Of all the four Yugas — Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali that follow one another in cycles — there is a progressive decline in moral standards and the age of Kali is characterised by sin and impiety. Every Yuga has its Dharma defined so that the people are able to seek the ultimate goal by following this prescription. In the Krita Yuga, practice of meditation was advocated, while in Treta Yuga the advice was to perform Yagas and Yagnas. In Dwapara Yuga the elaborate practice of deity worship was encouraged while in Kali Yuga, it is stated that chanting the Lord's name will lead to salvation.
In a lecture, Nochur Sri Venkataraman drew attention to the valid observation of Parikshit regarding the futility of the atonement process — “because people sometimes avoid sin and sometimes engage in it again, like an elephant covering itself with dust immediately after coming out of water.”
Sage Suka then explains that by God's grace the Jivatma gets the necessary support at the opportune moment as is evident in the story of Ajamila. Ajamila had been leading a truthful life but was suddenly attracted to a woman with low ways and spent his days in sin. But it was divine will or his past Karma that made him give the name Narayana to his last son. In his death bed with the messengers of Yama approaching him, he called out in fear to his youngest son Narayana on whom he lavished his affection. Immediately, the messengers of Vishnu came forward and argued with Yama's attendants that he could not be taken by Yama's men since all his sins were atoned for when he uttered the name Narayana.
The efficacy of Lord's name to purify the sins of a person is thus manifest in this episode. Like a medicine that works to cure a person, the Lord's name brings about a purifying and sanctifying effect in a person in a gradual manner.
Ajamila's virtuous life earlier had brought about this grace at his deathbed. He survived this incident and lived a pious life and attained salvation. Our good actions and God's grace are the safe deposit for our journey to liberation. The goal is there already in the form of a seed. God's grace brings about the desired effect.