Baba says, ‘repent sincerely for your sins by staying in remembrance and you will become conquerors of sinful actions and your past karmic accounts will be settled.’
In the world, many have the wrong idea of what repentance really means. They believe that repentance is punishing myself for the wrongs I have committed. People used to sacrifice themselves at Kashi, for example; they would commit suicide at Kashi by jumping into the well there. While this has been stopped by the government, people still continue to do things to punish themselves as a way to show repentance. Baba clarifies, ‘this is not repentance.‘
Repentance means a ‘turn‘ or ‘return‘ to righteousness. Suicide or other means of voluntary, external punishment such as flagellation or fasting etc. is not repentance because it does nothing to bring about a change of character or conduct, that is, it does not enable a return. There is guilt, there is shame but there is no change. Secondly, repentance is also not remorse. I might feel badly about what I did for a few minutes, a few hours, even a few weeks but that does not mean there is change. Too much and continual remorse will lead to depression and push me toward suicide or drugs or other means of abuse but it will do nothing to change me. Thirdly, repentance is not self-condemnation either. Hating myself for what I did, rejecting myself is the worst form of violence against the soul. Let alone bringing change, in fact, self-condemnation tightly shuts the window to change. Instead it opens wide the doors to grief and despair. God teaches me to hate the sin, i.e. Ravan, but He wants me to love myself as He does. Let me hate the false ways, the greed, the anger but not myself. Self-hate leads to self-destruction and that is a great sin.
So then, what is true repentance? Repentance is an act of courage, not a sign of defeat. It is power and action. It is resolve. It is an act that truly breaks the chains of bondage to old sanskars that cause me to do wrong and lose my self-respect. God would rather work with a sinner who has a true heart and wants to change than the clever ones who put on a perfect performance.
The first step in genuine repentance is knowledge. I need to know what is right before I can know what is wrong. If I get on the wrong road, I won’t know it until I have the knowledge of what the right road is. And so the first thing Baba does is give me the knowledge, the understanding of right vs wrong. As I stray off the highway, I start to miss the familiar billboards, the scenery looks different, then suddenly I realize that I have lost my way. Only then do I know that I need to turn back. Similarly, on the spiritual highway, I see the signpost that says: ‘Stop. Look. Listen. Danger ahead!’ God as my Satguru prompts me, then there is my own conscience that warns me; together they say: ‘Detour! Change! You’re on the wrong road!’ If I have this conviction, let me be grateful and not try to deny it. It means I am connected to God and can hear Him. He is waving the red flag, directing me to a proper path. So this is the first step- to know.
The second step in true repentance is a feeling of sincere regret over past sins and an earnest desire to walk in the new path that God is showing me. It is not a shallow sentiment or a superficial remorse, it is a true brokenness where I have tried my way or rather, Ravan’s way for long enough where I am now at the end of the road. I can see clearly what it has done to me, how it makes me feel, and I have decided, made a noble resolve to make a U-turn, to return. I no longer want to live life my way, I want to live it His way, for Him, by His directions, to become His helper by changing myself. So this is the second step- sincere regret.
The third step carries with it the idea of changing– changing my mind, my attitude, my ways- according to Shrimat. If I am truly repentant, I will summon my will to change and on seeing my earnest desire, God will match my tiny will with His enormous will and there WILL be change. ‘When you take a step of courage’, Baba promises, ‘I will match it with a thousand steps of My own.’ God already knows where I need change and He is showing me. When I too come to the same realization and come into agreement with Him: ‘Yes God, I agree with You. I see what You have been showing me and I want to change’, then there is no stopping us! This agreement happens in remembrance.
God is the Purifier, He comes to purify souls who have become impure and return them to their original truth. He uses situations and people to pull out the judgmental and critical attitudes, the anger and rage, the rejection, the bitterness and unforgiveness, the jealousy, the pride and all the other toxins inside me that need to be washed out. These are the karmic accounts that need to be settled. I think: ‘I was never like this before Baba’. Well I was, I just didn’t have the knowledge to be aware of right vs wrong. He pulls out and brings me face to face with my darkness enough times and in enough ways where I become so aware of my sin that I decide I HAVE to change if I want to live with myself. And so God helps me to come to a place of repentance. Let me be grateful.
He does not have any desire to see me groveling or prostrating myself before Him; In His call for me to repent, He only and only has my welfare and happiness as His motive. Without repentance, there can be no salvation; repentance is a necessary step to claim my inheritance. And it is the repentant heart that God can use to bring about transformation in the world. When I see what He sees, I can receive from Him a new life, a new direction. He can then use me as His instrument to show others the path to the Father and to their inheritance.
‘When you repent sincerely, you have your sins absolved with the power of yoga.‘, He assures me. To have my sins absolved means to become as if I never committed sin i.e. brand new. When I sincerely repent and offer the sanskar to God in remembrance, God helps me turn or return to the right path and blots out my sins. And so He says, ‘be honest with the true Father, tell Him everything truthfully. Only true Brahmins can claim their inheritance from the Father.’ And so repentance and faith go hand in hand- I cannot have true repentance unless I have faith that it is God showing me and that He will help me turn.
Baba says, ‘Manmanabhav! belong to Me alone in your mind.‘ This confluence age is the short window of time wherein I have to settle all accounts of the current and past births. As long as I carry this burden on my head, I cannot fly home with God nor be of help to Him here. He is helping me shed these burdens and true repentance is my part. I can only do my part when I remain tuned-in, when my intellect is connected with His. Let me do my part well and pass with honors, that is, let me claim my full inheritance.