Punya and Pap
Why are some people live in more favorable situations than the others? Why are some rich, while the others struggle? Why do some suffer more sickness than the others? Why is science unable to explain all these questions? The answer to such a disparity lies in the understanding of the punya and the pap. What are the punya and the pap? A punya is earned when our activities are good and comforting to others while a pap is earned when our activities are bad and cause suffering to the others. When the punya mature or give the result, it brings worldly happiness and comfort, and when the pap mature or give the result, it brings nothing but the worldly suffering.
Now, it would be obvious that what we see in the world is nothing other than the result of our past actions. Knowing this would remind us that our activities should be wholesome if we want happiness and comfort in life, otherwise we should be ready to accept the unhappiness and discomfort. When talking about the activities, people mostly think of physical activities, but we should not forget that verbal expressions, and mental thoughts are also considered the activities. For this reason, not only our physical activities be wholesome, but our speech and thoughts should also be pure. We should also remember that we accumulate punya and pap (karmas) by asking someone else to do something for us or by encouraging someone else to do something.
Lord Mahavira’s message is “Live and let live”. Everybody desires to live and enjoy the comforts of life. Therefore, we should not come in the way of anyone seeking the same. If we can properly understand the implications of this message, it will go long way in molding our attitude towards other creatures. But, around us we see and hear that many people hunt or fish and they eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, etc. Some meat eating people argue that they do not actually kill animals or these creatures were created for our food. Therefore, eating meat or other animals foods would not affect them. However, they do not realize that by eating meat or other animal foods they are directly or indirectly instrumental in killing animals, birds, fish, etc., The more they eat, the more killing there will be. They are not realizing that their direct as well as indirect actions bring pap or punya. Unfortunately, because most of paps do not show their results immediately, the people do not care about the consequences.
We also hear about the riots in which people plunder, hit, and kill the others and set fire to the shops, the homes, and buildings. By doing so, they put a lot of people through unnecessary suffering. These people undertaking such heinous activities may think that they are getting even; however, they fail to realize that by causing suffering to others they themselves will have to suffer the consequences of their evil acts at some point, if not in this life, then in coming lives.
Consequently, our actions should not involve disturbing the comforts of other living beings, hurting or killing them in any way, directly or indirectly. By providing comfort and security to others, we gain punya. Punya brings happiness during this life or following lives. On the other hand, if we cause suffering or unhappiness to the others then we acquire Päp. Such Päp brings the unhappiness in this or future lives. Let us understand from the following examples how we accumulate the punya and the pap.
- A long time ago a poor widow had a young son. She had to work hard to provide for herself and her son. Once, there was a day of a great festival and neighboring families prepared the tasteful pudding of milk and rice called kheer in order to celebrate. The neighborhood kids were enjoying the kheer, and seeing this the poor boy went to his mother and asked her to make the kheer for him too. He did not realize that his mother did not have enough money to buy the milk, rice, and sugar needed for making the kheer. The mother tried to explain the situation, but the boy started crying for the kheer.
- The mother could not tolerate his crying, so she said, “Don’t cry, my son, I will make the kheer for you.” She went to the neighbors and borrowed some milk, sugar and rice and made the kheer. She served the kheer in an earthen plate, and told him to wait until it had cooled. Then she left to get the water from the well.
- While the kheer was cooling, a monk came to the boy’s home to ask for the alms (to get a food). The boy felt very happy and invited the monk to come in. While he was serving the kheer, all the kheer slipped into the monk’s bowl. The boy did not regret this, but instead felt very happy to that he could offer the food to the monk. After the monk left, he ate whatever kheer was stuck to the plate and the pot. His thoughts did not change. He had offered the kheer to the monk willingly; therefore, he earned tremendous punya. As a result of this punya, in his next life he was born into a very wealthy family with all luxuries. His name was Shalibhadra. Shalibhadra during his life realized what life is all about. He renounced the luxuries of life, and uplifted his soul by becoming a monk of Lord Mahävira.
- There lived a butcher in Magadha city. He enjoyed his job. One day, King Shrenik decided that there would be no more killing in the city. All the killing in the city stopped except for this butcher’s killing. When he was asked why he did not observe King Shrenik’s order, he said he loved killing and could not stop. King Shrenik decided to put him in a dry well so that there would be nothing for him to kill. To everyone’s surprise, the killing did not stop there either. The butcher made animals from wet clay and then pretended to kill them. Since, he was enjoying killing so much, he accumulated pap (bad karmas) that gave rise to a situation where he has to suffer again in his next life.
From these two stories, we learn that if we want happiness and comfort, then we should offer comfort to others. As the saying goes you reap what you saw.
The following is a list of some activities that can bring comfort to others and can ultimately provide the same for us. They are:
- offering food to the needy (only vegetarian food)
- offering clothes to the needy
- helping the sick
- helping others to acquire knowledge
- giving charity (be sure that the money is used for a good cause)
- helping parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and others in need
- helping animals or organizations that help animals
- studying religion and following its precepts in our daily lives
- worshipping Tirthankaras like Lord Mahävira.
Here is a list of some of the activities that can cause discomfort to others and can ultimately cause discomfort to us. They are:
- being cruel or violent to the others including the humans, animals, birds, bugs, etc.
- killing the humans, animals, birds, bugs, etc.
- showing disrespect to parents, teachers or others
- speaking harsh words or planning violence
- not following the religious principles in the daily life
- being angry or greedy
- being arrogant
- to be deceptive.