Repentance – Praayashchitta

Verses on Praayaschitta (Repentence)

with introduction by Dr Shanie Mahadeo-Heads

प्रायश्चित्त Praayashchitta means atonement, penance, repentance, expiation.

The Hindu concept of repentance embraces the admission or confession by anyone who has partaken or been involved in wrong or sinful actions, committed against another. Such acts can arise from harsh and hurtful words or deeds that are done by a person directly but can also arise indirectly by someone either by consent or commission (i.e. giving permission) and omission (not acting to prevent avoidable pain and suffering). Such undesirable thoughts, words or action can also have different intensities such as mild, middling or extreme.

The process of prayaschitta or atoning for such wrongful actions are done by undertaking appropriate practices including austerities, fasting, pilgrimage and other acts, aimed at lessening the heavy burden in one’s mind.

To practice prayaschitta effectively, it is important to recognize that the source of all our negative thoughts and actions arising from the five kleshas, ignorance, ego, attraction, aversion or fear and to understand how such thoughts and actions affect our lives at every level. Although the person committing such wrong acts may not think that it will be injurious to him or her, this is not so. This is because in Hinduism, the over-arching philosophy of Karma is “as you sow, you shall reap”. The consequences of actions will occur, at some stage whether it is in this life or another. Thus, the concept of “forgiveness” is, arguably, absent. However, this essential concept of Karma is also underlined by taking ownership of one’s action and thereby be able to determine one’s destiny.

This can be best understood by considering how such negative thoughts and actions arise. In the Sankhya system of philosophy, the Purusha is the eternal and pure consciousness principle that provides the life force to Prakriti, the principle of matter which masks our existence. Prakriti, itself, consists of three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas and the balance of these three gunas are manifested at grosser levels as solid forms including our physical body and in the subtler forms of energy, as layers of the mind-field. The light of Purusha illuminates the mind-field to give the semblance of consciousness to Prakriti.

Wrong or troubling thoughts and actions arise from an imbalance in the gunas of Prakriti that gives rise to modifications (vrittis) of the mind-field. All vrittis are rooted in avidya (ignorance) which in turn gives rise to identifying the mind-field as the source of life and light, referred to as Asmita (I-Am-ness or egotism). From such false knowledge and identification, there arises raga (attraction), dvshya (aversion) and abhinevasha (fear of death). These five kleshas (poisons) affect every aspect of our life including our thoughts and actions but more importantly remain as imprints or samskaras that influence our future life choices either in this life or in other lifetimes such as when and where we are reborn, our lifespan etc.

By understanding that the consequences of our every thought and action affects our lives not only in this moment but for all time, the wise sages with great insight knew that sins and wrongful acts would naturally weigh heavily on one’s mind and can lead to depression and even further negative actions; further sins.

To overcome the kleshas, it is recommended that we practice the eternal and immeasurable qualities that are opposite of such negativity, which include:
(i) Mitri (amity or friendliness) towards all
(ii) Karuna (compassion) towards the less fortunate
(iii) Mudhita (Joyfulness), towards those who are meritorious
(iv) Upaksha (equanimity and evenness) towards those who wish to harm

The practice of Prayaschitta is also important for overcoming negative thoughts and habits and thereby effectively thinning of the kleshas and purification of the mind field to overcome negative karma.

The verses provided here are taken from the Vedas, Manusmriti and Yoga Sutras. These verses represent a fraction of the complete scriptural thesis of prayaschitta. The spiritual approach in prayaschitta is wholly aimed at rebuilding oneself, avoiding depression, for confessing and admitting wrong-doing and for building spiritual and emotional strength so as to be protected from conducting in similar acts again.

Atharva Veda

यद्विद्वांसो यदविद्वांस एनांसि चकृमा वयं
यूयं नस्तस्मान्मुञ्चत विश्वे देवासजोषसः

Yad-vidvààso yada-vidvaansa
enààsi chakrimaa vayam.
Yooyam nastasmaan-muǹchata
vishve devaah sajoṣhasah1

O wise ones and wise leaders, whatever wongs, whatever sin or evil we have committed, whether consciously or unconsciously, please release us from that sin and evil. Let us remain united with you.

यत that विद्वां learned persons; विद्वन् scholar/wise one यत that विद्वां learned persons; विद्वन् scholar/wise one एनस् sinful, wicked, sin, crime चकृमा affecting/doing (for/to)  us वयम् we यम् you all, all नस्तस् – नष्टचेतन unconsciously मनस् intent, with the consciousness of mind मुञ्चते release विश्वे देवाः all of the wise ones, learned persons सजोषसः सजोषस् united, for common enjoyment

यदि जाग्रद्यदि स्वपन्नेन एनस्योऽकरम्
भूतं मा तस्माद्भव्यं द्रुपदादिव मुञ्चताम्॥ 

Yadi jaagradyadi
svapannena enasyo-akaram.
Bhootam maa tasmaad-bhavyam cha
drupadaa-diva muǹchataam.2

Whatever sins and improper acts conducted, whether while I am asleep or awake, knowingly or knowingly; may I be redeemed from those acts committed in the past by those who are in my future. May I be released from the bondage of those sins.

यदि suppose, while being जाग्रत् while awake, in waking यदि and while being ्वपन sleeping एनस् sin एनस् produced by sin, sinful अकर्मन् improper conduct भूतम् past मा do not तस्मात् therefore भव्यता future time and द्रुपदादिव Release from bondage, release from being tied to a stake द्रुपद pillar, stake (tied to a stake) मुञ्चताम् release, free from

द्रुपदादिव मुमुचानः स्विन्नः स्नात्वा मलादिव
पूतं पवित्रेणेवाज्यं विश्वे शुम्भन्तु मैनसः

Drupadaa-diva mumu-chaanah
svinnah snaatvaa malaadiva.
Pootam pavitreṇe-vaajyam
vishve shumbhantu mainasah.3

Let me be released from the burden and cloud of guilt for my folly and sin. Let my sins be washed away – let me be purified just like getting rid of filth and sweat by bathing. May the holy and pure souls forgive my actions.

द्रुपदादिव Release from bondage, release from being tied to a stake द्रुपद pillar, stake (tied to a stake) मुमुचानः release, free like a cloud मुमु cloud स्विन्नः effort, sweat, perspiration स्नात्वा having bathed मलादिव free from filth मला filth, dust, impurity पूतम् purified (पूत means stink, putrid) holy ones पवित्र holy वाग्यम saint विश्वे world, all शुम्भन purifying म not एनस guilt, the burden of sin


यदि दिव यदि नक्तम एनांसि चकृमा वयम्
वायुर्मा तस्मादेन्सो विश्वान्मुञ्चत्वहसः

Yadi diva yadi naktam
enaamsi chakrimaa vayam.
Vaayurmaa tasmaadenso

Whatever sin we commit, whether during the day or night, knowingly or unknowingly – may I be able to separate myself from attachment to the offences and from any habitual returning to those wrongful actions.

यदि whether दिव day, daytime नक्तम night, nighttime एनस् sinful, wicked, sin, crime चकृमा unknown offences वयम् we वायुर्मा air, dissipate like air तस्मात् that एनस् sin विश्व all, total मुञ्चतु like air अन्ः separate me from

द्रु॒पदादिव मुमुचानः स्विन्नः स्नातो मला॑दिव
पूतं पवित्रेणेवाज्यमापः शुन्धन्तु॒ मैनसः

Drupadaa-diva mumu-chaanah svinnah
snaato malaadiva.
Pootam pavitreṇe-vaajyam-aapah
shundhantu mainasah.5

O pure souls, like you, may we be separated and free from sins just like how pure water separates and removes dirt. May we be released from the guilt and burden of our sins by our purifying actions.

द्रु॒पदादिव Release from bondage, release from being tied to a stake द्रुपद pillar, stake (tied to a stake) मुमुचानः release, free like a cloud मुमु cloud स्विन्नः effort, sweat, perspiration sweat, perspiration मला॑दिव free from filth मला filth, dust, impurity पूतं purified holy ones purified by water पवित्र holy वाग्यम saint आपः water शुन्धन्तु॒ removal of anything impure, act of purifying म not एनस guilt, the burden of sin

Bhagavad Gita

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच:

maamekam sharaṇam vraja.
Aham tvaam sarva-paapebhyo
moksha-yish-yaami maa shuchah.6

Abandon all the different types and classifications of righteousness. Simply surrender unto Me and you shall be liberated from all sinful consequences. Have no fear.

सर्वधर्मा् all classifications of dharma परित्यज्य abandoning माम् unto me एकम् only शरणं ake refuge व्रज take/go अहम् I(me) त्वाम् you सर्व all पापेभ्यो sins मोक्षयिष्यामि liberation, emancipation, final release from human birth and death मा do not शुच: fear

अपि चेत्सुदुराचारो भजते मामनन्यभाक्
साधुरेव मन्तव्य: सम्यग्व्यवसितो हि :॥

Api chetsu-duraachaaro
bhajate maamananya-bhaak.
saadhureva sa mantavyah
samyag-vyavasito hi sah.7

Even the vilest sinners can worship Me with exclusive devotion and become righteous because they have made the proper resolve.

अपि even ेत् if ेत्ुदुराारः the vilest sinners भजते worship, participating in worship माम् me अनन्यभाक् exclusive devotion ाधु righteous, sadhu एव certainly is मन्तव्य: to be considered सम्यक् properly व्यवसितः resolve हि for : is


ख्यापनेनानुतापेन तपसाऽध्ययनेन
पापकृत्मुच्यते पापात् तथा दानेन चापदि

tapasa-adhyayan-ena cha.
Paapa-krit-mucyate paapaat
tathaa daanena chaapadi.8

By confession, by repentance, by austerity, by studying (scriptural reading) and by charity a sinner is freed from attachment to his sin and thus the hard times that may result from the sin is also eased.

ख्ापन confession; public confession अनुताप regret, remorse, sorrow तपस self-discipline, avoiding all forms of indulgence अध्ययन learning, reading, studying and पाप sin कृत् result, obtained मुच्यते get free, release from पापात् from sins तथा thus, so दानेन giving donation, charity चापदि and आपद् calamity, difficulty, hard-times

यथा यथा नरोऽधर्मं स्वयं कृत्वाऽनुभाषते ।
तथा तथा त्वचैवाहितेनधर्मेण मुच्यते

Yathaa yathaa naro’dharmaṃ
svayam kritvaa’nubhaaṣhate.
Tathaa tathaa tvachai-vaa-
histena-adharmeṇa mucyate.9

As a man, having committed a misdeed, goes on proclaiming it himself, so does he become freed from that sin, as a snake from its slough.

यथा यथा just as नरो men, people अधर्म unrighteous, sinful स्वयम् himself, myself कृत्वा having done अनुभाषते confess तथा तथा then, thus, so त्वच् skin एवा even so अस्त snake अधर्म sin मुच्यते get free, be set free

यथा यथा मनस्तस्य दुष्कृतं कर्म गर्हति
तथा तथा शरीरं तत्तेनाधर्मेण मुच्यते

Yathaa yathaa manas taasya
duṣhkritam karma garhati.
Tathaa tathaa shareeram tat
tena-adharmeṇa muchyate.10

If one’s heart is increasingly remorseful against one’s misdeeds, then one will be increasingly purified of that misdeed. By cleaning our mind we rid the effect of sins on ourselves.

यथा यथा wvener मनस mind/heard तस्य he/she/(some)one दुष्कृतम् (guilt), evil act, sin कर्म act, action गर्हति spurn, despise, repent तथा than तथा only then शरीरम् body, person तत that तेन thus अधर्मेण unrighteous/immoral मुच्यते get free, be set free

कृत्वा पापं हि संतप्य तस्मात्पापात्प्रमुच्यते
नैवं कुर्यां पुनरिति निवृत्त्या पूयते तु ः ॥

Kritvaa paapam hi santapya
tasmaat paapaat pramuchyate.
Naivam kuryaam punar iti
nivrittyaa pooyate tu sah.11

By repenting within, one rids of the inner impression of sin in the future. And when the person resolves to not commit the mistake again, then he becomes pure again.

कृत्वा having done पापम् sin, crime, wrong हि thus संतप्य undergo penance तस्मात् hence, therefore पापात् the doer of the sin प्रमु्यते leave off, cease, get loosened एवम्  verily, indeed will not नैव not at all, none whatsoever कुर्यां something wrong पुनर once again इति end, finished निवृत्त्या finished, averted from पूयते holy, meritorious, virtuous तु and, but ः is

एवं सञ्ि्त् मनसा प्रेत् कर्मफलोदयम् ।
मनोवाङ्मूर्तिभिर्नित्यशुभं कर्म समाचरेत् ॥

Evam saǹcintya manasaa
pretya karma-phalo-dayam.
shubham karma samaacharet.12

Having thus considered in his mind the results arising after death from his deeds, he should perform good acts, by his thought, speech and body.

एवम् really सञ्ि्त् consider, to be thought over मनसा mind प्रेत् hereafter, in the next life कर्मफलोदयम् appearance of consequences of actions मन mind वाङ्ग speech मूर्तिभाव materiality, body ित्यम् regularly, constantly, eternally शुभम् good, auspiciousness कर्म act, deed, action समाचरेत् behavior, activity, practice, tradition

अज्ञााद् यदि वा ज्ञानात् कृत्वा कर्म विगर्हितम्
तस्माद् विमुक्तिमन्वि्छन् द्वितीयं समाचरेत् ॥

Agyaanaad yadi vaa jyaanaat
kritvaa karma vigarhitam.
Tasmaad vimukti-man-vicchan
dviteeyam na samaacharet.13

Either intentionally or unintentionally, if one has done a reprehensible act, he must not do it a second time, if he seeks absolution from the former.

अज्ञा unintentionally, through ignorance यदि then, so वा or, is it ज्ञानात् through knowing कृत्वा what is done कर्म act विगर्हितम् reprehensible, prohibited, forbidden तस्मात् therefore विमुक्ति liberation, release मन्वि्छन् with intent go, destroy द्वितीः second time, repeatedly and समाचरेत् behavior, activity, practice, tradition

यस्मिन् कर्मण्यस्य कृते मनसः ादलाघवम् ।
तस्मिं्तावत् तपः कुर्ाद् ावत् तुष्टिकरं भवेत् ॥

Yasmin karmaṇ-yasya krite
manasah syaadalaa-ghavam.
Tasmim-staavat tapah kuryaad
yaavat tuṣhṭikaram bhavet.14

If in regard to any act that has been committed, his mind be uneasy, he shall perform the penance prescribed for it until it brings peace to his mind.

यस्मिन् whatever कर्मणि engaged in, busy with अस्य of this कृते for मनसः mind स्यात् it may be, perhaps लाघवम् slight, thoughtlessness तस्मि् in that ्तावत् courage, persistence तपः austerity, discipline कुर्ात् may not do ावत् up to तुष्टिकरं causing satisfaction भवेत् let it be, let it last

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  1. Atharva Veda 6.115.1
  2. Atharva Veda 6.115.2
  3. Atharva Veda 6.115.3
  4. Yajur Veda 20.15
  5. Yajur Veda 20.20
  6. Bhagavad Gita 18.66
  7. Bhagavad Gita 9.30
  8. Manusmriti 11.227
  9. Manusmriti 11.228
  10. Manusmriti 11.229
  11. Manusmriti 11.230
  12. Manusmriti 11.231
  13. Manusmriti 11.232
  14. Manusmriti 11.233
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