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ŚB 11.21.17


समानकर्माचरणं पतितानां न पातकम् ।
औत्पत्तिको गुण: सङ्गो न शयान: पतत्यध: ॥ १७ ॥


patitānāṁ na pātakam
autpattiko guṇaḥ saṅgo
na śayānaḥ pataty adhaḥ


samāna — equal; karma — of work; ācaraṇam — the performance; patitānām — for those who are fallen; na — is not; pātakam — a cause of falldown; autpattikaḥ — dictated by one’s nature; guṇaḥ — becomes a good quality; saṅgaḥ — material association; na — does not; śayānaḥ — one who is lying down; patati — fall; adhaḥ — further down.


The same activities that would degrade an elevated person do not cause falldown for those who are already fallen. Indeed, one who is lying on the ground cannot possibly fall further. The material association that is dictated by one’s own nature is considered a good quality.


The Lord here further describes the ambiguity in ascertaining material piety and sin. Although intimate association with women is most abominable for a renounced sannyāsī, the same association is pious for a householder, who is ordered by Vedic injunction to approach his wife at the suitable time for procreation. Similarly, a brāhmaṇa who drinks liquor is considered to be committing a most abominable act, whereas a śūdra, a low-class man, who can moderate his drinking is considered to be self-controlled. Piety and sin on the material level are thus relative considerations. Any member of society, however, who receives dīkṣā, initiation into the chanting of the Lord’s holy names, must strictly obey the four regulative principles: no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no illicit sex, no intoxication and no gambling. A spiritually initiated person neglecting these principles will certainly fall from his elevated position of liberation.