Q. How do we reconcile atonement in the law of Karma?
A. Certain vedic scriptures prescribe atonement for the sins we commit. The atonement is proportional to the severity of the sin. Srila Prabhupada gives the example that previously, the king used to hang criminals who killed others so that they are punished in the same life time. Otherwise they have to undergo hellish punishment after death and then take another birth according to the reaction to the sinful activity. Srila Rupa Goswami explains that when a person commits a sinful activity, apart from the sinful reaction which is stored for him there is another effect also.This effect is that the propensity to commit more sin increases. Atonement can remove the effect of the direct sinful reaction but not the increase in the propensity to commit more sin. This propensity can be removed only by devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krishna.