Yajnavalkya with Maitreyi and Gargi teaching Maharaja Janaka

Vedic Jurisprudence and Atonement

In this paper, we will present some of the various texts in pañcarātra-śāstra and vaidika-śāstra pertaining to prāyaścitta (atonement) prescribed for a Vaiṣṇava. We should keep in mind that Pāñcarātra is the governing scripture for all topics related to vaiṣṇava-saṁskāras, specifically the rules and regulations of pañcarātra-dīkṣā, which ISKCON follows. At the same time, one should also be conversant with the rules and regulations presented in the vaidika-saṁskāras and their corresponding prāyaścitta, because these prescribe the limit for the punishment for non-devotees, what to speak of devotees who are on a higher path. Neither should be neglected. In summary, although both the Pañcarātra and Vaidika paths offer atonement even for great sins such as the killing of a brāhmaṇa, it does not necessarily follow that the person atoning for such sins be removed from a position of guruship. And punishing someone again for the same sin for which he has already atoned is prohibited.