18.48 – Forgive the unavoidable, avoid the unforgivable
Gita wisdom is eminently practical. It reveals lofty levels of devotional consciousness as our ultimate goal, but also outlines a down-to-earth path for getting there. Let’s understand two intertwined aspects of this path:
Forgive the unavoidable: When we work in material professions, the world’s contaminated realities sometimes make faultless morality impossible. Gita wisdom pragmatically avoids making a fetish out of worldly morality, insisting that we stick to it whatever the costs. The Bhagavad-gita (18.48) realistically acknowledges that faults may cover even noble endeavors, just as smoke may cover even sacred fires. Therefore, it recommends that we don’t let unavoidable faults deter us in our worldly vocations, provided, of course, we center our life on the principle of serving Krishna. As long as stay faithful to that principle, we can do whatever is unavoidable at the functional material level.
Avoid the unforgivable: By no means is this guarded concession a blanket license for immorality. Gita wisdom repeatedly mentions karma, the consequential principle that immoral actions beget troublesome karmic reactions. Moreover, the Gita, through its analysis of the three modes in its fourteenth chapters, underscores that our habitual actions give rise to persistent psychological patterns. So, if we nonchalantly violate moral principles, especially the regulative principles of devotional service, then the resulting mental impressions will seriously sabotage our ability to fix our mind on Krishna. Thus, wanton immorality will impact us materially as worldly troubles and spiritually as apathy towards Krishna. So, we need to strenuously avoid such actions as unforgivable.
Of course, Krishna can forgive our most grievous misdeeds. But it behooves us as aspiring devotees to have the basic devotional sensitivity to regard actions that greatly displease Krishna as unforgivable, and so reject them uncompromisingly.
By thus realistically yet rigorously treading the path towards Krishna, we can attain life’s supreme success.