A SANNYASIN dwelt by the side of a temple. There was the house of a harlot in front. Seeing the constant concourse of men in the prostitute’s house, the sannyasin one day called her and censured her, saying: “You are a great sinner. You sin day and night. Oh, how miserable will be your lot hereafter.” The poor prostitute became extremely sorry for her misdeeds, and with genuine inward repentance she prayed to God beseeching forgiveness. But as prostitution was her profession, she could not easily adopt any other means of earning her livelihood. And so, whenever her flesh sinned, she always reproached herself with greater contrition of heart and prayed to God more and, more for forgiveness. The sannyasin saw that his advice had apparently produced no effect upon her, and thought, “Let me see how many persons will visit this woman in the course of her life.” And from that day forward, whenever any person entered the house of the prostitute, the sannyasin counted him by putting a pebble aside, and in course of time there arose a big heap of pebbles. One day the sannyasin said to the prostitute, pointing to the heap: “Woman, don’t you see this heap? Each pebble in it stands for every commission of the deadly sin you have been indulging in since. I advised you last to desist from the evil course. Even now I tell you: Beware of your evil deeds!” The poor wretch began to tremble at the sight of the accumulation of her sins, and she prayed to God shedding tears of utter helplessness, inwardly repeating, “Lord, wilt Thou not free me from the miserable life that I am leading?” The prayer was heard, and on that very day the angel of death passed by her house, and she ceased to exist in this world. By the strange will of God, the sannyasin also died on the same day. The messengers of Vishnu came down from Heaven and carried the spirit-body of the contrite prostitute to the heavenly regions, while the messengers of Yama bound the spirit of the sannyasin and carried him down to the nether world.
The sannyasin, seeing the good luck of the prostitute, cried aloud: “Is this the subtle justice of God? I passed all my life in asceticism and poverty, and I am carried to hell, while that prostitute, whose life was a whole record of sin, is going to Heaven!” Hearing this, the messengers of Vishnu said: “The decrees of God are always just; as you think, so you reap. You passed your life in external show and vanity, trying to get honour and fame; and God has given you this. Your heart never sincerely yearned after Him. This prostitute earnestly prayed to God day and night, though her body sinned all the while. Look at the treatment which your body and her body are receiving from those below. As you never sinned with your body, they have decorated it with flowers and garlands, and are carrying it with music in a procession to consign it to the sacred river. But this prostitute’s body, which had sinned is being torn to pieces at this moment by vultures and jackals. Nevertheless, she was pure in heart and is therefore going to the regions of the pure. Your heart was always absorbed in contemplating her sins and thus became impure. You are therefore going to the regions of the impure. You were the real prostitute, and not she.” (197)