The Spiritual Side of Sloth

In many faiths, sloth is more than just laziness--though couch potatoes are frowned upon, too.

World religions view sloth as more than simply lying on the couch for an entire afternoon. Though sloth today usually means physical laziness, in the original seven deadly sins, sloth was sadness, or depression. The word for sloth,


(from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care") meant "spiritual sloth." In many religions, sloth is seen as inhibiting or preventing virtuous conduct. It is considered sinful or wrong because inaction, in both the spiritual and wordly realms, can be just as bad as wrong actions. Sloth does include being a couch potato, but it is also often interpreted as wasting precious time, not doing enough to help the world, and avoiding a rigorous spiritual journey.




In Buddhism, sloth and torpor are known as


, one of the five nívarana, or hindrances. These are the qualities that inhibit humans' ability to see the truth.

People who are unfamiliar with Buddhism might mistake meditation as a form of sloth, since it appears to be an idle activity. Instead, Buddhists believe meditation actually overcomes sloth and torpor. The concentration necessary for meditation is the opposite of sloth.

The Dhammapada uses the example of a lazy animal to warn against sloth. "When torpid & over-fed, a sleepy-head lolling about like a stout hog, fattened on fodder: a dullard enters the womb over & over again (23:325)." Thus, a slothful life results in rebirth.


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