I got interested in the topic of the Original Sin as an exercise in how different religions view inherent corruption in the nature of men. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we do not see it in the exactly same way and we certainly don’t link it to the fault of one man (and one woman) as Christians do, but we all, regardless of our religions, have to deal with the results. Even atheists have to do something about it.
Our “original sin” is the moment the spirit soul turns away from the Lord and decides to take a tour of material world. This is debated by “no fall” vādīs but I won’t get into that now. We decided to have a different kind of relationship with the Lord, not the one based on service but the one based on pretending He does not exist and we’d better live our lives without Him.
Since the Absolute Truth is all-inclusive we can’t avoid dealing with the Lord, however, and, for our convenience, He created an inferior energy we can pretend to play with, and He placed us under the illusion that this energy is disconnected from Him. We wouldn’t call it a rasa but since the Lord is engaged supporting our decision it must bring Him at least some kind of pleasure, we are His children, after all. He literally can’t let us go, probably because there are no places outside of the Absolute Truth to go to.
Nevertheless, the original rejection of our existing relationships with Him must have been painful. We are certainly made to suffer, and so the cause of this suffering is our “original sin”.
There’s another force at play here, however – Kali Yuga. For us it’s only a harsher form of punishment, more ignorance and less goodness, but for other contemporary religions it is the only thing they have ever known. Perhaps only Judaism has a memory of what life was like before Kali took over but it certainly not the first thing one learns about that religion.
Introduction of Kali, and specifically increase in passion and ignorance, makes our sins two-layered. Some are due to our original rebellion and some are due to temporary waves of Kali Yuga overwhelming our consciousness. The original sin is eternal, the effects of Kali are not. I think it’s quite possible that when Christians or Muslims battle their sins they mean only sinful desires imposed on them by Kali Yuga, ones that come and go all the time and can be resisted by sticking to rules and regulations.
Seven deadly sins, for example, fall into this category. We are never lusty, greedy, or gluttonous all the time. We can easily figure out that these urges are temporary. We can learn to avoid them and we can learn to suppress them, they are more or less manageable, and so we see them as extraneous even if we attribute them to our sinful nature.
What I’m not so sure of is that battling this kind of sins helps people in other traditions realize the presence of the original offense towards the Lord in their hearts. Everything we do in this world is founded on that original rejection of Lord’s service, even at our best moments we are guided by the desire to avoid Him.
Of course, when we turn to religion we somewhat correct our mistake but this layer of grime on our hearts never goes away completely until we are safe and sound back in the spiritual world in the Lord’s company and in our fully spiritual bodies. Will Christians or Muslims get there, too? I think it’s very unlikely because their knowledge of the spiritual world is non-existent and if they don’t know where they are going it’s not likely they will ever get there. This is the stuff they’ll have to learn in the afterlife, though the same can be said about devotees, too – we are not likely to learn our spiritual position in Kṛṣṇa līlā in this life time, only general information about our destination.
This is an important point to remember – the process of anartha nivṛtti will continue until we reach Vṛndāvana in our spiritual bodies. Even being born in the Earthly manifestation of Vraja is not enough, as seen from the examples of gopīs who couldn’t join the rasa dance. What we are doing now is the major clean up that should allow us to acquire taste for bhakti, what we will do at the next step is being purified enough to eventually attain bhāva and then premā, which is theoretically possible while in our material bodies, but some anarthas will still be with us, that’s just the way it is.
So, I’m not sure if Christians and Muslims, or Jews, realize how deep our aversion to Lord’s service is seated within our hearts. It’s not just propensity to sin, if we are battling with four regs it’s still nothing, spiritually speaking. When those other religions recommend following certain rules as a way to counteract our inherently sinful nature it’s also still nothing, spiritually speaking – it’s just and introduction to vaidhī, regulations. Vaidhī does not equal to spontaneous devotion which alone can sufficiently purify our hearts.
Vaidhi-bhakti is performed for materialistic reasons – if spontaneous devotion is not there what other reasons can we possibly have? Some engage in following rules and regulations to make their lives better, more comfortable and more pleasurable. Some want release from suffering without any clear idea what comes next, but in any case path of vaidhi is a reaction to what happens to us in the material world.
Spontaneous devotion, otoh, is fully independent and completely self-sufficient, it like like that from material pov where the Lord is still invisible. It has no external reasons and it does not lead to any external goals, and it cannot be checked by any external means. It’s between the soul and the Lord and the material nature can’t get inside of that.
Only then we can hope to sincerely beg forgiveness for our original rejection of the Lord. Only spontaneous devotion can convince the Lord to give us another chance. Only then our original sin will get discarded.
Do Christians, Muslims, Jews, whoever, attain this stage? Perhaps only in the most confidential parts of their teachings, in the writings of the saints. It’s certainly not their required reading like our Caitanya Caritāmṛta or Nectar of Devotion. In my experience, vast majority of the regular believers have no idea.
We, as devotees, also should never forget that as long as we are in our material bodies we are bound to act out of selfish interests. By guru and Lord’s mercy we can be engaged in their service but it’s not an excuse for us to claim that we are not acting selfishly anymore. Our motives should never be presumed as pure. The fact that we must treat other devotees as spotless and unassailable in this regard should not give us any funny ideas about ourselves.
We are never really worthy the opportunity to serve, it’s not our divine right, not as long as we are in the material world. The engagements that we do have should be seen as causeless mercy from our guru, not even the Lord Himself. Causeless means we have not deserved it while mercy means that it’s sacred and must be cherished and protected. In this multi-party relationships between us, the material nature, the guru, and the Lord, only our motives are always impure and we should acknowledge that at all times.
There’s no place for vanity in spiritual life.