Monday, July 24, 2006

Karma And Sin

I never thought of the ideas of karma and sin as having the potential of being related until I heard the line “Do not think that all sins go unpunished in this life” near the end of the movie, Rob Roy. What seemed to be implied is that the other character’s wrong doings were not being overlooked and would be taken into account upon death. This is the point that I started to think about a possible connection.

I realize that the characters were most likely talking about the idea of punishment of sins in the context of the Christian after life, but I thought it could be taken in a different context as well. One where karma and sin were related and the wrong doings that the character commited could be dealth with in the next life. To understand where I am coming from with this potentially off-the-wall idea, I have to explain what my ideas of karma and sin are.

Karma seems to be a type of catch phrase today with people saying things like “Oh, if I do X,Y or Z, then something good/bad will happen to me due to karma.” It seems that many people understand karma in terms of something that will happen to you in your current life time. Pagans sometimes state this as the Three-Fold Law.

While that seems to be the common usage, at least in the U.S., I have understood the term ‘karma’ to be the idea behind the cycle of reincarnation. In other words, what you did in your previous life/lives will affect the type of life that you have now. This is the definition that I am using to make to my point.

Sin also has to do with aspects of personal action. It is “an act that violates a moral code of conduct or the state of having committed such a violation” (Wikipedia). In the Christian religion, this moral code is determined by God and is punishable (by God) if broken.

Now, please note that I am not saying that karma and sin are the same thing, I am proposing that there is a relation between the two concepts. If you understand both as have something to do with the concept of personal actions and conduct, there can be noticeable parallels made. In both concepts, your quality of life can be correlated to behavior in your past. Under the concept of sin, if you have acted wrongly, you will find punishment in the after life. Under the concept of karma, if you have acted wrongly, you have some sort of difficulty in your new life. Either way, an aspect of your being is affected.

I have noticed that many Pagans do not believe in the concept of sin, but I have not seen any solid reason as to why. I know that they believe in wrong doings, because of the use of the idea of karma and the Three-Fold Law. Could it be a matter of definition of the word ‘sin’ and how it is used in understanding?

As for the possible connection between the two terms, I wonder if anyone else has thought about this before. In both cases, it seems that you have to someday deal with what you have done.

** Just a note: the way the ideas are presented is not necessarily what I believe, just something that I have been thinking about.


Penguin said...

I don't believe in "sin", per se. I believe there are right/good ideas/actions and incorrect/bad ideas/actions. However, what is right/good for one may not be right/good for another. I'm still a huge believer in "an ye harm none, do what ye will". For example, I think it is incorrect/bad to speak/write malicious words toward someone or for the reason of slander; but, it is not incorrect/bad to speak in private to "blow off steam" as long as your intent is not to harm.

As for Karma, I only use that term when describing my beliefs to someone who does not understand the Pagan/Wiccan beliefs.

I have trouble with the 3-Fold Law. 1 - it's a "law" 2 - I don't believe in evil 3 - it doesn't explain why innocents have "evil" visited upon them.

Just to lighten this comment: My word verification was snezy!

chutney said...

I think you've hit upon a problem with most accounts of karma (and sin): the one-to-one correlation. Not every action I send out returns to me exactly as it went; sometimes it hits the guy next to me. We often get hit the the good and bad karma of others.

Sojourner said...

Penguin said:

I don't believe in "sin", per se. I believe there are right/good ideas/actions and incorrect/bad ideas/actions. However, what is right/good for one may not be right/good for another.

Although I understand what you are saying, I really don't that is the way the concept of sin works. This may be an extreme example, but let's use 'murder'. If X were to murder Y, yeah, it might be "good" for X (because X gets what s/he wants), but that still wouldn't make it something that is okay.

There is still a moral code of conduct to consider, whether it is religious or secular. We can not do anything thing we want just because it doesn't harm another. Sometimes we just don't know what is harming someone/thing else.

I'm curious, what is your definition of sin?

Thanks for the comment and please don't me scare you off because of the nature of my response. :)

Chutney - I would have to agree with you as we can never know how our wrong doings affect others.

Niobium said...

I believe in the threefold rule but not to the extent that I believe in what comes around goes around. After all, Earth is round. I'm just beginning to see my actions in the broader scope and how they affect other people/things/energies.

As for sin, I believe in it, have participated in it, but not in the chrstian sense, which is why I don't call it 'sin.' I have no particular name for it, but sin reminds me too much of going to Mass and Sunday school.

Penguin said...

I suppose I forgot to include the "morality clause" in my response :)

I don't believe that sin enters into to Pagan faith. My definition of sin: Breaking God's Law. That would be the God referred to in the Catholic and King James Bibles.

And I agree that murder is generally wrong. But, there you get into, "The man was threatening me with a knife and I pulled out a gun and shot him" dilemma.

I can attest to the fact that, once I started thinking about my actions (and possibile re-actions) and whether or not to take them, my life became a whole lot more pleasant!

Oh, btw, you didn't scare me off :)

Sojourner said...

Niobium said:

As for sin, I believe in it, have participated in it, but not in the chrstian sense, which is why I don't call it 'sin.' I have no particular name for it, but sin reminds me too much of going to Mass and Sunday school.

I, too, would like another word that could be used to differeniate between sin in the Christian sense and what you are talking about. I have been using 'wrong doing' but that just doesn't cover it, either.

I think that when people equate an old concept learned in a different setting (such as your mass and Sunday school example) it is difficult to look at the same concept from a different view point.

Penguin said:

Oh, btw, you didn't scare me off :)


My definition of sin: Breaking God's Law.

Based on what you said earlier about the three-fold law and not liking the concept of laws, I can see why you don't believe in the concept of sin.

However, in many cases, words do not have just one meaning. If you look up sin in the dictionary, yes, your definition is there (although not the Christian aspect), but there are other definitions that don't include a specific religion.

Penguin said...

Agreed. I believe our language is limited and there has to be more words for "law" "sin" "karma".

Cosette said...

I started crafting a reponse, but it was turning out to be really long. Instead, I'm going to give this very interesting subject more consideration and respond to it on my own blog.

Sojourner said...

:) Sounds good. I look forward to reading it.

Wanderer said...

I just figured I would respond to the question you posed toward the end of the post. Yes, some others have considered it as you have. I for one have long since equated karma and sin as two ways of looking at the same basic concept.