Wednesday, September 10, 2014

jainism: karma, punya & papa


Actions that bear positive results and elevate a person are called punya. 

Actions that lead to a negative fruit and degrade a person are called papa.

Imagine that every person has a spiritual "ledger" showing accrued punya credits and papa liabilities. A person who wins a lottery must have had a lot of punya accumulated due to many past positive actions. A person murdered must be experiencing the accumulated effects of past papa.

One's position in life, the family one is born into, one's economic position, one's health and strength, and even what country one is born into and who one marries are considered to be the result of punya and papa. This superdeterministic position recalls (though in a diametrically different position) in existentialism. Sartre (a radical libertarian) makes the point that one is responsible for everything that happens to oneself. Even an earthquake? Yes, because one is within the earthquake's radius. What if one doesn't know? One is responsible for one's own ignorance.   

Is a person born into a family of privilege and class a result of punya? As we know, riches don't guarantee goodness. Is a person born into a hellish condition of war and disease a result of papa? There are said to be heavenly and hellish realms "above and below" this earth that beings are born into as a result of high and low levels of punya and papa.

The expression "seventh heaven," for example, comes from a Hindu idea of heaven. Above this earth there are many levels of heaven and similarly, below this earth there are many levels of hell. The "seventh heaven" is the highest realm, but a heaven and a hell are never permanent.

Caveat: One may go to a heaven as a result of accumulated punya, but once that punya is exhausted through enjoyment, one will move to lower levels of existence (even hell). Think of my mentioning of Patanjali in regards to the implicit paradox contained in moksha.

Similarly, one may fall to a hell as a result of great papa, but once that papa is "burned off" through suffering one will begin to raise again to higher levels of existence.

Earthly regions are considered middle ground where there is both happiness and suffering and because most actions are neither all good or all bad, the results are mixed. Therefore, our lives are mixed in terms of happiness and suffering.