The subject of merits
and demerits, as those of God and soul, bondage and emancipation, this
world and the other, has been much talked of in the Indian philosophies.
What are merits and demerits and what place do they occupy in the path of
liberation of the soul? The problem here is to discuss these in the
context of Jain philosophy.
Every period of Jain
literature since the days of Acharya Kundkund up-to-date has taken up this
question of merits and demerits and discussed it threadbare. Even today it
is the main subject of discussion. Controversy, however, is not in the
definition of merits and demerits, it lies in their position in the path
Merits and demerits are
both impure, internal behaviour of the soul. Worship of God, adoration of
the monks, compassion, charity, abstinence, mortification and other
auspicious activities etc., are termed as merits and their fruition brings
favourable associations. Violence, untruth, theft, indulgence in sex and
accumulation of possessions etc., are called demerits and they are
instrumental to unfavourable associations.
Ordinary men regard
merit as good and demerit as bad, for one is born as a human or a heavenly
being on account of his merits and in hells or animal phase due to
demerits. They, however, do not realise that all the four phases of life
are full of grief only. Happiness is not to be found in any of these
phases. Pt. Daulatramji has declared in the first Dhal of his Chhahdhala
that all the four phases of life are full of grief and miseries. It is
clear from the text of the reflection on renunciation that if there was
any joy in all the four phases, why should the Tirthankars have left their
household and adopted the path of renunciation ?
The founder of Shraman
culture, the great Acharya Kundkund has held both merits and demerits as
equal, both being instrumental to worldly existence and has asked us to
dissociate with them and not to have any attachment for them. He says,
"demerits are undesirable and merits desirable, this is the belief of
ordinary humans, but how can even merits be desirable that push creatures
in worldly existence ?"
Iron chains as also gold
chains, both deprive persons of their freedom. In the same way merits as
demerits push those beings in the tap of worldly existence.
Do not associate with
any of those, because if you associate with something undesirable, your
freedom will be lost.
modifications attract merit bondage and inauspicious ones demerit bondage.
Bondage is bondage, be it merit bondage or demerit bondage. It only binds
the soul, does not liberate it. Liberation can be had only in the absence
of merits and demerits, with pure detachment. As such merits and demerits
play only a negative role in the path of liberation of the soul.
Yoginder Deo writes in
Yogsar in this context :
"Merits lead to heavenly
phase of life and demerits to hellish phase. One who knows the soul,
leaving both these, attains complete liberation."
Acharya Pujyapad has
also given vent to same ideas in Samadhi Shatak. Acharya Kundkund very
inclinations towards others are merits and demeritorious ones are
otherwise. The inclinations of the soul not inclined towards any non-self
entity are the instrument of the destruction of all unhappiness and
attainment of the liberation of the soul."
Jain scriputres are very
clear that abstinence, worship, rules of conduct etc., are merits and the
manifestations without delusion and movements of body, mind and speech is
In Natak Samaysar both
merits and demerits have been described as twins born of a she-barbarian
and that the sentient beings should have no liking for any of the two.
From worldly point of
view merits are said to be better than demerits, but in the path of
liberation both merits and demerits are obstructions.
The great poet
Banarsidas has presented the concepts of merits and demerits in a dialogue
form between a teacher and a taught on the basis of the commentary of
Acharya Amritchandra named Atmakhyati, on the holy treatise Samaysar by
Kundkund Acharyadeo, and the additional slokas composed by him, which is
as follows .-
A student tells his
teacher that merits and demerits are not equal, because their causes,
tastes, nature and results are different. Merits appear to be dear, while
manifestations lead to demerit bondage and virtuous ones to merit bondage.
Thus their causes are different. The fruition of demerit results in
unhappiness, whose taste is bitter and the fruition of merit results in
happiness, whose taste is sweet. This way there is difference of tastes in
the two. Demerit manifestations are in themselves irritating to the soul,
while merit ones are pleasant. Thus, there is difference in their nature
also. Demerits lead to unpleasant phases of life like the hellish, while
merits to heavenly and other good phases. Thus the difference as regards
their results is also very clear. Why then do you call them equal ?
Teacher :- In answer the
teacher tells his student that merit and demerit bondages both are
obstructions in the path of liberation and as such are equal. Good and bad
phases of life are both in the worldly existence and as such there is no
difference as regards results. Differences on account of causes, taste,
nature and result, in fact, do not exist; non-sentient beings observe
these differences on account of their wrong faith; sentient beings do not
recognise any difference. Merits and demerits are both dark wells, both
are instrumental to karmic bondage and both are non-existent in the path
of Siddhahood. Only absolute detachment is desirable in the path of soul's
Out of rules of conduct,
penance, abstinence, charity, worship etc., on the one hand and absence of
all these on the other, some are meritorious while others are demerits,
but if we go to the heart of the matter, both kinds of karmas are
diseases. The supreme Lord Jinendra has described the process of bondage
like that. Merits and demerits both are bondage and causes of bondage. As
such the religion for the welfare of the soul discards all the merits and
demerits without any distinction. Perfect detachment alone can take the
soul to its destination, where there are no attachment and aversions; only
pure operation of the consciousness prevails, without merit or demerit
Hearing this, the
student argues before the teacher as follows :-
"You have described
merits and demerits both showing them equal. I have that way developed a
doubt in my mind. Those who are following the path of the soul's
liberation i. e., followers in the fourth, fifth and the sixth scales of
development cannot do without some support. They need the adherence to
rules of conduct, abstinence, compassion, charity, meditation and worship
rituals to occupy their minds. Why do you repudiate these altogether?"
The teacher in return
reiterates, "It is not like that. Do the followers of the path of
emancipation need the support of merits or demerits? Their refuge is their
own all sentient soul, which is ever present. The karmas are eliminated by
the experience of such a soul and its practice. There is no question,
therefore, of their being without refuge or support. The devotion towards
and engagement in the soul itself which is without any delusions,
attachments and aversions, are instrumental to achieving the supreme
bliss. The inclinations towards the rules of conduct and the activities of
the inanimate matter are shadows of matter substance only. It has been
rightly said that merits and demerits are both filth, a mass of matter,
and dereliction on the path of the soul. We can never attain omniscience
and liberation by these".
Hearing this the
student, who believes in compromise, asks his teacher to accept the view
that merits are pure and demerits impure.
The teacher explaining
the whole thing asserts as below :
"As long as there are
merit and demerit manifestations, one has variability in mind, body and
speech, as also in operative consciousness of both the types i.e.,
sentience and perception. One cannot experience the pure soul as long as
there is no stability in mind, body, speech and operative consciousness.
Therefore, both merit and demerit manifestations are like scissors to cut
short the path to liberation. Both are instrumental to bondage and,
therefore, undesirable. I have spoken against both knowing them as
obstructions in the path of soul's emancipation."
Thus Pandit Banarsidas
has expressed his thoughts in accordance with the scriptures.
Pandit Todarmalji writes
in the same context :-
"The person with wrong
faith, regards influxes of violence etc., as undesirable and the merit
influxes of non-violence and others as desirable; both attract bondage of
the karmas. To regard them as desirable is perversion of faith. Likewise,
he regards truth etc., as cause of merit bondage and untruth etc., as
causes of demerit bondage. All those, however, are false faiths and so to
be abandoned. Therefore, non-violence etc., are also undesirable being
causes of bondage only. Only that stage where one remains a sentient seer
with full detachment is the desirable state. Till such a state has been
achieved, indulge in merits alright, but have faith that this is
instrumental to bondage only and as such undesirable; if this is regarded
as path to liberation, the perverted faith persists as ever."
Thus, we see that though
merits are better than demerits from the worldly point of view and keeping
this aspect of the state, the scriptures have recognised these as
conventional religion, yet in the path of liberation their position is
The joy out of the
pleasures of senses consequent of merit is the root cause of regarding
merit as beneficial. As long as pleasures of senses are regarded as giving
happiness, the desirability of merits cannot be lost sight of. Without
touching the sentient soul, the feelings of happiness in the pleasures of
senses cannot disappear. The pure manifestation is the experience of the
sentient pure soul, which is absolutely without merits and demerits. Those
who want to taste real happiness of the soul, therefore, should always
attempt to acquire the pure manifestation of the spiritual experience.
Dr. Hukamchand Bharill
Paryay, page 64
If you want to have
an idea of the hurry and bustle of this world, go and stand on the
crossing of some busy streets and see it. One the crossing there is
the red light, which is a signal of death, there is a policeman to
check you, but you are not willing to stay at any cost. Though you
understand clearly that with the red light on, it is -very dangerous
to cross the roads, you con come under any vehicle, the policeman is
warning you, and yet you are running. Is this not the limit of hurry?
What is the use of this hurry? But such a hurry can be witnessed
anywhere these days.