Understanding the meaning of the proverb Every Saint has a past, every sinner a future

This is a world, constituted in different proportions, by saints and philanthropists, common and harmless folk, as also sinner and dacoits.

This is a world, constituted in different proportions, by saints and philanthropists, common and harmless folk, as also sinner and dacoits. It is one’s deeds and deals, one’s conduct and behavior in the business of life, and one’s accomplishments and acquirements that earn for one the epithet of a saint, a humanitarian, a cynic or a sinner. But to be adjudged a saint, or a sinner depends chiefly upon the thinking of the judges. It is said, “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” If one were to be guided by the verdict, none would be construed as a venerable saint or a crooked and contemptible sinner. Nevertheless, whatever may be one’s line of thought, it goes without saying that the world is composed of good and bad, noble and ignoble, sinless and sinful creatures.

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Those who are fervently pronounced as saints have a decent background of noble and glorious deeds in the past. A saint’s past is worth glorifying and idealising, he has brought light and hope to himself as well as to society. But nobody becomes a saint overnight. They have to undergo an arduous journey along the path that leads to or culminates in spiritualism. Saints have to perform laborious and cumbersome processes for self-purification. Obviously there­fore, this is no mean task. Countless are the irritations that they have to tide over and myriads (very large number) are the hazards that they have to overcome, the result of this great task is indeed ennobling. Saints have to practice prolonged austerity. Their patience and perseverance are usually inexhaust­ible. Only after they have amassed a huge pile or rich treasure of virtue, the world acclaims them as saints.


Those who become saints, usually embark upon early life as mediocre or common men. They carve out an elevating future for themselves out of the dust-heap of the common men. In other words they begin life with a ordinary proclivity (inclination) towards religion, but by dint of their curiosity for truth, their desire to attain salvation and their vigorous work in that direction, they rise to the great heights of divinity. After attaining a high degree of enlightenment, they set out to guide mankind along the path of virtue and redemption, as the teachers and preachers of mankind. They stand out leading the people along the right path in a disinterested and selfless way. To quote an example, the Jain prophet Mahavira perseveringly devoted about two decades to penance and prayer just to reform himself and others. So also Lord Rama came to be acknowledged as a saint after he had accepted and suffered deposition for fourteen years and offered to live in the dangerous woods carrying potential risks.

He underwent that agony for a sizeable portion of his life. Just in order to facilitate fulfillment of a pledge taken earlier by his father, he banished all royal comforts and luxuries available to a crown prince, in order to honour his father’s vow. He practiced good and ended evils even by killing the evill-doers. Again the legendary king, Harishchandra, stacked his all—his kingdom, his wife, and son, in short, his most precious possessions—just to hold aloft the banner of truth. Lord Buddha felt an instinctive desire to extricate himself and society from the cycle of births and deaths. He practiced the various taught processes for purging himself clean of evil and adopted the right principles of govern his life along ideal lines. The great founder of the Sikb faith Guru Nanak practiced virtues throughout his life time, preaching the end of discrimination among the different sections of society. He devoted himself ardently to the task of reforming society. Saint Aurobindo Ghosh underwent prolonged penance and self-imposed torture just in order to purify his soul. There are several other instances of saint like Swami Daya Nand, Lord Christ, Lord Mohammed or Zoreaster. Saints go down into the pages of history as memorable and adorable persons. Their actions immortalize them.

On the contrary there are those who are odiously branded as sinners and devils. These are the persons who are said to have been associated with evils of pernicious character. One comes to be called a s inner when one has acted as a murderer, a dacoit or an outlaw. Thus, they earn this despicable title. Also person who prowl (roam over insearch of prey) about or delight in killing others, are characterized as sinners. Thus the past of a sinner is tainted with evils and vices. A sinner is a person the world is sick of. He earns condemnations and imprecations. People who come within the fold of a sinner’s nefarious and sinister operation, invoice the deities either to reform those sinners or to hasten their end.

However a sinner can also turn over a new leaf. He can become a noble person by relinquishing all evil. He can metamorphose (change into another form) himself into gentle and decent human being. His past may be criminal and studded wickedness, yet he can switch over to a life of virtue, discarding all the ideas of evil. History records several examples of killers and bandits transforming themselves into virtuous persons suddenly by leaving all inten­tions of committing vices. The case of Ashoka the Great affords a stricking example. Intoxication with the thought of prodigious conquests and lured by the ambition of being called the greatest emperor, he caused a wholesale massacre and bloodshed. He used to feel elated at the misery of his opponents and even gladdened over their misfortunes.


But a dispassionate thinking later softened his callous heart which used to revel at the death of his enemies. Later, a meeting a with Buddhist monk made him renounce all evil and Ashoka became an ardent Buddhist. Today, he is reckoned as the greater Buddhist next to the Lord of Buddhism. The poet Balmiki of the great repute, had for long been a voracious plunderer, prowling about upon others with dirty designs of looting and killing. He switched over to a life of piety and saintliness after an ennobling incident. Again, Tulsidas and Surdas, who are now worshipped as saints, had at one time been lewd (vulgar) lovers and voluptuous worshippers of feminity. But some incidents in their lives afterwards made them abandon all foul practices, so much so that they turned stoics later. Instances can thus be multiplied.

Examples are also not lacking of men who were called both sinners and saints by divergent sections of the people. Aurangzeb, for instance, was considered a crooked sinner so far as his atrocities upon Hindus were con­cerned. But he was simultaneously called a saint by some people because he worshipped his own religion very much.

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