SINS - Spiritually Incorrect News Service: Indulge Yourself! You'll Be Forgiven in the Year 2000

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In case you haven't heard the news, the Catholic Church is offering a kind of "sinners' special" during the year 2000. Pope John Paul II has caused considerable embarassment in liberal Catholic circles over the years, with his fondness for the practice of granting so-called "indulgences" ? a special form of amnesty for the sinful that was begun in the Middle Ages when these pardons were actually sold for money. Nowadays, hard currency is not part of the deal ? at least not directly. But acts of charity to the poor, penitence, or participation in certain Church rituals can erase a past history of sins in a "wholesale" rather than "retail" transaction.

The upcoming special offer on sin-cleansing is scheduled to begin on December 25, 1999 and continues through January 6, 2001. According to the New York Times, "believers will be offered a wider selection of ways to receive a plenary indulgence." These include attending a Mass in one of the participating churches, visiting the sick, the imprisoned or the handicapped, or giving to the poor. They can also perform an act of private sacrifice such as giving up smoking for a day. Lest anyone think this particular sacrifice is trivial beyond belief, Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe of the Vatican's Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 was quick to point out, "It's not so easy for some to give up smoking for a day." But he had a suggestion for the hopelessly addicted, who might otherwise miss out on the deal: "It might be easier to visit a prison inmate."

The Meaning of Repentance

There is no question of sin in your life. You can, at the most, commit a mistake; you can do something which you never wanted to do, and then there is heaviness on your heart. Then do something to undo what you have committed. Going to the priest is simply idiotic. Whatever you have done, undo it -- that is the only real repentance -- and not for any motive.

"Repent, because the day of judgment is very close by." If it was not very close by, then...? Then there is no hurry; go on committing sin. When it comes close by, you can repent. And it is not close by, because two thousand years have passed, and Jesus was simply telling a lie when he said, "The day of judgment is very close by, so repent." He was creating fear in people, that "if you don't repent, then on the day of judgment you will be punished. It is better that, before that, you repent. Go to the priest, confess, get rid of it."

But if you can get rid of your so-called sins so easily, by every Sunday going to the priest, do you understand the implications of it? It means for the next week you are again free to commit sins and do anything you want, because all that you have to do is to go again to the priest.

Hindus have an even simpler method. Every year go to the Ganges, have a good bath, and all your sins are washed away. Why make such small installments -- one week? Why not one year? And if you cannot manage once a year, then every twelve years there is a special fair in Allahabad -- perhaps the biggest gathering of people in the whole world, millions of people. Whatever you have done in twelve years, by taking a bath in the Ganges on that day you are clean, free to do the same things again; at least for another twelve years there is no problem.

I am reminded of an incident in Ramakrishna's life. He was very simple, uneducated, but a man of tremendous insight. A man came to him and said, "I am going to the Ganges -- it is the twelfth year -- and I want your blessings. And is it true that all sins that you have done are washed away?"

Ramakrishna was not my type. He said, "Yes, it is true. All sins are washed out while you take a dip in the Ganges."

The man gave a great sigh of relief. He said, "Then it is good. If you say so, then it is perfect."

Ramakrishna said, "But I have not finished, I have to say something more. Have you seen those big trees on the bank of the Ganges?" He said, "Yes."

Ramakrishna said, "That is the trouble: when you take the dip in the Ganges your sins jump out and sit on the trees, and they wait for you. How long can you remain in the water? The Ganges is really great and it does purify, but how long...? Finally, you will have to come out, and the moment you come out -- those sins are sitting on the trees, they jump on you. And sometimes it happens that somebody else's sins also jump on you -- just for a change they enjoy it. Those trees are full of sins. So you can go, but beware of the trees."

The man said, "This is very difficult. How long can I remain in the water? Finally I have to come out, and I have to pass under those trees."

Ramakrishna said, "I can't help you with that. That's why I don't go -- what is the point?".

All religions have found strategies, first to make you feel guilty, then to give you a simple method so that you can be free of guilt.

I am not teaching you a religion. I simply want to tell you the truth. If you have done something wrong, go to the person. Be humble, ask his forgiveness. Only he can forgive you, nobody else -- neither the Ganges nor God.

And remember, that is the meaning of the word "sin": forgetfulness. So now, don't forget again and do the same; otherwise, your asking forgiveness becomes meaningless. Now be careful, be alert, be conscious; and don't do the same thing again. That is true repentance. Once you made the mistake -- it was just a mistake. To err is human, there is nothing to be worried about.

And to forgive is divine, so if somebody comes to you and says that he has committed a mistake against you, don't miss the opportunity of tasting something of the divine. Or, when you have committed some mistake and you go to somebody else to be forgiven, you are giving him a great chance to have some taste of the divine. It is good for both of you. By forgiving, he tastes something which is impossible to explain; it can only be called divine, godliness. And you also will feel something tremendously beautiful: humbleness, egolessness.

But remember not to commit the mistake again. It should become a decision in you; then you are really repentant. It has nothing to do with God, it has nothing to do with any priest; it has something to do with your own psychology.


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