I’ve met alot of people who are uncomfortable with the concept of sin, like we should be able to live a spiritual life without taking a look at the self-serving, error-making tendencies in ourselves, a very real part of being human.

How can you sing the shabds in rāga jaitsri and escape the encounter with your own unworthiness, countless mistakes, ego involvement, flirtation with the five friends? The Gurus don’t hold back or speak euphemistically about the ugly side of our nature, and they are very direct with their language. The person involved in me-myself-and-I is lazy, sleepy, childlike, foolish, ignorant, sold out to maya, lustful, corrupted by 5 vices, far away from the Lord, suffering, faithless, shameless, fearful, greedy, anxious, rushing around in 10 directions, deluded, entangled, bound down, lost, and constantly making mistakes. And these are just some of the images from a few shabds in one rāga!

But the Guru doesn’t stop there. I think what people don’t like about the concept of sin is that we equate it with a focus on the guilt, shame and punishment attached to it, “you are a sinner, therefore you must suffer.” And you should feel really bad about it! The Guru’s way is different, “I am a sinner AND I am Yours!” There is always a choice. I have no virtues, all virtues are Yours. When I remember You, I am united with You, I am united with virtue. Just as the Gurus describe the frantic, suffering ego-involved state, they also describe the state of remembrance, clever, wise, enlightened, shutters open, loving every instant, empowered with life force, destiny fulfilled, sweet, blessed, protected, merciful, fearless, successful, joyful, delighted, hopeful.

On my own, anxious and in pain, chasing after this and that, sabotaging my own life, regretting the past, worried about what’s coming next. Remembering You, peace and presence in this moment, aware of the infinite capacity of the heart for love and forgiveness, for mercy and grace, seeing You instead of seeing a problem. Remembering You I see all of it without judgment or blame, accept the sinner-self that belongs to You along with the beautiful refuge of virtue You offer and in that moment of remembrance I know either is always possible, depending on where I look and how I see.

Some of the shabds confront the miserable side of self, fearlessly seeing deeply, with eyes open wide. Can a song be like a sacrament of confession? After that humbling awareness what else is there to do but sing?