Do we have a “sin-problem” or an
Most yoga devotees and New Age or Far Eastern
religionists believe man’s problem is not sin, but ignorance. However, the
subjects of "sin" and the "lower nature" are often
addressed in the Scripture base of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism,
and sometimes with strong langage. For instance, the Bhagavad-Gita warns
against the "triple gate of hell": lust, anger and greed. (See
If ignorance is the source of man’s dilemma, the
logical deduction is that salvation comes through knowledge. Yogi Bhajan
posed the question, "Who is the savior? It is your own higher
consciousness which can save you from your own lower consciousness."1
The premise behind this statement is that human beings are asleep to the
fact that they are truly divine. They need to be enlightened, awakened to
this realization of their ‘higher Self.’ They certainly do not need to
view themselves as sinners. During the first World Parliament of Religions
in Chicago (1983) Swami Vivekananda, founder of the Vedanta Societies,
offered the curious comment, "It’s a sin to call a man a
sinner." Of course, this obvious play on words contradicts itself,
because to sin makes one a sinner.
Many of my peers in the study of yoga felt the use of
this term was negative, even repulsive—and I must admit that I did too.
Yet this word is inseparably integrated into the teachings of Jesus and the
purpose for which he came? The angel that foretold Jesus’ birth instructed
Joseph, "You shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people
from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) According to this
heaven-sent herald, providing salvation from "sin" was the
primary reason for the Lord’s entrance into this world.
During his earthly ministry Jesus often used this word
and dealt with the concept behind it. Once he even protested, "Whoever
commits sin is a slave of sin." (John 8:34) And there is
no more powerful statement than Jesus’ forceful declaration to those who
rejected his claim to Messiahship, "If you do not believe that I am he,
you will die in your sins." (John 8:24) Such phrases
would be inconsistent with a real ‘Avatar’—(for those who believe that
to be his identity)—if the dilemma of the human race is just an ‘ignorance
The teachings of Gnosticism often challenged the early
church and its doctrine. The Gnostics proposed that ‘salvation’ is
achieved through knowledge (gnosis). Once seekers are awakened to the
‘knowledge’ of their divinity they are lifted above the confines of
sense consciousness. When this happens, they conquer negativity in their
lives and begin to live on a higher plane of saintliness. So revelation
knowledge, not repenting of sin, emerged as the answer. Most likely in
response to the Gnostics of his day, the apostle John wrote, "If we say
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in
us." (1 John 1:8) Erasing the concept of sin enables men to set
their own standards, instead of aligning with God’s. This can, at times,
make aberrant behavior allowable.
The main issue at stake is not the rightness or wrongness
of the idea of ‘sin,’ but rather, the interpretation of the nature of
the Godhead. If God is just an impersonal energy force, human beings are not
morally accountable to him. Hindu Scripture gives many guidelines concerning
a person’s moral and ethical behavior. Yet in the story of his conversion
to Christianity, former guru, Rabi Maharaj, pointed out, "Hinduism
teaches that each man’s dharma, or rule of conduct, differs and
must be discovered individually; there is no moral code binding upon
all."2 This runs parallel to the concept of relativism, the
idea that behavioral choices should not be governed by predetermined rules
and regulations, but by the sensation of the moment.
If God is a personal Creator, there are definite, moral
absolutes to which all human beings must conform. Because God authors these
laws, failure to observe them is considered a transgression or a ‘sin’
against him. A personal God, in great love and fatherly concern, watches
over the thoughts, attitudes and actions of human beings to see if they are
in conformity with his will. Those who come to God, acknowledging his
standard of proper behavior, are privileged to receive pardon and cleansing
upon repentance over wrong choices. The next step is for them to lovingly,
worshipfully submit to God’s rules and oversight. This should be done in
the realization that God’s purpose in giving guidelines is not to
dominate, but to liberate. He knows what kind of behavior has a destructive,
binding and blinding effect on us and what ushers us into a place of
freedom, bounty, illumination and blessing. His boundaries really are for
our protection and comfort.
The Scripture warns that when lust (selfish desire) has
"conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
brings forth death" (emotional death, mental death, spiritual death,
physical death and ultimately, eternal death). (James 1:15) But Jesus
came to give "life…and that more abundantly." (John 10:10)
Teaching on the concept of sin fills the Bible, as does the cure for this
great dilemma of the human race.
This does not negate the fact that ‘knowledge’ is
essentially important. The Scripture announces that "the LORD is a God
of knowledge" and "through knowledge the righteous will be
delivered." (I Samuel 2:3, Proverbs 11:9) It also instructs that
those who are bound to their lusts are living in "ignorance." (1
Peter 1:14) So being ‘awakened’ out of ‘ignorance’ by the
influence of the Spirit of God is, and will always be, a primary concern.
However, understanding that we have a ‘sin-problem’ is inextricably a
part of this ‘knowledge-awakening."
1 Yogi Bhajan, The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, The Power
of the Spoken Word, p. 129, #510.
2 Rabi R. Maharaj, The Death of a Guru, p. 159.