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Author: Ted Fairchild

Understand the concept of sin within the Christian and Buddhist traditions.

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Hello. Welcome. Today we're going to talk about sin. We want to get an idea of how some of the different religious traditions might treat sin and the concept of transgression. We'll look at examples from the Abrahamic traditions, but we'll also look at the idea from a Buddhist perspective.

Speaking generally, most religions consider the notion of sin to be related to misdeeds, wrongdoing, somehow disobeying a holy order or rule of law. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, sin is understood as working against God's will, causing the sinner to be alienated from God.

Some forms of Christianity contain the doctrine of original sin found in the book of Genesis, in the Christian Old Testament. This is the idea that mankind made a fatal error disobeying God's command in the Garden of Eden. It's the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And being cast out of paradise and now subject to illness, old age and death.

And there's another story in the Hebrew Bible about how evil in the form of Satan came to be, and thus the source of all sin and corruption. It began with Lucifer, who disobeyed God's orders and desired autonomy from God. Fatally unaware of his own pride, he was cast out of heaven and thrown down to Earth, there to suffer with his cohorts.

In the Christian tradition, Christ is the intermediary who restores the relationship between humankind in God. Taking on the sins of the world, He offers a link, a release from suffering and restored communion with God. The Christian Eucharist is understood to be a ritual reenactment representing the holy mystery of Christ's death for the salvation of humankind.

Belief in this person of Christ and the divine process of transfiguration is believed to bring redemption and eternal life to the adherent of the faith.

Sin in Buddhism is treated a bit differently. First of all, sins are considered to be misguided actions like many other traditions, but they're not associated with disobeying a divine authority. The cause of sin, the cause of actions that are impure, has to do with the clouded mind.

These clouded negative mental states are called "kleshas," and all of the numerous states of impurity ultimately derive from the three primary kleshas--ignorance, attachment and aversion. They're also called the "three unwholesome roots," and "the three poisons."

Poor judgment based on the kleshas leads to poor practice and actions which would also be considered and called sinful. Buddhist monks, in fact, have specific confessional prayers like the Prayer of the 35 Buddhas, for example, which is meant to purify the mind, purify speech and help with right action, purify action in the world.

So now we can review. Every religion has some kind of relationship to wrongdoing and misguided action. Oftentimes, sin is a common translation for these things, and we looked at examples from Christianity and Buddhism and Judaism. And there is this notion of sin in all of them. However, it's treated differently in the different traditions.

We looked at the idea of original sin, Christianity, and we looked at the fall of Lucifer in Judaism. And then in Buddhism we looked at the different kleshas that cloud the mind and lead to impure action, impure speech and clouded judgment that could indeed be called sin. But it's not related to the idea of disobeying some kind of divine authority. It has more to do with a clouded mental state. We identified the vocabulary term "kleshas" for that.

Terms to Know

One of many different negative emotions that impede liberation and enlightenment.


Violation of divine will.