Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Deadly Sins

An Indian’s list of sins adds up to five. Christians believe there are seven. My list ends with one. The Indian list has kaam (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (love or attachment) and ahankaar (arrogance). The seven Christian deadlies are pride, lechery, envy, anger, covetousness, gluttony and sloth. I will come to mine after I have had my say about these.

I don’t think lust or lechery deserve to be condemned as sinful. Lust is an asset when engaged in making love; the more the better. It is the impotent or those whose libidos are on the decline who run down others. Lechery is much the same spread over more than one partner; we can make fun of people who have a glad eye but to call them sinful is not justified.

Anger is a human failing. Those who cannot control their temper, suffer; those who express it also suffer by losing friends. In either case one pays but there is no reason to call it a sin.

Greed (lobh) is also a failing. Greedy people grab whatever they can get and hug it close to their bosom without sharing. But you have to concede that they can also be God fearing. Unless greed extends to grabbing something that does not belong to you, it cannot be a sin.

I put moh (love or attachment) in the same category as lust. It cements relationships. Detachment from the world is a noble ideal for yogis and sanyasis. But unless one remains attached to one’s parents, sisters and children, families would disintegrate; there would be no home life. It is wrong to call it a sin.

The last on the Indian list is ahankaar (pride or arrogance). Most people suffer from this shortcoming. Behind their backs everyone mocks at their pretensions (akroo khan). The Gurbani calls it haumain (the disease of I am-ness) and exhorts people to rid themselves of it by their inner strength; “Haumain deerag rog hai -- daavaa bhee iss mehein (haumain is a foul disease, it is also its medicine).”

That leaves envy, covetousness, gluttony and sloth. All make a person a lesser human being. A glutton eats more than is good for him and becomes fat and unhealthy. If a person is slothful, does little work, takes no exercise and becomes slovenly in his habits, who suffers?

So then what are deadly sins, those that hurt people other than oneself? Violence in any form is a sin. So is lying, cheating, thieving -- acts which deprive others of their life or limb or honestly-earned property. Defamation casts a slur on another’s reputation. The only one word I can think of which should not be done is himsa (violence) -- hurt no one. One who does is a sinner.

The lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox are not great poetry but fairly sum up what I believe: So many people/so many creeds. So many paths that wind and wind. While just the art of being kind. Is all the sad world needs.


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