Everyone knows that "I am stealing; it is not good for me," but even though he is put into the jail as prāyaścitta, again he comes back and does the same thing. Then what is the meaning of this legal punishment or prāyaścitta? Therefore Parīkṣit Mahārāja says that,
- kvacin nivartate 'bhadrāt
- kvacic carati tat punaḥ
- prāyaścittam atho 'pārtham
- manye kuñjara-śaucavat
- (SB 6.1.10)
He gave very good example, that "This prāyaścitta, or legal punishment, is like kuñjara-śaucavat." Kuñjara means "elephant," and śauca, "taking bath." So kuñjara, the elephant, dips itself into the water and takes bath very thoroughly, and as soon as it comes on the land, it takes some dust and throws over his body. The purpose is that unless one is fully convinced that "Sinful activities are very, very abominable for me," he cannot give it up. Therefore one has to cleanse his heart. That is real prāyaścitta. Otherwise, even being imprisoned or giving fine or suffering, one cannot cease from sinful activities.
So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is thoroughly wholesale process of cleansing the mind. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given His own version: ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam (CC Antya 20.12). The purport is—it is a long verse—that by chanting, paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam, if we perform this Kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtana, then immediately our core of heart, which is filled up with all dirty things, will be cleansed. For example, you can see practically all my disciples present here, they are coming from Western countries—Europe, America, or even in India, Parsis and other, Muhammadans, they are coming. But they are now pure, cleansed of all dirty things. In this movement, throughout the whole world, there are at least ten to twelve thousand devotees like that. And before this life they were addicted to all kinds of sinful life. We have summarized all sinful activities into four groups, namely illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. So all these ten to twelve thousand men who are now attached with this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, they are not committing these four pillars of sinful life.
Therefore our request is that you take to this chanting method. It is very easy: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, and gradually you shall become free from all sinful reaction of life. But one thing we must be very careful: that we should not commit again sinful life. If you chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, you become free immediately from all sinful reaction. But if you commit again sinful life, that is your responsibility. This is warned very . . . Amongst the ten kinds of offenses, one offense is very grievous offense: nāmnād balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ—if one thinks that "I am chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa; therefore whatever sinful acts I am doing, it is becoming counteracted." If you keep yourself on the platform of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and do not commit willfully again sinful life, then you are liberated. So not only mukti-mārga; if you keep yourself always pure, do not commit any sinful activity and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, then your life is successful. Don't commit the mistake of the elephant, that take bath thoroughly and again come and throw dust on your body.