Recently I have come across a few stotras with phalasruthi saying that these stotras can cleanse the past life sins. I'm citing Dwadasa jyotirlinga stotra as an example.

एतानि ज्योतिर्लिङ्गानि सायं प्रातः पठेन्नरः । सप्त जन्म कृतं पापं स्मरणेन विनश्यति ॥

Someone please explain about how this is possible.

  • Why do you think sins = karma?
    – Ketan
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 19:01
  • 1
    Gita 18.66. Bad karma is removed by good karma. Japam and meditation can reduce the effects of past karma... Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 5:18
  • When you say,”clean up sins”,I understand this as nullifying their fruits. Now,how do you assume that the fruits of the karma of previous births can’t be nulled?In this aspect,certain karma we do now,is/may be able.But there is a limit to this.Bhagavatam says that devotion to Lord Krishna can wipe away all the karmic entanglement of our previous births..
    – Amethyst
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 18:28
  • 1
    They mean Sanchita and Adhruda Prarabdha. That can be cleaned. But Prarabdha which is Hard or Dhruda Prarabdha cannot be changed. Karma is of three types Sanchita, Prarabdha and Agami. Prarabdha cannot be cleaned. Sanchita can be cleaned.
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 10:44

2 Answers 2


Verse in your question says सप्त जन्म कृतं पापं. It doesn’t say karma.

You are mistaking by thinking that Prarabhdha karma are only Sins. Prarabhdha karma can also be any karma (even good) that is tied to worldly desires.

When verse says that paap/sins are destroyed, it literally means sins. Sins are like bad karma. We commit sins from mind, speech and body. Details are given in Padma Purana

मानवा मर्त्यलोके च पापं कुर्वंति दारुणम् । तेषां कर्मविपाकं च मातले वद सांप्रतम् ॥ २ ॥

This will help you understand here what sins are.

These kind of sinful acts are destroyed by pilgrimage or chanting stotrams. But Prarabdha karma can never be destroyed.

One for example

Verse from Lingashtakam that clarifies it is “sanchit paap”.

कुङ्कुमचन्दनलेपितलिङ्गं पङ्कजहारसुशोभितलिङ्गम् । सञ्चितपापविनाशनलिङ्गं तत् प्रणमामि सदाशिवलिङ्गम् ॥५॥

To provide you example to understand your dilemma : Story of Jad Bharat from Srimad Bhagvatam.

Bharatji got attached to deer so much that it disturbed his spiritual practices. He didn’t commit any sin as such. It was just his karmas towards deer (and past actions towards sons) that he had fall from spiritual practice and had to reborn.

What I meant to tell you is that karmas which are not necessarily sinful , and tied to worldly desires are the blocker for liberation and (those karma) cannot be destroyed by any means. Only sinful karmas can be destroyed.

Hence verses are correct when they says sins are destroyed. Verses don’t say Prarabdha karma are destroyed. Hope it clarifies.

  • a) What is the difference between Sanchit and Prarabdha Karma?Desire?(1/n)
    – Amethyst
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 17:18
  • b)The Srimad Bhagavatam says that devotion to Sri Krishna wipes away karma from our past lives(the verse was referenced in the topic of moksha/rebirth,due to past karma).How does this answer fit in this context?
    – Amethyst
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 17:20
  • @Amethyst pls read my answer here hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/48633/8735
    – Ketan
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 17:25
  • @Amethyst With devotion (Bhakti yoga), prarabdha karma becomes powerless (says Tripura Rahasya). It means there are effects but yogi feels no pain no happiness (says Gita). That how you should understand meaning of karma destroyed
    – Ketan
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 17:30
  • How is it that Hemaganda and Lord Krishna’s statement clash(Sri Krishna says “sarva karmani”,without exception,while Hemaganda essentially is providing a counter argument)
    – Amethyst
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 17:31

It is not possible that reciting that stotra will clean up sins of 7 births. Such statements are arthavad and not meant to be taken literally. More precisely it is an example of stuti.

Arthavada is of four kinds, ninda (censure), stuti (eulogy), parakrti (performance by another great person) and purakalpa (what happened in bygone ages).

A concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda

Why is it a stuti? Why can't it be understood literally?

It can't be understood literally since it is not possible to attain moksha just by reading any scripture let alone clean up sins of seven births. If by reading a stotra or scripture one can help attain moksha then there will be no need to do dhyana or japa or puja.


They study the Vedas and discuss. But they do not realize the Ultimate Reality just as a spoon does not know the taste of food.

The head carries the flowers, the nose knows the scent. The people study the Vedas. But, very few persons understand the same.

Not knowing the Reality of the self, a fool is infatuated by the sastras. When the goat stands in the shed, the shepherd seeks for it in the well in vain.

The knowledge of the sastras is not competent to destroy the infatuation accruing from worldly affairs.


Having studied the Vedas and realized their essence the wise man should leave all the sastras just as one desiring corn leaves the husk.

Just as one satiated with nectar has no use of food, no one who is in search of Reality has anything to do with the sastras.

One cannot obtain release by reading the Vedas or the sastras. Release comes from experience, not otherwise, O son of Vinata.

[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX]

Since one cannot understand the statement literally, one is forced to explore alternative meanings. The statement is encouraging the reader to engage in spiritual practices in order to attain mental purity.

For the attainment of mental purity, spiritual aspirants (Yogins) perform action devoid of attachment, with their body, mind, intellect or even merely with their senses.

Gita 5.11

The stotra is making the case that by constantly reading it, i.e. engaging one's intellect in spiritual matters, will gradually lead to spiritual practices like dhyana, japa, puja that will purify the mind of the reader and ultimately lead to moksha.

  • Even then Prarabdh cannot be changed only Sanchita can be cleaned even with Sadhana
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 13:25
  • How to identify which statements are arthvAd?
    – Pandya
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 17:09
  • Please add source for "Such statements are arthavad and not meant to be taken literally."
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 17:36
  • @Pandya a statement is an arthavad when a literal reading of it leads to absurdity. In this case reading that stotra will not lead to the attainment of moksha let alone clean up the sins of 7 births. So one is pretty much forced to look at an implied meaning. Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 11:30
  • Moksha wouldn't be attained by not having sins anyway. That would mean everyone would get moksha in their first birth immediately. Or immediately after going to Naraka. Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 12:33

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