[Advaita-l] Prayascitta question

Ramesh Nagarajan rameshnj18us at gmail.com
Wed Aug 4 06:51:45 CDT 2010

Yes.  Prayascitta is mentioned in various scriptures.  But it is important
to know who needs to do Prayascitta.  If our goal is tied to the material
world and still haven't developed strong urge to spiritual path and / or
still have attachment and aversion towards external objects then Prayascitta
needs to be performed.  Because with Prayascitta, we are trying to protect
ourselves (body and mind) from bad karmas.

If our goal is only one and that is to find "Who am I", then Prayascitta
doesn't matter, as Prayascitta is related to body and mind.   Ultimately,
all the Sadhana that we are performing towards attaining this goal is to be
free from all.  In other words, we are performing Sadhana to become still
(abide in the inner stillness - absence of chitta vrittis), even in the
midst of actions.

In some cases, there is a strong urge to do Prayascittam even though we are
clear in our spiritual goal.  We feel guilty of our acts in the past and
wants to perform Prayascitta.  That shows there are still attachments and
aversions with the false "I".  There is a story to illustrate this.
Parashurama axed his mother as per the order of his father Jamadagni.  He
later regret it even after his mother "Renukha" was brought back to life.
Parashurama felt that he had done an sinful act and he had to perform
"Prayascittam".  So, he went to Rishis and asked what should I do to be free
from the bad deed that I have committed.  Rishis looked at his state of mind
and said, performed the following Prayascittam.  For the next 365 days, you
have to perform puja, with the following conditions.  Each day you have to
choose a unique flower, unique mantra, unique offering to God, unique
incense stick, etc.,  Whatever items used on one day shouldn't be repeated
on any of the other 364 days.  For example, if apple is used on the first
day, then it shouldn't be used as an offering for the rest of the year.
Parashurama gladly accepted and after practicing a month or so, he got tired
of it.  He had tough time to find unique items each day.  Somehow, with
great difficulty he was able to complete his Prayachittam.  He came back to
Rishis and said in a tiring voice, it was one tough Prayachittam and glad
that I was able to complete and I don't want to d anymore of this type of
actions, please guide me something else.  Rishis preached Atma Vidhya and
asked to perform Sadhana to become still.  Parashurama questioned, why you
didn't tell me an year ago, I could haven't suffered a lot and wasted my
time.  Rishis replied, you weren't in the state of mind to accept in
whatever we have said now.  Even if we had asked you to perform Sadhana, you
could have still asked for Prayachittam, as the guilty (aversion) was very
strong.  Now, by doing this Prayascitta you understand by experience that it
is not taking you anywhere and you are eligible for spiritual enquiry.

Thus performing Prayascittam or not is purely depends on the state of the
mind of that individual.  But ultimately Prayascitta doesn't matter if our
goal is to realize the True "I" and we have a strong Vairagya.  Why?  Body
belongs to Prakriti and let it go through whatever it has to go through in
this birth, based on my previous karma.  Atma is not affected by these
proceedings.  Of course, it is easier said than done.  But Sadhana takes us
there slowly and steadily.


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