Sin is a Christian term allied to the Latin word sons meaning ‘guilty.’ According to Christian theology, there are three types of sin – venial sin, mortal sin and original sin. The first is minor infringements of God’s laws and the second is very serious ones like murder or worshipping other gods. Original sin is the sin all humans are infected by and have inherited from Adam and Eve, the first sinners.
The mental defilements in Buddhism – greed, hatred and delusion – and all their derivatives – meanness and grasping, annoyance and spite, naivety and stupidity – are sometimes called sins, but to do so is inappropriate and misleading. A sin is thought, speech or actions that contravenes God’s laws and for which, in the case of original sin, even the descendants of sinners will be punished. There are no equivalents to these ideas in Buddhism. In Buddhism the defilements (àsava, kilesa or pàpa) are considered to be so on purely objective grounds. They are unskilful or inappropriate because they are spawned by negative intentions (greed, hatred and delusion) and have negative consequences (unhappiness, regret, anger, violence, punishment, etc). Also, according to Buddhist doctrine one person cannot experience the kammic consequences of another person’s defilements.
- Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.