This was so amusing. For all those who think that shortcuts such as praying, bathing in a river, wearing an amulet, or other rituals will simply get rid of your sins, read this. No other way but to work on your sins, short cuts never work!
There is an incident in Ramakrishna's life. He was very simple, uneducated, but a man of tremendous insight. A man came to him and said, "I am going to the Ganges -- it is the twelfth year -- and I want your blessings. And is it true that all sins that you have done are washed away?" Ramakrishna said, "Yes, it is true. All sins are washed out while you take a dip in the Ganges." The man gave a great sigh of relief. He said, "Then it is good. If you say so, then it is perfect." Ramakrishna said, "But I have not finished, I have to say something more. Have you seen those big trees on the bank of the Ganges?" He said, "Yes." Ramakrishna said, "That is the trouble: when you take the dip in the Ganges your sins jump out and sit on the trees, and they wait for you. How long can you remain in the water? The Ganges is really great and it does purify, but how long...? Finally, you will have to come out, and the moment you come out -- those sins are sitting on the trees, they jump on you. And sometimes it happens that somebody else's sins also jump on you -- just for a change they enjoy it. Those trees are full of sins. So you can go, but beware of the trees." The man said, "This is very difficult. How long can I remain in the water? Finally I have to come out, and I have to pass under those trees." Ramakrishna said, "I can't help you with that. That's why I don't go -- what is the point?"
All religions have found strategies, first to make you feel guilty, then to give you a simple method so that you can be free of guilt. If you have done something wrong, go to the person. Be humble, ask his forgiveness. Only he can forgive you, nobody else -- neither the Ganges nor God. And that is the meaning of the word "sin": forgetfulness. So now, don't forget again and do the same; otherwise, your asking forgiveness becomes meaningless. Now be careful, be alert, be conscious; and don't do the same thing again. That is true repentance. Once you made the mistake -- it was just a mistake. To err is human, there is nothing to be worried about. And to forgive is divine, so if somebody comes to you and says that he has committed a mistake against you, don't miss the opportunity of tasting something of the divine. Or, when you have committed some mistake and you go to somebody else to be forgiven, you are giving him a great chance to have some taste of the divine. It is good for both of you. By forgiving, he tastes something which is impossible to explain; it can only be called divine, godliness. And you also will feel something tremendously beautiful: humbleness, egolessness. But remember not to commit the mistake again. It should become a decision in you; then you are really repentant. It has nothing to do with God, it has nothing to do with any priest; it has something to do with your own psychology.