Sin and Virtue

ACCORDING to Christian conceptions, (1) sin is a violation of the personal will of, and apostasy from, God. The flesh is the source of lusts which oppose God’s commands, and in this lies its positive significance for the origin of a bias of life against God. According to St. Thomas, in the original state, no longer held as the normal, the lower powers were subordinate to reason, and reason subject to God. “Original sin” is formally a “defect of original righteousness,” and materially ” concupiscence.”

As St. Paul says (Rom. vii. 8, 14), the pneumatic law, which declares war on the lusts, meets with opposition, from the “law in the members.” These and similar notions involve a religious and moral conscious judgment which is assumed to exist in humanity alone. Hindu notions of papa (wrong) and punya (that which is pure, holy, and right) have a wider content. The latter is accordance and working with the will of Isvara (of whom the jiva is itself the embodiment), as manifested at the particular time in the general direction taken. by the cosmic process, as the former is the contrary. The two terms are relative to the state of evolution and the surrounding circumstances of the jiva to which they are applied, Thus, the impulse towards individuality which is necessary and just on the path of inclination or “going forth” (pravrttimarga), is wrongful as a hindrance to the attainment of unity, which is the goal of the path of return (nivrttimarga) where inclinations should cease. In short, what makes for progress on the one path is a hindrance on the other.

The matter, when rightly understood, is not (except, perhaps, sometimes popularly) viewed from the juristic standpoint of an external Lawgiver, His commands, and those subject to it, but from that in which the exemplification of the moral law is regarded as the true and proper expression of the jiva’s own evolution. Morality, it has been said, is the true nature of a being. For the same reason wrong is its destruction. What the jiva actually does is the result of his karma. Further, the term jiva, though commonly applicable to the human embodiment of the atrna, is not limited to it. Both papa and punya may therefore be manifested in beings of a lower rank than that of humanity in so far as what they (whether consciously or unconsciously) do is a hindrance to their true development. Thus, in the Yoga-Vasistha it is said that even a creeping plant acquired merit by association with the holy muni on whose dwelling it grew.

Objectively considered, sin is concisely defined as duhkhajanakam papam. It is that which has been, is, and will be the cause of pain, mental or physical, in past, present and future births. The pain as the consequence of the action done need not be immediate. Though, however, the suffering may be experienced as a result later than the action of which it is the cause, the consequence of the action is not really something separate, but a part of the action itself-namely, the part of it which belongs to the future. The six chief sins are kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya-lust, anger, covetousness, ignorance or delusion, pride and envy. (2)

All wrong is at base self-seeking, in ignorance or disregard of the unity of the Self in all creatures. Virtue (punya), therefore, as the contrary of sin, is that which is the cause of happiness (sukhajanakam punyam). That happiness is produced either in this or future births, or leads to the enjoyment of heaven (Svarga). Virtue is that which leads towards the unity whose substance is Bliss (ananda). This good karma produces pleasant fruit, which, like all the results of karma, is transitory. As Sruti says :

” It is not by acts or the pindas offered by one’s children or by wealth,but by renunciation that men have attained liberation.”(3)

It is only by escape through knowledge, that the jiva becoming one with the unchanging Absolute attains lasting rest. It is obvious that for those who obtain such release neither vice nor virtue, which are categories of phenomenal being, exist.

1.See authorities cited in Schaaff Herzog Diet.
2. This in part corresponds with the Christian classification of the “seven deadly sins”: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, envy, gluttony, and sloth which if deliberately persisted in, drive from the soul all state of grace.
3. Nakarmana,.na prajaya,dhanena
Tyagena eke amrtatvarh amasuh. (Taittiriyopanisad ).