Many Shades of Sin

Compromising our ideals is also a form of paapam. We have a mental picture of an ideal life; but are we ready to make the necessary sacrifices to actualise it? Let us take the simple example of deciding to get up early in the morning. However, when the alarm rings, I say ‘Not today; let me sleep a little more. From tomorrow I will definitely get up early!’ If for the next seven days, I am not able to get up, on the eighth day, I tell myself, ‘What is the need of getting up early anyway? What does it matter?’ This compromise appear to be small but tends to become bigger and bigger until our whole life is filled with compromises. All the big payoffs, which we hear of, are nothing but compromises.

Sacrifice vs. Compromise

There are two kinds of actions –sacrifice and compromise. In both, a person has to renounce something. In sacrifice, a man sacrifices the lower for the sake of a higher cause or ideal. On the other hand, in compromise, the higher is given up for something lower. Whenever we compromise, we become weaker and weaker. Our willpower and moral strength are undermined. That is called paap.

Many Shades of Meaning

Any act that is below human dignity can also be called paapam. Stealing the property of another, injuring or killing another are acts considered below the dignity of a human being.

Human beings are highly evolved. Hence, the highly evolved must take care of the lesser evolved. Is that not so? In your own home when the elder child fights with the younger one over a toy, do you not say “You are a big brother, you must give that to the younger one.” So, as the more evolved, it is our responsibility to take care of those who are weaker than us – including birds, animals, trees, and plants. If we destroy them it is considered as paap. When we start viewing things in this light, we will realise the amount of paap that we commit every day!

People think that results of paap and punya come in the future. This is not correct. The moment you entertain a noble thought, a good thought, you immediately feel happy; you feel good about yourself. And the moment you entertain a wrong thought, you start feeling guilty. This outcome at the mental level is immediate. The grosser, tangible result may come later on.

There is a very interesting shloka in connection with paap and punya in one of the texts – ‘punyasa phalamicchanti punyam necchanti manavah, na papaphalamicchanti papam kurvanti yatnatah’

People are strange – they want the result of punyam, meritorious deeds which is happiness, but they do not want to do perform any meritorious acts. They do not want the result of papam which is sorrow, but commit sins methodically!

So the concept of paap has many shades of meaning – anything which pollutes the mind, any situation in which compromises are made, and wherever we act below our dignity as human beings. All these fall into the category of paap.

The Author is the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.