Essence of the Three Secrets | 9

Atonement for Offences

When an aspirant thinks he is Śeṣa to the Lord, performs service in accordance with the śāstras and is free from any danger, he will not deliberately indulge in sin. Will it not be against his chosen kainkarya?

If at some time or other due to the results of action in a past birth he finds himself in a place without water or caught in a time of drought, or is lost in extreme sorrow, happens to commit a mistake, the Lord bears with him and will not think of imposing any punishment for the lapse.

If the sin is committed knowingly also, when the Lord has decided to forgive him, the sins will not follow, and the aspirant will feel ashamed, perform Prapatti and be rid of sin.

Even if he does not atone but keeps on the wrong course due to the actions in his past birth, the Vedas that are the spring of Purāṇas have given the assurance that one who has surrendered need fear no hell.

The Lord out of compassion will give him some mild punishment:

It is like a king who imposes milder punishments upon those near him who have committed a wrong. In any case, it is certain that the prapanna (aspirant) will gain Moksha. There may be delay in gaining Moksha in proportion to the wrong committed by the aspirant.

For some, life is stretched long making him suffer more, but he gains Moksha in the moment the physical body disintegrates. A prapanna has no rebirth: Moksha is a certainty for him at the close of his mortality.

If a prapanna indulges in wrong doing after performing Prapatti for Moksha, it is better he performs it again. This way he is rid of sins. He is also safe from losing the Lord's affection. Nor will he be punished for committing sins.

After performing Prapatti as atonement, one must avoid wrong doing at all costs. If he indulges in his evil ways, he will be punished.

The main reason for such indulgence is a lack of discrimination. This lack of discrimination makes one think of the physical body as one's soul (ātma).

The feeling that he is the owner of the body which actually belongs to the Lord, the pride that he is his own master and hence need not obey any other are the follies of the soul. This Ignorance has to be discarded and one must gain discrimination.

When an aspirant surrenders, the prārabdha sins (due to evil acts performed in previous births) and those that he committed in spite of himself are all gone.

The sins that had been willingly performed by him in this birth get removed along with the earlier ones when he performs Prapatti. In case a sin is committed at the time of surrender - that too can be nullified by surrendering again.

Of the sins committed by an aspirant, the most heinous is Bhāgavata upachāra (wrong-doing towards the Lord's devotees). The Lord cannot countenance Bhāgavata upachāra.

So the aspirant has to ask for forgiveness from the same devotee whom he has wronged, and make peace with him. Only then can he regain the Lord's pleasure.

Among devotees there are no caste differentiations. Whatever be the caste of the Bhāgavata, unless his forgiveness is gained, there is no way out for the prapanna. He cannot gain the grace of the Lord.

There are instances of this in the Purāṇas and there is the forgiveness sought by Sugrīva from Lakṣmaṇa. Hence atonement for sins committed is very important.

Residence Suitable for an Aspirant

The aspirant should know about the suitability of the residence He chooses to use.

Āryāvartta and other holy places do not follow the varṇāśrama dharma properly and hence they are unsuitable. The aspirant should choose a place where the four castes follow their dharmas properly.

The best place for him is where devotees are found in plenty.

Śrī Bhāgavatam has said that in Kāli yuga large numbers of devotees will be found in certain places and these areas would be adjacent to rivers like Thamirabarani, Vaigai, Palar and Cauvery in Tamil Nadu.

So Tamil Nadu is ideal for residence for devotees. The places mentioned with affection by Āḻvārs and Āchāryas are holy places. Though Śrī Rāmānuja has referred to “living in comfort in Śrīraṅgam", it is only cited as an example.

In the Tīrtha-yatṛa Parva of the Mahābhārata and in the Rāmāyaṇa the residences of the Lord have been enumerated.

Just as the residences of the Lord in His Rāma and Krishna incarnations have been praised, in the Pāñcharātra you find mentions of the eight svayam-vyakta kshetras like Tirumalai and Śrīraṅgam and other places where devotees have set up Images of the Lord.

If one resides in such a place, the mind will remain undisturbed till the end. No matter whether one performs some service or not, residence in a holy place is most desirable.

In every way the area chosen by the Lord and His devotees as residence is the best.

But though Kāśī and such places are holy, if there are no Bhāgavatas around who speak of the glory of the Lord, the places become unfit for residence for a prapanna.

Departing from the Physical

It was stated earlier that Moksha was certain for the prapanna at the disintegration of the body, once he has performed Prapatti:

He will not commit wrongs. Even if he does, he will perform Prapatti again to be freed of the sin. Even if he does not, the Lord will give him some punishment and finally give him Moksha.

But if the prapanna continues to pray at the altar of other gods, it would mean his Prapatti has not borne fruit. The most important need for Prapatti is total faith in the Lord.

His praying to other gods shows that he has no such total faith and hence his Prapatti has been fruitless. He will not gain Moksha either.

For those who are certain to get Moksha, this body will hold on only till the prārabdha karma broods over him. Then he is certain to gain Moksha after the disintegration of the body.

The association of Uttarāyaṇa and daytime with Moksha is for others, not for the prapanna. Prapannas and devotees are not controlled by such considerations in the matter of attaining Moksha.

The devotee who is found fit for moksha is shown the path of the Brahma nādi (the vein of Brahma) by the Lord Himself, made to pass through it, and conveyed to Moksha via the rays of the sun and the Shining path.

There is no rule that the prapanna remembers the Lord at the moment of his life leaving the body. Though there is no remembrance, Moksha is certain.

It is for other devotees who are not prapannas that the Gita lays down the need to remember the Lord at the moment of release from the body.

The Prescribed Path

When the Jīvātmā has reached the di (vein) at the crown, it is taken out of the body by the Lord and conveyed through the prescribed path:

The Jīvātmā is led by the Lord Himself through Archis (fire), day-time, Śukla pakṣa (bright half of the moon), Uttarāyaṇa, year, Vāyu, Āditya, Chandra, lightning, Varuṇa, Indra and Amanava (Vidyutā) with the help of Prajāpati. On the way the Jīvātmā is made to enjoy various pleasures as well.

Then he is taken to Śrī Vaikuṇṭha, made to throw away the gross body created by karma and the subtle body created by experiential knowledge and given the body that has nothing to do with Prakriti (matter).

He is then taken to the tank of Airammadiyam and made to stand near the āswattha tree called Somā Yavana:

There he is welcomed by five hundred divine damsels carrying garlands, ornaments and garments. The ātma is infused with scent, taste and glow.

As the crowned, heavenly denizens welcome him, the prapanna is led to the guards called Prajāpatis and is given royal treatment. The Lord then shows Himself with His consorts in the Hall of Ānanda.

The prapanna joins the lotus feet of the Lord along with other Muktas and Nitya Sūrīs. His true nature shines forth and he engages himself in all service with Muktas find Nitya Sūrīs with no trace of opposition.

Those devotees, who have chosen Bhakti yoga to gain this path, have to meditate on all this daily on the earth. But the prapanna has no need to do so. Yet this description is helpful to know what one gains in choosing the path of Prapatti.

As it is about the Moksha he is to gain, the very thought will make him happy. Even if he does not have a complete idea, a general cue would be enough to fulfil his desire.

The Bliss of Brahman

The person who follows this path gains eternal bliss.

The Jīvātmā in moksha would be watching the Lord always and in all places and in all conditions as various forms, qualities and Vibhūtis. As all these enjoyments are identical for the Lord and the prapanna, both are said to be the same.

This Mukta gains total Ānanda when looking upon the Lord. Just as a queen is dear to the king and she enjoys all that he has, all of Lord gives the Jīvātmā sheer Ānanda. The Vedas and other scriptures opine that the Lord who has everything gives Ānanda to the realised soul.

As the form of the Lord gives him pleasure, the form itself is Parama-pāda (the Supreme Abode). Since one reaches a place to gain the Lord, it is known as Parama-pāda.

As the Mukta experiences the Ānanda, He who is the cause of it is known as Parama-pāda along with His form of Superior qualities.

After one becomes a Mukta, all that is on earth are friendly to him:

As a bhakta, due to karmic reasons there were friendly and inimical things, but as a Mukta he will find everything friendly to him, as there is no more any karmic connection. In Moksha under the benign gaze of the Lord, he can perform all services and fulfil his desires.

One who has gained such Moksha never returns to the earth. Such is the conclusion of the Vedas. Even if he comes to the earth out of his own volition, he will not lack in Ānanda. This is the significance of saying that he does not return.

Gods, Brahma and human beings are all capable of achieving Moksha. But one cannot predict the nature of the body that precedes Moksha.

For those performing bhakti yoga, the body in which the yoga is completed becomes the last before gaining Moksha. For the prapanna, Moksha is gained at the disintegration of the present body.

Though there may be differences between Jīvas till they reach Moksha or when in Swarga, after reaching Moksha there is absolutely none, be it in Ānanda or enjoyment. If there is a difference felt, it is against the very nature of Moksha experience.

Though the Mukta has nought to do in the creation of the Lord's abode, the Ānanda of that world belongs to him. That is why it was said that they are identical. In what they are, they do not become equal.