fantasies), the pleasure dome shrinks and does not release dopamine even when the desire is fulfilled. This feeling of discontentment compels us to find other avenues to fulfill our craving of pleasure and binds us into sinful acts. If we really think about it, this is the reason why so many of us have the desire to accumulate more and more wealth in terms of money, possessions, people and fame – because we constantly find these short-lived moments of joy inadequate, no matter how much we pursue them.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you so much Sri Guru for explaining the psychology of a sin in such an easy to understand manner..

    1. नमो नमः श्री गुरु पादुकाभ्याम।

  2. Wonderful commentry on reality as experienced. I express my sincere Gratititude Regards💐💐💐☺️

  3. Main aapka six months se attend kar rahi hu…ashtavakar geeta..complete
    Abi Narad bhakti sutra 10..chal raha h

    Bahut hi bariya…Easy way me explain kar rahe h..behan prapuji…Thanx aapka.
    Shat shat pranam🙏

    Aapka present me kya chal raha h?
    Kub aur konsa Time h…plz vo muje bata de🙏❤️❤️💞

    1. Jai Krupadu,

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  4. Excellent Pravachan

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