If we can’t ban sin from the heart, we can still banish it
“How could I have even thought of such a thing?” We may react thus in dismay on catching ourselves entertaining grievously sinful desires.
How can we avoid thinking of such things?
Based on the characteristics of brahmanas outlined in the Bhagavad-gita (18.42), we can adopt a two-pronged approach: ban sin (shama – peacefulness) or banish it (dama – self-control).
Let’s understand these two steps better:
1. Ban sin: Peacefulness results when we meticulously avoid wanton desires that agitate us. Once we have resolved to lead a life of moral integrity, we simply waste our time and mental energy playing with desires that we are not going to enact. Contemplating on the futility of entertaining such desires inspires us to resolutely ban them from our heart.
2. Banish sin: Despite our ban, some sinful desires keep returning. Then we need to banish them. That means we exercise dama (self control or, more precisely, sense control) by refusing to act physically on those desires. Our uncompromising refusal disempowers those desires, for they are parasites that suck energy from our fantasies about them. And as their power decreases, it becomes easier to drive them out. When we reject them determinedly and repeatedly, they gradually realize they are persona non grata and so stop visiting. That is, they accept the ban.
Banning refers to disallowing sinful desires entry and banishing refers to dismissing those desires that force their way in. By cultivating steady inner remembrance of Krishna and relishing higher happiness, we fill our mind with Krishna-thoughts, thereby making banning sin easier. And by keeping ourselves busy in external service to Krishna, we leave ourselves no time to act on sinful desires, thereby de-energizing them and making banishing them easier.
Thus does bhakti-yoga empower us to ban and banish sin.
“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.”