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Religion 101: Understanding the 10 Types of Sins in Hindu Philosophy

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In Hindu philosophy, the concept of sins, known as “paap,” plays a significant role in shaping one’s moral and ethical conduct. According to the Smritis, there are ten types of sins categorized into three groups. Image source: Merchant Circle

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Smritis are a class of Hindu texts that are based on human memory and tradition, as opposed to Shruti, which are based on divine revelation and oral transmission. Smritis is usually attributed to an author and written down and includes various genres of literature, such as the epics, the Puranas, the law books, the sutras, the shastras, and the commentaries.

Smritis elaborates, interprets, and codifies Vedic thought and practice for different times and contexts. The word smriti means “recollection” or “remembrance” in Sanskrit, and it also refers to the number 18, which is the number of traditional smriti authors.

According to the Smritis, there are ten types categorized into three groups: bodily sins, sins committed through words, and sins committed through thoughts. The Smritis also prescribes various means of atonement, penance and expiation for these sins, collectively called prāyaścitta.

These include admitting one’s errors and misdeeds, confession, repentance, austerities, fasting, pilgrimage, bathing in sacred waters, ascetic lifestyle, fire sacrifice, praying, yoga, giving gifts to the poor and needy, and others. The purpose of prāyaścitta is to undo or reduce the karmic consequences of one’s sins and restore the balance and harmony of the universe.

Garuda Purana

The Garuda Purana is one of the eighteen Mahapuranas in Hinduism. Written in Sanskrit, it is a Vaishnava religious text that provides a wealth of knowledge on various topics. While it covers almost all known subjects for living a happy material life, its true significance lies in its spiritual teachings. The seven key teachings from the Garuda Purana are:-

1. Purpose of Human Life

The Garuda Purana emphasizes that the purpose of human life remains incomplete without becoming a devotee of the Supreme Lord. Even if one has mastered all the Vedas and scriptures, without devotion to the Supreme Lord, they are considered the lowest among mankind. The human body is a rare gift, and its intelligence allows us to understand spiritual subject matter. Unlike other species, humans can receive spiritual knowledge through the Vedas.

2. Human Body as a Reward

The human body is like a passport that can free us from the miseries of this world. Obtaining a human form is a result of our past austerities across millions of other species. While human life is not without challenges, it provides a unique opportunity to transcend suffering.

3. Understanding Karma

The Garuda Purana explains karma (actions) and their consequences. It emphasizes that our actions shape our destiny, and understanding this law of cause and effect is crucial for spiritual growth.

4. Purity and Impurity

The text discusses various aspects of purity and impurity, including rituals for purification after death. It highlights the importance of leading a righteous life to attain liberation (moksha).

5. Journey After Death

The Garuda Purana describes what happens after death, including the journey of the soul through different realms (lokas). It provides details about rituals, offerings, and prayers to guide the departed soul.

6. Penance and Austerities

The text outlines various penances (tapas) and austerities (sadhana) that lead to spiritual progress. It encourages self-discipline, meditation, and devotion.

7. The Path to Liberation

Ultimately, the Garuda Purana guides seekers toward liberation (moksha). By understanding dharma (righteousness), practising devotion, and following spiritual disciplines, one can break free from the cycle of birth and death.

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The 10 Key Sins in Hinduism

Group 1: Bodily Sins

The first category is expressed through our actions. These sins are considered more severe as they directly involve physical harm or wrongdoing.

  1. Himsa refers to any act of violence or harm towards another living being, whether it is humans, animals, or even plants. It is believed that causing harm to others disrupts the natural balance and accumulates negative karma.
  2. 2. Adharma refers to actions that go against moral and ethical principles. It includes dishonesty, cheating, and any behaviour that is considered unethical or unjust.
  3. 3. The act of stealing, taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission, is considered a sin. It violates the principle of honesty and disrupts the harmony in society.

Group 2: Verbal Sins

The second category involves sins committed through our words. These sins have the power to cause harm, spread negativity, and create disharmony.

  1. Speaking falsehood or lying is a sin that undermines trust and honesty. It is considered harmful as it can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and damage relationships.
  2. Using harsh or hurtful words towards others is another sin. It can cause emotional pain, hurt feelings, and create a negative environment.
  3. Gossiping or spreading rumours about others is considered a sin as it can harm someone’s reputation and lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
  4. Backbiting involves speaking negatively about someone behind their back. It is seen as a sin because it damages relationships, creates animosity, and spreads negativity.

Group 3: Mental Sins

The third category encompasses sins committed in our thoughts. These sins may not be expressed through actions or words, but they still have an impact on our consciousness and spiritual well-being.

  1. Greed refers to an excessive desire for material possessions or wealth. It is considered a sin as it leads to selfishness, and attachment, and can cause harm to oneself and others.
  2. Lust refers to an intense or uncontrolled desire for sexual gratification. It is considered a sin as it can lead to immoral behaviour, infidelity, and the objectification of others.
  3. Attachment refers to clinging to worldly possessions, relationships, or desires. It is considered a sin as it creates suffering, prevents spiritual growth, and hinders the attainment of inner peace.

Understanding these ten types of sins in Hindu philosophy serves as a guide for individuals to lead a righteous and moral life. By avoiding these sins, one can strive towards spiritual growth, inner harmony, and a deeper connection with the divine.

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Final Say

In Hinduism, the concepts of “paap” (sin) and “punya” (acts of goodness) play a significant role. As we journey through life, our actions are accounted for, and religion guides leading a moral life by avoiding wrong thoughts, words, and deeds.

According to Hindu philosophy, there are ten types and can be categorized into three groups: bodily expressed through actions, committed through words, and arising from thoughts:

  • Bodily (Expressed Through Actions)
  • Committed Through Words
  • Committed in Thoughts

A self-realized soul or a true spiritual master (referred to as a “Buddhpurush”) can guide us away from these sins. The dust of a guru’s feet (“Guru Ruj”) is considered significant in cleansing our vision and thoughts, removing ill will, and establishing virtues in our hearts. By following our duties diligently, we can reduce the tendency to sin and gain deeper understanding (“tattva jnana”).

Remember that atonement can take various forms, including reciting sacred texts like the Purushasuktam, observing silence (mouna vrata), practising charity (daana), fasting, performing rituals (aradhana), and bathing in sacred rivers. Each act contributes to spiritual growth and helps us avoid negative consequences.

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