If a person has committed ten murders, the quantity of murders will not be recorded. But the intensity of the murderer will be recorded. It is the quality, the mindset, and the attitude, that carries the karmic burden.
That is why Krishna says again and again in the Bhagavad Gita that intention is much more important than action. That is the message of the whole Gita. He says, ‘When you are without intention, I will take care.’
Action does not get recorded. Only intention gets recorded.
The Mahabharata tells us the beautiful story of a courtesan and a monk.
There was a monk who lived across a courtesan’s house. He used to keep a count of the men coming to her house and used to imagine all kinds of things about her lifestyle. The woman spent all her free time praying to Krishna to redeem her from her miserable life.
One day, they both died at the same time. Both reached the court of Yama. Yama looked at the record of their lives and gave the decision: the monk should go to hell and the woman should go to heaven. The monk was shocked and started protesting, ‘I lived such a pious life while she lived such an immoral life! How can I be sent to hell and she to heaven!’
Yama replied, ‘In my court of judgment, your actions are of no value, only your intent matters. You wore a monk’s robes and lived a good life outwardly but your inner space was filled with lust. So in the outer world, your body is now being buried with honor but you have to suffer hell. The woman’s heart was forever with Krishna even while her body was sold to men. So her body doesn’t have anybody to even do the last rites but she is going to heaven.’
You may ask, can people do what they want? Do they have license to be immoral and to commit murders?
An enlightened being, an incarnation, is one with Existence. An enlightened being can only operate in tune with Existence. He can never be out of tune. The actions of an enlightened master can never be without awareness and compassion.
Since we do not have the consciousness or awareness, we cannot justify our actions by saying they are similar to those of an enlightened being. Be very clear, the action may look similar outwardly but the intention, the inner space, the attitude, is completely different.
A beautiful story from the life of Adi Shankara:
Once while Shankara was wandering with his disciples, he suddenly felt thirsty. They were in the middle of nowhere. They traveled further and finally came across one shop. Shankara went up to the man in the shop and asked for some water to drink. The man said, ‘I am sorry but I have nothing to offer you except liquor. That is all I have.’
Shankara replied, ‘Alright, please give me some.’ He drank a glass of liquor and thanked the man. The disciples were shocked to see their master drink liquor! The thirsty disciples decided to follow the master and they all drank liquor to their heart’s content.
When they resumed their journey, Shankara continued to walk normally but the disciples under the effect of liquor were not even able to keep the next step properly. They went up further and after some distance, they came across an iron forge.
Shankara went upto the man who was pouring molten iron into the cast. He asked him for a glass of water. The man apologized saying he didn’t have any water to offer. Shankara said, ‘Alright. Please give me the molten iron then.’
The man and Shankara’s disciples were all shocked. The man gave Shankara the hot molten iron which he just poured into his mouth as if it was water!
He then turned around to his disciples and said, ‘You may also drink now.’ The disciples stood with their heads lowered. Shankara then explained, ‘Do not follow what I do. Follow what I say. Otherwise, you just choose to follow what your mind tells you.’
Understand, the very plane on which enlightened beings exist is different from the normal human plane of existence. So they do not need to and cannot do things according to usual logic. Their intention is what is important, which cannot be explained in terms of ordinary logic.
An enlightened being has no personal interest because he has no individual identity. His identity is dissolved in the identity of the whole universe.
source: Living Enlightenment