Why one should not hate the sinner?

Sri Aurobindo once said, “To hate the sinner is the worst sin, for it is hating God; yet he who commits it glories in his superior virtue”.  Mahatma Gandhi is known to have said “hate the sin; love the sinner”.  This post discusses the psycho-spiritual reasons why one may not want to hate the sinner.

There are two reasons why one must NOT hate the sinner:

  1. While criticizing others, we function under the illusion that we have strong fixed personality which is incapable of any error, but the reality is that  each one of us is as vulnerable to succumbing to the same weaknesses that we criticize in others.  We are composed of a chaotic mixture of thoughts and impulses held together by a nominal ego, and the depraved tendencies which are held in check automatically surface when the mind becomes weakened, as can be seen in states of intoxication or during dreams.
  2. To exist in a state of hatred is itself a weakness.  When we criticize others, we are creating an opening for adverse turbulent forces to enter into our settled consciousness.  This makes us vulnerable to falling into the same weaknesses that we hate in others.

What follows is a more expansive answer by the Mother Mirra Alfassa as to why one must not hate the sinner.

Question: When you enter into a certain state of consciousness, you see that you are capable of everything and that in the end there is not a single “sin” that is not our sin, potentially. Is this impression correct? And yet you revolt against certain things and you have repulsions: there is always a spot somewhere which you do not admit ? Why ? What is the true attitude, the attitude effective against Evil?

Mother Mirra Alfassa: There is not a single sin that is not our sin… You have this experience when for some reason or other – depending on the case – you come into contact with the universal state of consciousness – not in its limitless essence, but on any level of Matter. There is an atomic consciousness; there is a purely material consciousness; and there is, even more, a general psychological consciousness.  When by going within, by a kind of withdrawal from the ego, you come into contact with this zone of consciousness, let us say, a terrestrial or collective human psychological zone– there is a difference, collective human is restrictive, whereas terrestrial includes many animal movements, even plant movements; but as in the present case the moral notion of guilt, sin, evil belongs exclusively to the human consciousness, we will say simply the collective human psychological consciousness – when you come into contact with that through this identification, naturally you feel or see or know that you are capable of any human movement anywhere. It is to some extent a truth-consciousness – this egoistic sense of what belongs and does not belong to you, of what you can do and cannot do, disappears at that time; you become aware that the fundamental structure of the human consciousness is such that any human being is capable of doing anything at all. And since you are in a truth-consciousness, at the same time you have the feeling that judgments or aversions, or rejection, are absurd.  Everything is potentially there. And if certain currents of force – which you usually cannot trace; you see them come and go, but as a rule their origin and direction are unknown – if any one of these currents enters into you, it can make you do anything.

ARCHETYPES! : image by SalimFadhley via Flickr (creative commons).   Click image for source

If you could always remain in this state of consciousness, after some time – provided you maintained within you the flame of Agni, the flame of purification and progress – you would be able not only to prevent these movements from taking an active form in you and expressing themselves materially, but also to act on the very nature of the movement and transform it.  But, of course, unless you have attained a very high degree of realisation, it will be practically impossible to maintain this state of consciousness for long. Almost immediately you fall back into the egoistic consciousness of the separate self. And then all the difficulties come back: the disgust, the revolt against certain things, the horror they arouse in you, etc.

It is probable – it is even certain – that until you are yourself completely transformed, these movements of disgust and revolt are needed so that you can do in yourself what has to be done to shut the door. For after all, the problem is not to allow them to manifest themselves.

In another aphorism Sri Aurobindo says – I no longer remember his exact words – that sin is merely some thing which is not in its right place. In this perpetual Becoming, nothing ever repeats itself and there are things that disappear, so to speak, into the past; and when their disappearance becomes necessary these things become, for our very limited consciousness, bad and repulsive. And we revolt against them because their time is over.  But if we had the overall view, if we could contain within ourselves the past, the present and the future all at once – as it is somewhere above – we would see the relativity of these things and that it is above all the progressive Force of evolution that gives us the will to reject; and that wherever they are in their right place, they are quite acceptable. Only, it is practically impossible to have this experience unless you have the total vision, that is to say, the vision that belongs to the Supreme alone! Therefore you must first of all identify yourself with the Supreme; then, afterwards, with this identification, you can return to a sufficiently exteriorised consciousness and see things as they are. But that is the principle, and to the extent that you are capable of realising it, you reach a state of consciousness where you can look at everything with a smile of total certitude that everything is as it should be.

Naturally, people who do not think deeply enough will say, “Ah, but if we saw that everything is as it should be, nothing would move!” No, you cannot prevent things from moving! Even for a fraction of a second they do not stop moving. It is a continuous, total transformation, a movement that never ceases. And because it is difficult for us to feel like this, it is possible for us to imagine that if we were to enter into certain states of consciousness, things would not change. But even if we were to enter into an apparently total inertia, things would continue to change and so would we!

Basically, disgust, revolt, anger, all these movements of violence are necessarily movements of ignorance and limitation, with all the weakness – that limitation represents. Revolt is a weakness is the feeling of an impotent will. You will – or you think you will – you feel, you see that things are not as they should be and you revolt against whatever does not agree with what you see. But if you were all-powerful, if your will and your vision were all-powerful, there would be no occasion for you to revolt, you would always see that all things are as they should be. If we go to the highest level and unite with the consciousness of the supreme Will, we see, at every second, at every moment of the universe, that all is exactly as it should be, exactly as the Supreme wills it. That is omnipotence. And all movements of violence become not only unnecessary but utterly ridiculous.

Therefore there is only one solution: to unite ourselves by aspiration, concentration, interiorisation and identification with the supreme Will. And that is both omnipotence and perfect freedom at the same time. And that is the only omnipotence and the only freedom; everything else is an approximation. You may be on the way, but it is not the entire thing. So if you experience this, you realise that with this supreme freedom and supreme power there is also a total peace and a serenity that never fails. Therefore, if you feel something which is not that, a revolt, a disgust, something which you cannot accept, it means that in you there is a part which has not been touched by the transformation, something which has kept the old consciousness, something which is still on the path – that is all.

The Mother, On Thoughts and Aphorisms: Aphorism – 50

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15 thoughts on “Why one should not hate the sinner?

  1. V. Arvind

    What does sin mean in the Veda? Here is Sri Aurobindo’s beautiful translation (I remembered the “excites and hurries” phrase and found it with google):

    “Sin, in the conception of the Veda, from which this verse is taken bodily, is that which excites and hurries the faculties into deviation from the good path. There is a straight road or road of naturally increasing light and truth, RijuH panthâH, Ritasya panthâH, leading over infinite levels and towards infinite vistas, vîtâni pRiSThâni, by which the law of our nature should normally take us towards our fulfilment. Sin compels it instead to travel with stumblings amid uneven and limited tracts and along crooked windings (duritâni, vRijinâni).”

    1. Sandeep Post author

      This is the Rig Veda verse you are referring to probably.
      chittim-achittim chinavad vi vidvān pŗşhţeva vīta vŗjinā cha martān ( Rişhi Vāmadeva in Rig Veda 4.2.11)
      Let the knower discriminate the Knowledge and the Ignorance, the straight open levels and the crooked that shut in mortals.

      Sin is basically deformation of the Divine Vibration by the half-conscious Man, who is the child of Heaven and son of the Earth. In the Life Divine, there is a whole chapter on the seven kinds of ignorance in Man.
      Search in Savitri and the Agenda for the word ‘crooked

      Delight turns into overeating
      Love turns into jealousy
      Intensity turns into cruelty

      Sri Aurobindo always said that cruelty was one of the things most repugnant to him, but he explained it as the deformation of an intensity. We could almost call it the deformation of an intensity of love – something not satisfied with half-measures, something driven to extremes (which is legitimate) – it’s the deformation of the need for extremely strong sensations.
      (Agenda July 18 1961)

  2. ipsa

    This one when i had read before from Sri Aurobindo and Mother ,the way of thinking
    changed and one feels good to know this so one always knows there is lord inside all
    and he is the one who can only judge any other.
    132. When I knew nothing, then I abhorred the criminal, sinful and impure, being myself full of crime, sin and impurity; but when I was cleansed and my eyes unsealed, then I bowed down in my spirit before the thief and the murderer and adored the feet of the harlot; for I saw that these souls had accepted the terrible burden of evil and drained for all of us the greater portion of the churned poison of the world-ocean.

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  5. ipi

    It can be put like that; but virtuous and sinners is a wrong description; for it is not true that virtuous people suffer more than sinners. Many sinners are people who are preparing to turn to the Divine and many virtuous people have a long run of lives yet to go through before they will think of it.

    Sri Aurobindo
    (Letters on Yoga; Part I; PP 553-554)

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  11. mwb6119

    Quote from The Upanishad’s by SA:

    “We shall then be delivered from egoism and desire and the sense of separate existence and therefore from all grief and delusion and shrinking; for all brief is born of the delusion of separate existence, the sense of being my separate ego exposed to all these contacts of so much that is not myself. Get rid of this, see oneness everywhere, be the One manifesting Himself in all creatures; ego will disappear; desire born of sense of not being this, not having that, will disappear; the free inalienable delight of the One in His own existence will take the place of desire and his satisfactions and dissatisfaction’s. Immortality will be yours, death born of division will be overcome.” p95

  12. mw

    [This quote actually fits this blog best!] 😉

    Beyond Goodwill 3/5/15

    An enlightened and self-realized soul who lives in his divine self can see the totality or entire truth of a person. He can see very clearly the positive and negative elements in the surface nature of the person. He can see the dubious motives of ego, ambition, self-seeking, lurking behind a pleasant appearance. He can also see the unmanifest potentialities of his subliminal being and the unalloyed divinity of his soul. But when such an enlightened soul sees the negativities in a person, he doesn’t react in the same way as the average man. When he sometimes talks about it, it is not like the criticism of the ordinary mind; it is something scientific, objective and impersonal. For example, when a botanist says that a plant, leaf or fruit, is poisonous it is not a condemnation but an objective statement based on a scientific understanding of the nature of the plant. He has no personal negative feelings for the plant because it is poisonous. In an illumined soul, along with this scientific objectivity there is a compassion which comes from deep understanding of the root cause of the negativity of the person. When we know the entire complex of forces acting on a person and driving him, — material, psychological, evolutionary, karmic, spiritual — we will never or condemn or judge a person. We can only say with a deep understanding and compassion “He is what he is”.

    Most of us are very far from this state of enlightenment. However, we can hold it in our mind as an ideal, and slowly march toward it, by progressively moulding our mind and heart in the image of the ideal.



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