When you follow your conscience – the so-called conscience that you call conscience – either way you will repent, whether you follow it or not. This is the second characteristic: if you listen to your false conscience, then too you will feel regret. If you have not stolen or not done something because you were listening to your conscience, for your whole life you will feel that you have missed something, and that others were doing it: “That was the moment, I had the opportunity, but I missed it. That man did it and he was not caught. The other one did it and he became a minister in the government, and another person did it and he achieved so much – and here I am, dying of hunger and in poverty! What meaningless idealism have I fallen prey to?” And if you do it, then too you will regret it because if you do it you will feel self-rejection, remorse, guilt: “It would have been better if I had not done it.”
The conscience given by the society will make you feel guilty no matter what you do – no matter what – because there are always two voices. You can agree with only one of the two, so what will happen to the other one? The other part will wait, and it will make you feel guilty if you have agreed to the first voice; it will wait and make you repent afterwards. But if you listen to the voice of the conscience that this sutra speaks about, there will never be any guilt or regret, never.
The third characteristic is that the conscience that you live by creates a memory, because no action that arises from it is ever total; it is always partial because half of you is always opposed. Even when you decide to steal, you do it half-heartedly.
Have you ever met a thief who is a total thief? Can you find even a single person who is totally dishonest? To be totally dishonest means that you don’t have even a faint idea that you are doing anything wrong, anything bad, that you shouldn’t be doing it; there is not even a suppressed voice somewhere that says that this is dishonest. No, it will be difficult to find a totally dishonest person.
And in a world of dishonest people, it will also be difficult to find a totally honest person, a person in whose heart the feeling does not come that there would have been no harm done if he had done the wrong action. This feeling will be there. If you follow this conscience, it will create a memory because your action will be partial, it will remain stuck in the mind. A feeling will linger: “Why didn’t I do it totally, wholeheartedly?”
The conscience that this sutra speaks about does not create any memory. A total act creates no memory: it is done and it is finished, gone.
The fourth and the last characteristic is that if you live according to the false conscience, you will be bound by your actions because they will create a memory; it will stick in your mind and it will not go away. If the action is total then no memory is created, no bondage is created because of the action. The mind will always remain free. Whatsoever you do with your total heart will not become a burden on your heart.
Hence, if you ask me, I will say that whatsoever you do halfheartedly is sin, and whatsoever you do wholeheartedly is virtue. This is my definition of sin and virtue: whatsoever is done halfheartedly is sin – even if it is to build a temple half-heartedly, and whatsoever is done wholeheartedly is virtue – even if you steal. But it is not possible to steal when you are wholehearted, although you can build a temple in a halfhearted way.
So the first word is conscience and the second word is pranava – om.