Since there's no such thing as 'sin' in Buddhism, then what is murder, theft etc. classified as?


- I understand that it's "unhelpful" to go around murdering people. But these are morally nasty things that hurt others far more than the one commiting the act.

5 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    You are correct in stating there is no concept of "sin" in Buddhism. What would otherwise be considered a "sin" is termed "unskillful" or "non-virtuous" acts. Murder and theft are among those acts categorized as "unskillful".

    In Buddhism, the lack of the concept of "sin" does not mean there are not consequences to one's unskillful action. The acts that you mention are among the most severe of the ten non-virtuous acts: 1) intentionally killing any living being, 2) stealing or taking what is not freely given, 3) sexual (or sensual) misconduct, 4) lying, 5) speech that is divisive (creates conflict between two or more people), 6)harsh speech (speech motivated by anger), 7) gossip, 8) craving, 9) ill-will, and 10) wrong view. The difference is that the responsibility for any of these actions is the individual's and not dependent upon an all powerful being.

    This is not an easy answer for non-Buddhists to accept. We Westerners have been conditioned to expect punishment for wrong behavior and, at times, we would like it to be severe. It is felt there should be some retribution for one's "sinful" actions whether or not the individual is caught by civil authorities. Since the majority in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic beliefs think of a "sin" as an act that requires divine retribution, such believers feel confident that the perpetrator of the "sin" will receive a judgement in either this life or in eternity dependent upon the severity of the "sin". Murderers would be meted out the most severe punishment by a supreme judge while a thief would perhaps receive a less severe punishment.

    It is in this regard that karmic consequences or merit comes into play in Buddhist thought. Please understand that karma is not to be confused with the misconception of predestination. It simply means "action" -- so an action may be skillful and produce positive merit, unskillful and produce negative merit, or neutral which produces neither positive nor negative merit.

    Merit is "deposited" into a kind of "bank" to be used in either this life or in a future rebirth. This does not mean that one may draw upon his or her merit account consciously. But it does mean that as one performs skillful acts the individual may see fortunate re-actions occur -- perhaps a better job, or some other positive situation in either this life or in a future rebirth. Likewise, we may see negative consequences for unskillful acts.

    Karmic merit also has an effect on the plane of rebirth one achieves. In Buddhism the human realm is only one -- the realms of deities through hell-realms exist. Each level of rebirth is temporary although some are of a longer duration than others. And, yes, the karmic merit both positive and negative can be depleted and the next rebirth occurs. In any event, the human realm is the most auspicious since it is here where we may attain enlightenment and end the rebirth cycle.

    There is much more to the interplay of karma, merit and rebirth but, since Y!A has a limited space for responses, I suggest you visit the sites in the source field for further information.

    I hope this is of some help.

    May all be at peace.


  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    They are classified as things that lead you away from your goal of a karma free realizaton of the Self and reaching of Nirvana. You get to take another turn on the earth, under less than happy circumstances. Maybe more than one turn.

  • 1 decade ago

    They are classed as acts against society just as long you are on the winning side.

  • 1 decade ago

    The same as what the law of the land says it is.... Crime. Offense.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Ahhh.... Big Fat Bald Gold Men. You gotta love buddhism.

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