Update: If you would like to learn more about the three excellences, then you can read more and follow along with a fully guided meditation on the Dedication of Merit here.
The three ‘excellences’ (sometimes ‘supremes’, excellencies or ‘frames’) give us a framework in which to place our meditation practice. As a basic framework it is very simple, it just says that we should develop a ‘perfect’, ‘virtuous’ or ‘supreme’ beginning, middle and end to our practice.
The perfect beginning is to start with the Supreme Preparation by developing Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta translates as awakened heart-mind. We develop an awakened heart by practicing the four ‘immeasurables’ of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. Notice that this practice opens our hearts to others, the best way to prepare for meditation.
During our practice we are to develop Supreme Attitude towards it. The supreme attitude is that of non-attachment to results. For many people this appears counter-intuitive – we might have come to meditate to relax, calm our minds, lower our blood-pressure or become enlightened – surely we should keep our minds on the goal? The reality is that if we become attached to the outcome, our grasping keeps us from entering the space where any of these fruits might occur. Our attitude should therefore be of non-attachment to results, simply doing the practice because that is what we have committed to ourselves, not holding out for a particular outcome. Doing this is incredibly liberating, and allows us to deepen our practice without the stress or distraction of grasping for specific results.
The final stage of our practice is the Supreme Conclusion – of giving away any merit or benefit we may have gained through this or any other practice. This underlines our non-attachment to results – if we have generated any result (‘merit’ as it is called in the writings), we selflessly offer it for the benefit of all living beings. There are many ways to do this, most traditions have a verse or chant for the dedication of merit. Here is a simple one that you can use in your practice:
May all beings — without limit, without end —
have a share in the merit just
and in whatever other merit I have made.
May they attain
and their radiant hopes be fulfilled.
Incorporating the three excellences can greatly deepen your practice, focusing you on working for the well-being of all others, and liberating you from the stress of trying to ‘achieve something’ in your practice. Look outwards, let go and be generous – that is the most excellent way to practice.