A thief while committing crime knows he will be punished if caught. And when he is caught and punished, he promises to himself and to the judge in the court that henceforth he will never steal. But as soon as he is out of jail he again begins stealing.
A student knows if he does not study, he will fail. An employee knows if he does not work sincerely, he will be fired. Many a times we take a vow to not indulge in an act which may negatively impact us. But still we do it and we suffer.
We may wonder, “Why a person despite being punished for his actions commit the same mistake (or crime) again and again?”
Maharaja Parikshit had similar doubt so he asked SukhdevaGoswami, “One may know that sinful activity is injurious for him because he actually sees that a criminal is punished by the government and rebuked by people in general and because he hears from scriptures and learned scholars that one is thrown into hellish conditions in the next life for committing sinful acts. Nevertheless, in spite of such knowledge, one is forced to commit sins again and again, even after performing acts of atonement. Therefore, what is the value of such atonement?” Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1.9
Scriptures explain that as long as our senses are impure and uncontrolled it will compel us to indulge in sinful activities.
In Bhagavad Gita 2.67 Krishna says, “As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man’s intelligence.”
Even if we practice mantra meditation like chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra but continue committing forbidden activities hoping that chanting will nullify it then it won’t work. “Committing sinful activities on the strength of the chanting of the holy names of the Lord” is one of the offenses against the chanting of Krishna’s holy names.
A serious spiritual practitioner knows well that his uncontrolled senses and mind are his biggest enemy and cause of miseries, so he carefully employs his senses in executing any activity. Unless and until we completely give up all sinful activities there is no chance that we can free ourselves from sufferings.
Similarly, certain Christians commit sins throughout the week but go to church every weekend to confess their sins thinking that mere confession will absolve them from weekly sins. But such atonement will never provide any relief to the practitioners.
Once an alcoholic suffering from heart disease went to a doctor. The doctor gave him medicine and asked him to consume milk and fruit juices and instructed him not to again drink liquor. But the patient pleaded saying that he will take all the medicine on time, drink lots of fruit juices and milk but he should be allowed to consume liquor. The doctor said that if you continue consuming liquor then the medicine will not be of much help and you will have to suffer and die.
Similarly, if a devotee continues committing sins he will suffer, and his devotional journey will never be blissful.
So, a devotee needs to take a vow not to get carried away by the whimsically desires of the mind and senses. If we want a healthy body, we will have to take healthy food and also not expose ourselves to contaminated environment so that we may not fall sick.
Similarly, to have a healthy mind and senses we need to be extremely careful about what we are feeding to our mind and senses. Mind is like a blotting paper, it absorbs anything and everything with which it comes in contact with. So we need to be extremely careful when we are exposing ourselves to external environment.
The members of our family, the colleagues in our offices, the friends with whom we spend our time, the books we read, the movies we watch, the websites we browse, the time we spent on social media all have great influence in our life. It shapes our desires, our behaviour and our thought process.
The moment we put ourselves in unrighteous environment that very moment we sow the seed of unrighteous thought in our mind. And if we continue to be in such an atmosphere the seed fructifies and by the time we realize our mistake we begin doing horrendous things which once we may not have even thought of indulging in.
But on the other hand, if we associate with righteous people especially saintly people then their presence can immediately purify our senses and elevate our consciousness. In Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.30 it is mentioned, “Even half a moment’s association with pure devotees within this world of birth and death is a priceless treasure for any man.”
For example, the hippies in the western world were indulging in all sorts of abominable activities but when they got the association of Srila Prabhupada they gradually gave up their sinful way of living. Almost all of them used to consume drugs, liquor and non-vegetarian food. They indulged wantonly with opposite sex.
But Srila Prabhupada’s presence and teachings transformed their hearts, purified their intelligence and gave them determination using which they not just controlled their mind and senses but also utilized it in practicing devotion to Krishna. They started getting up early in the morning at 4:30 am to attend Mangal Arati, started chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra, spent their days in reading Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic books, sang bhajans, took only prasad, and also started preaching others about Krishna. Many of them became sannyasis and many others responsible grihastas.
Mrugari, the cruel hunter, who used to half kill animals so that he can enjoy seeing them die became so transformed after getting the association of sage Narada that he would walk cautiously so that he may not step over an ant.
Srila Prabhupada in Nectar of Instructions (purport Verse 1) explains that “if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a pure devotee, he can easily surpass all the practices for controlling the mind by the mystic yoga process simply by following the regulative principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness – refraining from illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling – and by engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord under the direction of the bona ﬁde spiritual master.”
So we should proactively put in our best efforts to cleanse our senses and mind of all impurities and simultaneously take precautionary steps so that no impurity again enters in our hearts. Once our senses and mind get purified it won’t force us to indulge in sinful activities. We won’t be then subjected to any suffering and we will always be blissful by happily serving Krishna.