Punya- and Papa-Karma – Deeds that Will Take One to Heaven or Hell
The Vedic knowledge is revealed to the inhabitants of the innumerous planetary systems at the time of their creation and is nothing more than a users manual on how to live there. Ninety nine percent of the Vedas describe the laws that the Creator has set for the inhabitants, teaching how to enjoy life in the material world without committing sins. These laws or commandments can be found in Holy Scriptures of all religious traditions. There are also clear descriptions of what happens if the commandments are violated.
Heavenly and hellish planets are a part of planetary systems of the material world. They are thoroughly described in the Vedic texts (See Vedas on Cosmos).
The Vedas teach that our current life results from karma earned in the past life, and the next life is determined by our current behavior. Pious actions ascend one to heaven and the wicked will be cast into hell. Pious activities create punya-karma, while sinful deeds result in papa-karma.
There are ten activities that create Punya (good material destiny):
- Helping the needy
There are two ways of helping those in need: assistance in getting rid of material suffering, and promoting spiritual development, the latter being much more important.
The misfortunes of others should be treated as our own.
- Respect for elders and ones in higher position
There are three types of such respect: taking care of parents, respect for teachers, and respect for those in a higher position in society.
We need to obey our parents and serve them to the best of our ability, especially when they reach old age. Not all recommendations of seniors have to be strictly followed, but they always have be listened to with respect and attention. If there is a need to correct an elder, choose the appropriate time and use a humble approach and courteous words.
We must strive to please our teachers, especially a spiritual teacher, through whom God is taking care of us.
Everyone in a higher position than us has to be respected. Respect does not mean a blind devotion and idealization; it is only recognition of the fact that this person deserves this position due to his earlier pious deeds. If one misapplies his duties in the current time, the penalty will follow without doubt. Therefore, by not combating God’s opinion we will earn good karma, which might allow us to earn a higher position in the future.
Charity (Dana) is giving something away to worthy people. Alms made to unworthy person are considered sinful. The Vedas mention twelve kinds of charitable activities:
1) Digging of wells and reservoirs
2) Planting trees that provide shade
3) Providing lightning of streets and other public places
4) Distribution of medicine to the needy
5) Providing access to education
6) Distribution of food
7) Construction of roads
8) Construction of bathhouses
9) Construction of houses
10) Donation of household items or money
11) Feeding others before eating oneself
12) Giving daughters in marriage
External cleanliness includes the purity of the body, clothing, and home. One must bathe in cool water, wear clean clothes, and eat food that promotes goodness (See: How Food Affects our Mind).
Inner cleanliness is purity of mind, rejection of sinful deeds, and noble action. One must also be satisfied with a moderate amount of food that should be plain and free from sin.
A sinful mind can be purified with the help of repentance, bath in holy rivers such as the Ganges, contemplation of the Deity in the temple, and pilgrimage.
- Observance of holidays
There are three kinds of holidays: religious holidays, family events, and national holidays. They are auspicious when observed according to the rules. Feeding the poor and offering gifts to Brahmins during such events will bring positive results already in the current life.
- Vratas ( vows or promises)
There is a system of particular religious practices in order to achieve divine blessing for the fulfillment of one or several desires. Such actions may include complete or partial fasting on certain days; a pilgrimage to a particular place; a darśana (visit or meeting) with a spiritual person; puja – religious ritual performed as an offering to various deities; homa (fire ceremony); and recitation of mantras and prayers.
The object of performing vrata is as varied as the human desire, and may include gaining back lost health and wealth, begetting offspring, divine help and assistance during a difficult period in one’s life etc.
- Taking care of domestic animals
Taking care of animals is a good deed, because they depend on us. Cows and other domestic animals must be well-fed and kept in good conditions.
Production of offspring is considered pious activity, if:
-the children were born in wedlock
-the parents properly raised them, attaching importance to teaching them how to lead an independent family life
-the parents educated them spiritually
Morality includes forgiveness, gratitude, truthfulness, abstinence from theft, refusal of undeserved gifts, compassion, unselfishness, respect for the Holy Scriptures, pilgrimage to holy places, prudence, courtesy, worship of the Lord and strict compliance with the prescribed duties.
TODAY’S TIP: Less than one percent of Vedic knowledge is addressed to living beings who decided to stop the wheel of karma (both good and bad) and return to their true home, the abode of God. Both pious and sinful deeds cause repeated rebirth to reap the rewards of our deeds or to be punished for them. Although the soul get a different type of body in each of the three kinds of planets (heavenly, earthly, and hellish) it is still the material world. Using the knowledge revealed in the Vedas, a conditioned soul can learn how to act in the way that will lead to liberation from the cycle of birth, old age, disease, death.