- In the KARMA system, papa is karmic demerit, often translated as “sin.” All Hindu and Buddhist traditions used this term, which is the opposite of PUNYA or karmic merit. An accumulation of papa over a lifetime causes a rebirth into a status that accords with the sin. The various types of papa, or sins, are detailed in the texts on proper conduct or DHARMA. MANU’S DHARMASHASTRA, for example, has long lists of sins and transgressions. In the Indian context, however, there is no universal notion of sin. Instead, sin is determined by one’s social place and rank.A BRAHMIN committing a crime, for instance, will not be punished in any way as strictly as a SHUDRA (person of the servant class) would be for the same crime. On the other hand, a Brahmin who would use alcohol or eat beef would be seen to be committing a much greater sin than a Shu-dra who did.Further reading: Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith, trans., The Laws of Manu (New York: Penguin Books, 1991); Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.