What Is the Greatest Sin?


I read that Yogananda said that calling yourself a sinner was the greatest sin. But how can that be the greatest sin?

—Balian, Western Europe


Dear Friend,

That’s very funny!!!! Thank you… I’m tempted to respond with logic and to the question as asked but I’d rather just say that Yogananda’s statement is more or less just a clever statement! His statement is a catchy way of saying to us that if we affirm our weakness than we identify with it and give to ourselves the perfect reason to continue in our weakness! To do so is the “greatest sin” for that reason alone… that the affirmation all but ensures that we will perpetuate our mistakes.

Yogananda does not deny the reality of error (“sin”) on its own level. If you accidentally damage your car or injure a pedestrian while you driving, you cannot wish away the fact of your mistake. Sin means error and, as the cliche reminds, “To err is human!” “Sin” is that act or attitude or consciousness that arises from our ignorance of God as the sole reality. It is that which affirms our separateness from God and from all life itself. The more conscious the act as an affirmation of ego the deeper we dig ourselves into the abyss of karmic repercussions.

A priest who says “Your sins are forgiven” cannot, thereby, cure your hangover. The closer we are to God consciousness, however, the greater the degree of protection we receive even from the consequences of past karma! As we dissolve ego-consciousness and ascend toward soul-awareness we strengthen our soul magnetism and astral aura. Thus we create a magnetic force field that can convert the karma, say, to die from an illness into a short-term stay in the hospital.

It may well be that if calling oneself a sinner is the greatest sin, calling oneself a child of God is the greatest blessing. But no mere affirmation of God can substitute for the reality of God-consciousness. So it does not follow that merely saying “I am a child of God” will “save” us from past sins. We must also make the effort to transcend ego and error by self-effort and divine grace born of attunement with Truth brought to us through the medium of a God-realized guru. We must, therefore, change our ways, our habits born of ignorance and error, into the light of virtue and higher consciousness through devotion to God and dedication to truth!

I hope you find this helpful!

Nayaswami Hriman