SIN & MERIT
In our day to day routine, we perform various actions under different desires and aims in mind. In this process, we perform various KARMA (give and take account). These karmas results to merits and sin. These merits and sin determine the amount of happiness or sorrow in our life. Hence it is important to avoid sinful action to lead happy life.
This article is written only to inform about the sin and merits to those person who are curious for this knowledge and have not gone through original website (Address given below):- . The article is already present in SSRF site in details.
According to the Law of Karma (Give & Take Account), every positive deed generates a “merit” while every negative deed generates a “demerit” or sin. Subsequently one has to reap the results of one’s actions. Whenever a good deed for another, it results in a positive return in the form of some happiness. This is over and above a simple “thank you” from that person! Whenever one inflicts harm, this results in a negative return in the form of some sorrow. It cannot be undone by a simple “I’m sorry!” Throughout our lives, we are either settling an old account or creating a new one. If the account cannot be settled in this birth, it is carried over to the next birth. We are not consciously aware of the give-and-take karmic accounts generated in our previous births. In understanding the Law of Karma, we can see how Spirituality can be useful to even those of us who have absolutely no spiritual aspirations and who only wish to be immersed in worldly pursuits.
Even for those worldly relations to be fruitful they need to be insulated from destiny.
Definition of merit and sin
A merit is the consequence of a virtuous act, due to which we experience happiness. Merits are the special energy gained or ability developed by devotedly following a righteous lifestyle. For example, helping friends with finance or advice invites merit. Righteousness and righteous conduct have been described in great detail in a number of. Through merits, we bestow welfare on others.
For example, donating towards a cancer charity may help a number of patients suffering from cancer, which in turn brings us merits.
A sin is the consequence of a bad act and it brings us sorrow in return. Sins are generated by those acts which are responsible for someone else’s decline. They are generated by acts which bypass or are against the Laws of Nature and God. For example, a market seller who cheats his customers incurs sin. Sins are also generated when one does not fulfil their duties e.g. when a parent does not look after their children’s needs or a doctor doesn’t look after their patients.
Merits and sins may be faced in this life, in the afterlife, or in one of our next lives.
Merits and sins are subtler than the give-and-take account. This is because it is fairly easy to understand the give-and-take account e.g. within a family, but it is more difficult to understand why someone would have insulted a stranger.
Causes of merits and sins
There are a number of reasons one may incur merit. The most common ones are:
§ Carrying out benevolent acts
§ Following righteous conduct as described by Holy texts
§ Sacrificing ourselves for the sake of another person’s spiritual practice (sādhanā). For example, a daughter-in-law takes leave from work and looks after the household chores so that her mother-in-law can go on a pilgrimage, then the daughter-in-law gets half the merit that the mother-in-law gains by going on the pilgrimage. However as far as possible it is advisable not to perform spiritual practice by relying on others.
Some of the reasons we incur sin are:
§ Selfishness and desire in the form of anger, greed and envy that provoke an individual to sin
§ Being unprincipled or cruel
§ Speaking disrespectfully to a beggar
§ Selling prohibited articles, not repaying debts, conducting ‘black money’ transactions, gambling
§ Giving a false testimony, making false accusations
§ Adultery, incest, rape etc.
§ Killing animals
§ Inappropriate expenditure and misappropriation of wealth belonging to God, a temple, spiritual organisation etc.
§ Sins are incurred by lawyers when projecting the truth as untruth and vice versa
§ A husband gets half of his wife’s demerit since not restraining the wife from committing sin makes him party to her sins
§ A wife spending money earned by her husband through unrighteous means and not objecting despite knowing about it.
§ By associating oneself with a sinner for a year one also becoming party to their sins
Effects of merits in the form of happiness
Depending on the quantity of merit, a person experiences proportionate happiness on the Earth region (Bhūlok) as follows, and finally based on merits gained by doing actions with expectations during life on Earth they acquire the happiness of Heaven (Swarga) :
§ Birth in a wealthy and cultured family
§ Growing income
§ Worldly pleasures
§ Fulfillment of desires
§ A healthy life
§ Praise and recognition from society, organisations and government
§ Spiritual progress
§ Joy of Heaven after death
Being born as a human, being born into a family of good lineage, riches, longevity, a healthy body, good friends, a good son, a loving spouse, devotion to God, intelligence, courteousness, winning over desires and an inclination towards making offerings to the deserving are aspects which are impossible without merit from previous births. When all these are present, the individual who benefits from them and performs spiritual practice, progresses spiritually.
When collective merit increases, the nation excels in its philosophy and conduct, and becomes prosperous.
How are sins and merits earned?
To understand the concepts of merit and sin, it is important to understand the intention behind any action. This will be clear from the following table, where we have presented the attitude behind the act of earning money and the intention of spending it through several examples. The gravity of sin and merit incurred through this is given next to each example.
The consequence of merits has to be experienced
A meritorious life takes the individual to the Heaven region in the afterlife, but once the merit is exhausted, the person has to return to Earth in their next birth. Therefore merits are also a type of bondage. Only spiritual practice can take us to the Final Liberation (Moksha).
Experiencing happiness eventually depletes the merit
As we experience happiness every moment, we deplete our merit, so one has to work towards increasing the merit. This is possible through meritorious actions or spiritual practice. The difference is that meritorious actions bestow happiness, whereas spiritual practice brings about spiritual progress, meaning it bestows Bliss (Ānand), which is beyond merit-sin and joy-sorrow. As a by-product, there is happiness.
“Neither is merit saviour in nature, nor is sin destroyer in nature, only spiritual emotion (bhāv) is saviour in nature.” – H.H Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, Pune, Maharashtra, India.
All of us commit various sinful actions during our day-to-day activities. For example we may kill spiders while sweeping the floor, we may speak harshly with others at work, etc. In order to better understand the concept of sin, we will take a look at a few types of sins, and whom the consequence of the sin is faced by.
Types of sins depending on who is affected
Depending on who has been affected by the sin, there are sins which cause harm to the self and to others, as shown in the following table.
Types of sins according to body, speech and mind
An individual can decide in his mind to sin, pronounce it verbally or physically act it out. Thus he can commit a sinful action in three ways as shown in the following table.
Can we commit sin through a mere thought?
The doctrine of karma states, while a mere thought of a meritorious action can invite merit, a sinful thought does not result in sin. For example, getting a thought to rob a bank wouldn’t incur sin, whereas actually robbing it would. Here, unlike the earlier example of mental sin, a mere thought does not incur sin due to the absence of an unfavourable effect on others.
However a seeker incurs sin even through bad thoughts. In this case, since a seeker’s aim is to develop Divine qualities and God graces the seeker with the required knowledge and energy for that, then bad thoughts amount to wasting God’s resources too. An exception to this would be uncontrollable thoughts occurring in a seeker who is severely troubled or possessed by negative energies.
Who faces the consequence of a sin?
Being party to the sin
Whether directly or indirectly and regardless of whether it is physical, verbal or mental, the individual abetting sin gets their share of the sin. They become a partner to the sin. Present day law too has similar provisions – the individual assisting in a murder is also guilty.
In fact, it is considered that actions like a conversation with a grave sinner, his touch, his company, sharing a meal with him, sharing a seat, a bed and travelling with him transfer the sin to the person who accompanies them.
Just like satsang is the company of Absolute Truth, kusang is the company of untruth. Remaining in kusang creates or augments wrong impressions in us and can be the cause of our spiritual downfall. Therefore it is not surprising that we caution those we care about to ‘keep away from bad company’.
Expansion of sin
One Holy text called the Matsyapuran states that sin is like a contagious or hereditary disease. Just like a hereditary disease may not be evident immediately, sin starts affecting the sinner slowly and destroys him from his very root. If the sinner does not pay for his sins then his son or grandson has to pay for them. In this way the sin shows its effect for up to three generations. Hence we have responsibility towards others in our family and our progeny as well.
There are several other instances where the consequences of sin are faced jointly, e.g. a husband and wife, a company director and the company workers etc.
Only human beings have been given the ability to overcome destiny and along with themselves, make the entire Creation happy. Yet, they use this potential for reasons like fulfilling individual selfish motives, inflicting injustice on innocent people, dominating others, etc. As a result, society gets polluted with collective destiny.
This affects the entire Creation and disrupts the balance of nature’s cycle. Consequently, calamities such as flood, drought, earthquake, war etc. befall the human race. Though these disasters are visible, the true underlying causes are invisible. When such collective destiny befalls the Earth, along with evildoers, virtuous people also have to suffer the consequences of these calamities.
In summary – types of sin
It is important to avoid committing sin as the consequences of sin affect us and may harm others too. It is equally important to understand the nature and actions of those we are close to, as turning a blind eye to their grave sin can make us party to it.
There is a saying that in life, sorrow teaches us more than what happiness does. We can try to keep the perspective that whatever destiny comes our way is a consequence of sin. If we develop an attitude that facing destiny is itself spiritual practice, then faster spiritual progress is possible.
Spiritual practice helps to nullify our destiny or gives us the strength to endure it.
Why are people who sin not punished?
We see criminals, corrupt people or officials and politicians etc. performing many sinful acts and yet enjoying the luxuries of life. Why do these people not get punished for their sins, is a question that upsets many.
These people are happy because of the merits of their previous birth. Even God can do nothing until the stock of their merit is over. However once the stock of their merits is over, they have to face the consequences of their sinful acts in the form of diseases, poverty, suffering in Hell (Pātāl) after death etc. In short, no one can escape sins.
Despite the merits from the previous births, since their tendencies are evil, negative energies gain control over their mind and intellect and reinforce personality defects in them. Consequently they commit more and more sins, thereby exhausting their merits very quickly. Once their merits are exhausted, negative energies surround them from all sides, take them under their control and inflict different kinds of distress on them. Even after death, such individuals suffer in Hell for many years.
Suffering after death and the onward journey
Once the sufferings in Hell of sinners are over, does it mark the end of their suffering?
The answer is that the journey of such sinners continues in two ways, as mentioned below.
If fewer sins were committed
After several years of suffering and dire poverty, the attitude of the sinner undergoes change. They become sympathetic towards the poor. Their conscience is filled with love for others. After several births, their selfishness diminishes and they become very loving. Hence, such individuals begin to evolve spiritually in the true sense on the strength of virtues of courteousness and humanity.
Here, the suffering people undergo ultimately has the purpose of their changing for the better.
If many sins were committed
Extreme sinners who have misused their human birth do not get human birth again for a few thousand years. After undergoing punishment in Hell, some individuals get birth as mentioned below.
1. Having to lead a life as a tree or a stone
2. Birth as insects
3. Birth in species such as fish, vultures, bats, etc.
4. Birth as beasts used for carrying burden (if the quantum of sin is very high, then they are required to take birth in species of such animals thirty to forty times, and then a birth in a very poor family, where everyone has to toil for a living)
5. Birth as an ugly, disabled or diseased person
6. Suffering from a rare incurable disease like some forms of cancer
7. Becoming a beggar
The table below gives a selection of various sins and their consequences in future births or the afterlife
From the above one can understand that individuals who commit crimes as human beings are certainly penalized, and facing punishment is the only way of exhausting the penalty. Through this process they are also given an opportunity to change and, provided they do not commit more sins, free themselves from the circle of punishment.
Illnesses and difficulties faced as a consequence of sinful acts
The table below gives a more detailed example and insight into the consequences of sins incurred due to stealing.
In summary – consequences of sin
The consequences of sin have to be faced by the individual who has committed the sin. If we do not face them in this life, we will have to face them in the afterlife or one of our next lives. When we keep a positive perspective towards the hardships we undergo as a consequence of sin, we can change for the better and evolve spiritually. Atoning for sins can also help us in this process.
Feeling sorry for a mistake committed and making effort to make up for the misdeed is a natural tendency in humans. Even a small child who has erred understands this and learns to apologise.
A person who makes mistakes or does an evil deed incurs sin. All of us are bound to incur sin at some time or another. In this article we explain what one can do to eliminate the effects of sin.
How to overcome sin?
It is possible to eliminate even the greatest sin by strictly abiding by Righteousness (Dharma) with faith and courage.
Depending on our basic temperament, stage in life and other factors, adhering to Righteousness may involve:
Righteousness (Dharma) is that which accomplishes the 3 tasks of:
1. Keeping the social system in excellent condition
2. Bringing about the worldly progress of every living being
3. Causing progress in the spiritual realm as well.
– Shri Adi Shankaracharya
Penance (e.g. for those who follow the Path of Hath yoga this may involve exposing the body to prolonged periods of discomfort)
§ Control over the mind, sense organs and motor organs (e.g. speaking only as much as necessary, control over sexual desire, etc.)
§ Control over the body (e.g. the speed of breathing, etc.)
§ Purity of behavior etc.
Putting all our effort to protect Righteousness also absolves us of all sins.
However due to the Raja-Tama predominant lifestyle in the current era of Kaliyug, for most people leading such a righteous lifestyle is only a remote possibility.
Another way to eliminate the consequences of sin is through atonement.
What is atonement?
Atonement is feeling remorse for mistakes or evil deeds committed and taking appropriate punishment to cleanse the resulting sin. Atonement involves penance and determination.
Some benefits of atoning are:
§ Atonement absolves an individual of the guilt feeling arising out of the misdeed.
§ Atonement absolves an individual of the consequences of sin and as a result the sin does not get carried over into the next life. Thus it eliminates obstacles in worldly and spiritual progress.
§ Atonement helps develop a feeling of contentment in the individual, as well as those around him.
§ By seeing the individual who has committed injustice atoning for his mistakes, hatred in the mind of the victim decreases or diminishes.
Types of atonement
Depending on the gravity of the sin, atonement can range from mild to severe.
Sins committed unknowingly can generally be absolved through repentance or through public confession of the sin. On the other hand, severe atonement is recommended for sins committed knowingly.
Some examples of atonement s are:
§ Going on a pilgrimage
Difference between punishment and atonement – importance of repentance
The difference between punishment and atonement is in the repentance of the person who atones for their sin. The person atoning is bound by a vow. He abides by the vow rigourously and later, turns virtuous.
On the other hand, merely confessing to the crime or facing punishment does not prevent an individual from repeatedly making those mistakes. Criminals who face punishment for their crimes by and large do not become any better at the end, for they neither feel repentance nor are they aware about the terrible consequences of their criminal deeds.
Righteousness teaches about merits, sins and abiding by Righteousness in daily life. By following Righteousness, a person’s basic nature itself turns sāttvik. That person never thinks of committing a wrong act and avoids any act that will generate sins. Hence where Righteousness prevails there is no need for laws. It was like this in Satyayug. There was no ruler and no laws, because everyone was sattvik and therefore there was no need for rulers or laws. - H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale
It’s worth noting that feeling remorse or confessing our mistakes also has its limitations, since an individual gets used to sinning every day and confessing the sins.
A question was once asked to a Saint: ‘Which person is better – the one who confesses his mistakes or the one who hides them?’ The answer was: “They are more or less the same. The one who changes and does not repeat the mistakes is the better one.”
6. Importance of chanting and devotion
Our stock of merits and sins from past births is also stored in the subconscious mind. Just like the sun destroys the fog or melts the snow, in addition to eliminating unnecessary thoughts from the mind, chanting destroys our sins too.
In fact, when chanting starts happening with devotion, the very desires which led us to sin are eventually also washed away.
Atonement merely eliminates the sin but not the desire to sin. Once a desire for the Final Liberation is invoked in the individual, chanting takes care of both the elimination of desires as well as the sin. – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, Pune, Maharashtra, India.
Atonement in the context of personality defect removal
The process of removing personality defects is an integral part of spiritual practice on the Path of Guru’s Grace (Gurukrupāyoga). Atonements are one of the tools available in this process that help seekers reduce the ill-effect of their individual and collective mistakes.
In summary – atonements to overcome sin and spiritual practice
Desire, hatred, attachment, expectation, anger, greed, ego, jealousy, etc. are the fundamental reasons that lead to sinning. Dissuading a person from sinning would be effective only if they understood the rules pertaining to sinning and its consequences.
It’s important to understand that punishment and atonement do not eliminate the root of our desire to sin. However, eliminating personality defects and desires that lead to sin is possible through regular spiritual practice.