By J.S. Neki
Jun 23 2010
Repentance is the after-fever that the mind suffers following an immoral or tabooed act. It is regret of, and acknowledgement, that one has done wrong and is accompanied by sorrow and contrition. It is connected with a sense of sin or transgression of the moral order.
One type of repentance relates to what wrong one has done — as exemplified by the following lines of Mira Bai:
Had I known that falling in love causes misery,
With the beat of a drum I would have declared all over the town:
Beware! No one should fall in love.
There is also another kind of repentance — of not having done what was required to be done:
The fool knows not and loves the dream he has,
And forsakes the joys of (the Lord’s) dominions.
Thus his life gets wasted in worldly trifles.
This kind of repentance is often called remorse.
Repentance has a number of phases. At first, a feeling of regret arises. One remembers the wrongs one has done, and that makes him unhappy. Keerat, the Guru’s minstrel, set into verse such sad remembrances in the following words:
I am overflowing with sins and demerits; I have no virtue at all.
I abandoned the ambrosial nectar, and took poison instead.
Attached to maya I am deluded; I loved my children and spouse alone.
And then prays for redemption saying:
O Guru Ramdas, pray, save me by keeping me in your custody.
Such a phase of repentance might also arise if sensual enjoyments dry up and yield no joy any longer, or cause pain instead. One is then gripped by deprivational sadness.
After the phase of regret, starts one of mental restlessness. Then one tends to cry out of remorse over whatever evil he had indulged in. He might then take a solemn vow never to repeat his misdemeanour. That indicates a change of attitude.
There are wide inter-religious differences in the quality and intensity of repentance depending on what is considered as the origin of evil. In the Christian faith, for example, the source of evil is the tempter Satan. In Sikh theology, God Himself is considered the author of good as well as evil. Surprised by this Sikh concept, a Christian would exclaim, “How can God be the author of evil?” However, a little open-mindedness can resolve the paradox. The omnipotent Christian God could have exterminated the rebellious Satan, if He wanted to. But He didn’t. Isn’t He Himself then responsible for the presence of evil in the world? Apart from blaming Satan for tempting him, a Christian might also blame himself for getting tempted. That often leads to a biting sense of guilt and an excruciating sense of repentance. A Sikh on the other hand would invoke God to divert his mind from evil and blessingly lead him towards salvation.
In Christianity, the painful sense of guilt has led to provision of penitentiary ceremonials including confessional which is considered a sacrament. The Sikh scripture has no room for any such ritual. Not that a devout Christian would not pray to God for help, but he very much also depends on the performance of penitentiary sacraments. The reformation that repentance brings about has a number of aspects as well. The intellectual aspect concerns change in man’s concept about God, about evil and about himself. Earlier, he might have thought that he is autonomous, therefore he can do whatever he may wish. One may also deny that God watches. He would have little compunction in doing evil if he can conceal his acts from public glance. He would regret and repent only on account of sad consequences of his acts. Or he might have got some clue to God’s Omniscience and that awakens him towards moral fidelity.
One then resolves to reform, change his attitude, and alter or repair his motives. He also has impulsion to seek forgiveness for his past actions.
Repentance, thus, includes self-criticism, realisation of moral transgression, remorse thereof, and a resolve to reform, seeking God’s help for his reformation.
— J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist he was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.
Source: The Asian Age