Guidance on Penance and Retribution for Wrong Doing

When a person commits an act, which is not for the general good of all, a sin, you might say, then it may be appropriate for that person to pay for that sin. This is the ‘law of Karma’. Karma is the name of the consequences, both good and bad, of our actions. ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’. Penance may be voluntary, for example someone deciding to make up for his wrong doings by apologising and repaying the person he hurt in some way. The penance may be imposed by a judge in a court of law, for example by a prison sentence or a fine. The penance may come at the end of a person’s life. The law of Karma is such that we have to pay for our wrong doing, if we know that we are doing wrong. Harsh? Maybe, but if there were no penalty to pay, then the controlling factor on people’s behaviour would not be there. Human beings need to learn from their mistakes. When they fail to learn, they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, until finally the light dawns on them and they start to act in a different way.

Karma is a concept that is held in common throughout all religions. Many Christians believe that God will punish them for their deliberate wrong doings after death, if He does not punish them during their life. The Hindus believe that people will pay for their sins in their next lifetime, if they do not pay for them in this life.

Yoga philosophy says that it is better for people to pay a penance for their wrong doings (to do something positive to make up for what they did) rather than to be punished and made to suffer, by someone else. In this way people learn to take responsibility for their own actions and are less likely to resent authority. It is not healthy when people lead timid, fearful lives, afraid of offending anyone in authority. Sometimes it is necessary to break the rules for our progress or our survival. We are part of God and God is part of us, for this reason God is all-loving and all-forgiving. Although we may have to pay for our wrong doings, it is actually because our spirit chooses to do so. Without acknowledgement of doing wrong there is no progress. So although we are forgiven and do not need to be burdened with our guilt, at some stage our spirit will pay its debts and will choose to do so.