Some times we get confused between what exactly is sin and what is reaction? What is the difference between these two? I recently heard a very nice explanation by HH Bhaktividya Purna maharaj and I am copying it’s transcript.
What is the difference between reaction and sin?
HH Bhaktividya Purna Maharaj :
Reaction will be you are put into the same situation in which you are giving that trouble, and you are on the other side. That’s reaction. Sin means going to hell for some time and going through all the animal species to be punished before you come to that situation.
The person who according to the Vedic literature kills an animal in sacrifice there is no sin. He’ll be elevated, the animal will be elevated. As far as karma-kanda goes it looks good all the way round . But there is still reaction that in the future the person that performed the sacrifice will be the animal, and the animal will be the person performing he sacrifice. Now the animal will get to sacrifice you. But it’s all good, it’s all pious activity. This is the downside. The reaction is there but they won’t go to hell for killing the animal and take birth in so many animal species. It’s still circle. That’s why if one is intelligent one worships Krsna and gets out of that, because it’s stupid. Even though it’s on this nicest level it’s still stupid. Most of the time the two go together, when there is sin there is reaction. But when you perform pious activities you can have reaction without sin. Just like you can have a good reaction and there is no sin. So you can also have a bad reaction without sin. But technically it’s all considered sinful because it’s not connected to the Lord. Good and bad when it’s not connected to the Lord it’s sin.
Some days I really feel sad at my weak self control as I fall again and again from whatever baby steps I take in my sadhna Bhakti. Outside I may take bath twice a day but inside I am full of worst what material nature has to offer. And I do feel very sad after failing to control my mind. But what good is that atonement.
in SB 6.1.9 Pariksit Maharaja says: 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?
He further adds in 6.1.10: Sometimes one who is very alert so as not to commit sinful acts is victimized by sinful life again. I therefore consider this process of repeated sinning and atoning to be useless. It is like the bathing of an elephant, for an elephant cleanses itself by taking a full bath, but then throws dust over its head and body as soon as it returns to the land.
So this is it, my feeling guilty after committing a mistake, is like an elephant’s bath. And I am so unfortunate that even after getting association of devotees I still can not control it and I continue to fall again and then again. Somedays I just feel helpless in front my mind, inspite of knowing what is good and what is not at all good for my sadhna bhakti.
I can only humbly pray to my spiritual master and to Srila Prabhupada to please give me strength so that I can control my mind; with my own strength and practice I can not reach anywhere in my spiritual journey, this is confirmed.
And I may be the best candidate for their mercy as they won’t get a more fallen person than me.