Even the Greatest Sinner Can Achieve Salvation

There is an apocryphal story about the sage Valmiki, author of the great epic story of Sri Rama, the Ramayana. He was said to be a dacoit, translated loosely as a highway robber, violent and focused on obtaining his personal satisfaction without regard for others or the conventions of society. At a certain point he had a life experience that opened his eyes about the meaning of his life. Along the way, he experienced real inner experiences of enlightenment, giving up his former evil lifestyle and became the sage who has been revered and admired ever since.

The story illustrates that once one changes the direction of one’s life, even those who have taken on the extreme rajasic tendencies of an asuric nature can achieve redemption and liberation. The basic tendencies of the nature play out and create one’s karma, action, and this can create a downward spiral for those who are controlled by the nature of the asura; however, at some point when the force of that karma has been spent, and the rajasic extreme has been exhausted, there is an opportunity for the rise of sattwa, and with it, knowledge, light and a new focus for the life.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that there is no “absolute” soul of good or of evil. “All souls are eternal portions of the Divine, the Asura as well as the Deva, all can come to salvation: even the greatest sinner can turn to the Divine. But the evolution of the soul in Nature is an adventure of which Swabhava and the Karma governed by the Swabhava are ever the chief powers…”

Following the propensities of a nature dominated by Rajas, “…the man, if he does not stop short and abandon his way of error, has eventually the Asura full-born in him, and once he has taken that enormous turn away from the Light and Truth, he can no more reverse the fatal speed of his course because of the very immensity of the misused divine power in him until he has plumbed the depths to which it falls, found bottom and seen where the way has led him, the power exhausted and misspent, himself down in the lowest state of the soul nature, which is Hell. Only when he understands and turns to the Light, does that other truth of the Gita come in, that even the greatest sinner, the most impure and violent evil-doer is saved the moment he turns to adore and follow after the Godhead within him. Then, simply by that turn, he gets very soon into the sattwic way which leads to perfection and freedom.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 17, Deva and Asura, pp. 458-459