ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lively Sins

Most of what our religions call “sins” actually make life joyous, comfortable, and give us a sense of fulfilment.

Almost without exception, religious ideologies and sensibilities see all pleasure-giving human activities as grievous sins, and warn the faithful against yielding to their temptations. A well-known hymnal tag in Sanskrit, the concluding passage of a longer incantation, which elderly males in the house I grew up in used to recite as they emerged from the bathing shed after sploshing mugs of water over their bodies every morning, viewed human beings as fundamentally sinful. In this perspective, being conceived in one’s mother’s womb and being born itself was a sin, in the manner of the Original Sin. Following this, every human being on this earth was conceived in sin, a product of a sinful act by the progenitors (papoham papakarmanam papatma papasambhavaha), a formulation that I found even as a young boy, who had no experience or even much knowledge of sex, both problematic and detestable. In such a perspective, the ideal was denial, not affirmation and fulfilment, of life.

Such investment in the virtuous life with a supposedly moral imperative is perhaps natural, as the dominant religious sensibility in India is obsessed with the hereafter, not with the here and now. The here is full of pain, sorrow, and misery, and the best one can do in this life is to deny the affirmative aspects of life as lived, with all its limitations and flaws. Endure life here as punishment for sins committed in an earlier life, and seek the perfect life—a release from this closed and vicious cycle of life and death—presumably waiting for us in the unknown heaven of the hereafter. However, in the usual exercise of doublethink, not unique to the religious sensibility, while waiting for the idealised release from the cycle of birth and death, with pain, sorrow, and misery intervening, one was obligated also to commit oneself to fulfilling the four mandated duties and objectives of life (purushartha)—dharma, artha, kama, moksha—even though the artha and the kama are also identified as arishadvarga, the six enemies of the virtue and righteousness, akin to the seven deadly sins.

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Updated On : 10th Mar, 2017
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