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The Dharma Shāstrās and the Puraṇās give detailed descriptions of puṇyam and pāpam. Pixabay

By Dr. Devakinanda Pasupuleti

There is no equivalent word to puṇyam in English other than ‘sin’ for pāpam. In India everyone knows what puṇyam means. Our ancient great seers placed a lot of emphasis on practicing dhārmic deeds that result in puṇyam.

Ashtottaram 6



(Puṇyam: “Fruit of any good or meritorious action”, “that which purifies”)

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The words puṇyam and pāpam are commonly used in the Cscriptures. Even the Ṛigveda mentions them. Puṇyam refers to the fruit of any good or meritorious action. Other words considered its equivalents are: dharma, ‘shreyās, sukṛutas, and vṛusa. Pāpam can be translated as ‘sin’ in English. Puṇyam gives a person happiness both here and hereafter. The most common definition of puṇyam is that which causes happiness to others, reducing their problems and difficulties. The Dharma Shāstrās and the Puraṇās give detailed descriptions of puṇyam and pāpam, for the guidance of people in general. In our scriptures the ancient ṛishis are very clear about what actions result in pāpam or puṇyam.

Pāpam can be translated as ‘sin’ in English. Pixabay

“That good deed by which we become pure and clean” –“Ena punātī itipuṇyam” — is the teaching in the Vedas and Upanishads. Whatever good action you do for the sake of humanity and for the welfare of people, the result is puṇyam. Ṛishis emphasized good deeds and non-violence, both of which results in puṇyam. They also preached about the eligibility to reach higher worlds to enjoy the fruits of good deeds. At the same time the Rishis warned against bad actions which result in our souls being tortured in the underworld in many ways to inflict pain and fear. Hindus are taught to be righteous and follow dharma. Apart from good actions, Vedic seers and sages encourage us to perform homams (fire rituals), yajṇās and yāgās (Vedic sacrificial rituals) to fulfill our desires gaining wealth, having children and so on.

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Many swamis, gurus, yogis, sādhus, and ācharyās have walked our sacred land and lived their lives as an example for us. Many like Sri Śhankarāchārya, Ramānujāchārya, Madhvāchārya, Vallabhāchārya, and Nimbarkāchārya, have restored and rejuvenated our Sanātana Dharma when faced with threats like foreign invading forces and the rise of other religions.

On our puṇyabhoomi, we have several puṇyakṣhetrās (piligrimage temples) like Kashi, Rame’swaram, Prayāga, Tirumala, Sriśailam, Badarīnāth; and Kedāranāth to name a few. Just by visiting them, our souls will resonate with peace and tranquility.

The land which has blessed us with the sacred scriptures, temples and enlightened rishis, to lead us towards good and meritorious deeds is “Puṇya Bhūmi”.


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