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, acedia (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 thina-middha, 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.

Sloth and idleness are forbidden in Christianity. "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord," says Romans 12:11. "So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises," according to Hebrews 6:12.

The Gospel of Matthew's parable of a man who entrusts his servants with money is often interpreted as a warning against sloth. A master gives each of his three servants a certain amount of money. Two return more than they were given, while one buries the money and returns only the original amount. The Master denounces the servant for not doing anything to increase his wealth: "You wicked, lazy slave,...at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest (Matthew 25:26-27 )."

Catholicism condemns spiritual sloth (acedia) as not wanting to work or exert oneself for spiritual goods. It is considered a sin because slothful people refuse to expend the energy necessary for leading a virtuous life. St. Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good."

Orthodox Christians similarly view sloth as a spiritual idleness. This story from the Desert Fathers explains this view: "A beginning monk, who went to a certain elder to confess, posed, among others, this question: 'Why, Father, do I fall so often into sloth?'

"'You lack the faith which makes you see God everywhere; for this reason you can be careless and lazy about your salva-tion,' the discerning elder wisely explained."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also condemns sloth. The Mormon Doctrine & Covenant states, " Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you (90:18)."

Hindu philosophy urges Hindus to put effort into their lives. Human endeavor is seen as the opposite of sloth. Sloth is considered one of the five vighnas, troubles or obstacles. The Yogatattva Upanishad, one of the minor Upanishads, lists sloth among other obstacles, including grief, anger, greed, boastfulness, and bad company. Unless these obstacles are overcome, the text warns, a person may lead a life of despair.

The Maitri Upanishad, a later text than the classical Upanishads, explains that one cannot reach the ultimate realization by leading a life of sloth. "When a man, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction, and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point."

Other Hindu texts back this theme up. The Tirukkural warns against sloth and laziness: "Procrastination, forgetfulness, laziness and sleep--these four form the coveted ship which bears men to their destined ruin; Seldom do men possessed by sloth achieve anything special, even when supported by the earth's wealthy proprietors; The lazy ones, inept in noble exertion, invite sharp scoldings and must endure the shame of scornful words (61: 606-608)."

Several Hadith demonstrate the Muslim view of sloth. Abu Hurairah reported, "Allah likes sneezing and dislikes yawning. When any one of you sneezes and says `Al-hamdu lillah (praise be to Allah)', it becomes obligatory upon every Muslim who hears him to respond with 'Yarhamuk-Allah (may Allah have mercy on you)'. Yawning is from the devil. When one of you feels like yawning, he should restrain it as much as possible, for the devil laughs when one of you yawns.'' Yawning is seen as a sign of sloth.

The Hadith collection Muslim includes the saying "O Allah! I seek refuge in You from worry and sorrow. I seek refuge in You from incapacity and sloth, from stinginess and cowardice, and I seek refuge in You from the burden of debt, and from being transgressed by men."

Some Muslims consider Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, to be a time to discard slothful habits, since it is a period that tests both spiritual and physical endurance. Muslims fast during daylight hours during Ramadan, and it is also a special time set aside for worship and spiritual purification.

Jewish tradition teaches that time should be highly valued, and Judaism sees sloth, and its expression in laziness or procrastination, as impinging on the value of time. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, teaches Jews to treat time itself as holy, something that should not be wasted. Time is holy because there is so much to do in a very limited timeframe. The famous sage Rabbi Hillel is best known for asking, "And if I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?," thereby eschewing procrastination. Honoring time, avoiding procrastination, and performing tasks at the proper time are all seen in Judaism as ways of sanctifying life.

In Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, Rabbi Tarfon says, "The day is short, the task is great, the workers are lazy, and reward is great, and the Master of the house is insistent," which commentators have interpreted as a warning not to waste time. The Proverbs also warn against wasting time and being slothful: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise; Which having no chief, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her bread in the summer, and gatherest her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 'Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep'-- So shall thy poverty come as a runner, and thy want as an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)."

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