[Advaita-l] Sin

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sat Jun 10 05:42:47 CDT 2006

Sub: What is sin?

A general definition is- sarvam parapIDanam pApam. Causing injury to any
living being by thought, word or deed is pApam, sin. Any transgression of
the injunctions of the srutis and the smRtis is also a sin.

Bharata gives a long list of heinous sins in Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya
KANDa, Sarga 75. Some of these are--  service of men guilty of heinous sins,
urinating facing the sun, kicking a sleeping cow (this does not obviously
mean that kicking a cow which is awake is not a sin), not paying a labourer
the proper wages after having extracted heavy work from him, hostility to a
king who protects all creatures like his own children, a king not protecting
his subjects after having collected one-sixth of their income as tax, not
paying the promised fee to a priest who has performed a sacrifice
diligently, forgetting the subtle and secret teachings of the scriptures
imparted to him by a wise teacher, gorging oneself with food without first
offering to the gods, manes and guests, touching a cow with the foot,
calumniating elders, becoming virulently hostile to one's friend, telling
all and sundry what has been told to him in confidence with the object of
discrediting some one, failure to reciprocate a good turn, being ungrateful,
not performing the rites enjoined by Dharma, supporting one's family by
trading in lac, liquor, flesh, iron and poison, refusing to support
dependants, lying in bed at dawn and dusk, abandoning one's lawfully wedded
wife, etc. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Skandha V, chapter 26, twenty-eight
different hells are mentioned, as also the sins which result in people going
to each one these hells. There is a notion that hell is not mentioned in the
Vedas and that it is a creation of the puranas. This is not so. In the
sUryanamaskAra mantra in the TaittirIya AraNyaka of Yajurveda hells known as
visarpi, avisarpi, vishAdI,  avishAdI are mentioned. Prayers are addressed
to the sun for saving from these hells.

There is a sloka which says that a person who understands the Atma as
something other than what it is, is a great sinner.  The sloka is:

"anyathA santam AtmAnam yo anyathA pratipadyate|

 kim tena na kRitam pApam  coreNAtmApahAriNa||"

The meaning is: He who understands the Atma to be something other than what
it is, what sin has he not committed (by such wrong understanding), he who
steals (misidentifies) the Atma.
This means that every one who looks upon his body as himself is a sinner. By
this definition every one who has not attained Self-realization is a sinner.
This cannot be taken literally but only as praise of Self-knowledge. Such a
practice of praising something by denigrating some thing else is common in
Vedantic texts. Identification with the body, mind, etc, is necessary even
for doing good deeds and studying Vedanta.

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