The Virtue of Sinning Intelligently

Hi, Ted.


Wow that was an incredibly quick reply!!!

Karma yoga, yes I mentioned that I think to imply that I still do stuff in the ‘world’ and society however little but do so with the karma yoga approach rather than ‘as’ karma yoga.  But your reply to that was beautiful and clarified the concept.

Also, to be reminded that being aware and managing the gunas is not because I need to be changed as such but just as a tool to aid self-inquiry was really helpful.

Ted: Glad the responses helped.

Jane: Can you expand a bit more on “sin-intelligently.”  I am not too sure exactly what you mean?

Ted: “Sin intelligently” was a phrase that Swami Chinmayananda, James’ teacher, used to use to mean that you need to exercise moderation when indulging your vasanas, or compelling desires. Despite the romantic notion that once you see the light you are suddenly transformed into a purified and holy person who never thinks a bad thought much less performs anything less than selfless and compassionate actions, the truth is that the same old habitual thought patterns and behavioral tendencies continue to nag the mind. Due to one’s ever-increasing assimilation of self-knowledge and realization of the incapacity of any object to produce lasting happiness, permanent peace, and ever-abiding fulfillment, these deeply ingrained tendencies lose their domineering demeanor and become easier to manage. Except in rare cases, however, they do not disappear overnight. We liken the process of their exhaustion to a fan that has just been unplugged. Though it is no longer being fed the electricity necessary to keep it spinning indefinitely — which in the case of the vasanas would be the indulgences that reinforce and thus sustain them — the blades do not come to a sudden stop. It takes some time for them to slow down before they eventually come to a complete standstill. Just so, even after self-knowledge has begun to neutralize or even altogether neutralized one’s binding vasanas, those old negative thought patterns and object-oriented desires will continue to arise within one’s mind as they gradually weaken and finally abate once and for all. During this period, one may be seen to moderately indulge behaviors that otherwise might be seen as still binding.

The admonition to “sin intelligently” perhaps most appropriately applies, however, to the period of sadhana during which one is purifying the mind and cultivating the necessary qualifications for effective self-inquiry. Quite often, gung-ho spiritual seekers want to expedite the process of enlightenment by instantaneously renouncing all their “bad” behaviors and “unspiritual” actions. Though understandable, what this usually amounts to is little more than self-abasement, repression, and denial. In other words, they beat up on themselves for having such horrible traits and tendencies and then either completely repress their inclinations in these areas or deny that they even have such inclinations in an attempt to convince themselves and/or others that they are spiritually pure. In either case, the approach is futile because the vasanas don’t fall victim to such vanity. If they are afforded no avenue of expression in the present moment, they will either fester in the subtle body and cause ongoing agitation and upset in the mind or reside in a dormant state within the causal body or unconscious until the inevitable moment arrives when one lets one’s guard down and they are granted an open gateway through which to come rushing forth and resume their assault on the conscious mind with renewed vigor. Because they were never legitimately laid to rest, their strength remains undiminished and their influence as disturbing as ever.

“Sinning intelligently” or allowing oneself to moderately indulge one’s binding vasanas enables one to periodically alleviate the mental agitation caused by them while at the same time affording one the opportunity with each indulgence to contemplate the inherent defects in the pursuit of object-oriented happiness. Over time — provided one continues to exercise discrimination — the compelling force of these vasanas will naturally dissipate, and one will ultimately abide in the ultimate inner freedom that is one’s true nature as limitless awareness.

Jane: Your contact and reply was much appreciated.

Thank you

All the best,