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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Sharing Merit

Sharing Merit

In many meditation traditions it is usual to end a meditation session with a form of 'dedication of merit.' This dedication can take a number of forms - in our local group we use the simple formula of:

May all beings  —  without limit, without end  —
    have a share in the merit just now made,
    and in whatever other merit I have made.
    May they attain liberation,
    and their radiant hopes be fulfilled.

There is a notion in the Tibetan traditions that I think is helpful in understanding why we do this. There is a concept of the 'Three Excellences' (or 'Three Supremes') which gives some simple guidance on how to approach a meditation practice. They are:

  1. To start with a loving heart;
  2. To perform the practice without attachment to outcome; and
  3. To finish by dedicating any achievements to others.

Now, if any of you are Type-As like me you are probably saying "Wait - what about what I want to achieve?" And that is of course the point - if we approach our practice in this way we can avoid just generating attachment to some desired outcome. Instead our meditation is purer and less complicated.

But there is more than that. Sharing is powerful in itself. In the Itivuttaka The Buddha says:

If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of selfishness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift. But because beings do not know, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they eat without having given. The stain of selfishness overcomes their minds.
The message here is clear - the act of sharing is important and something we should practice in all forms of our life. When we meditate we recite the dedication, but that is not enough. We should approach our life 'off the cushion' with this attitude of sharing. Whether this is smiling more, approaching people with more love or being more understanding and compassionate. Our practice should be shared in all these ways.

So as much as anything reciting the dedication is a reminder to ourselves that we should continue to practice this sharing.

Metta, Chris.

 

PS: I have linked below a fully guided meditation on the dedication of merit and the importance of sharing - please feel free to use it in your own practice if you wish. Apologies that the audio has some distortion issues, I have been having some microphone problems.

PPS: Those of you in the Theravadin tradition will recognize the short dedication of merit above as a cut-down version of the Sabba-patti-dāna Gāthā:

May all beings — without limit, without end —
have a share in the merit just now made,
and in whatever other merit I have made.

Those who are dear & kind to me —
beginning with my mother & father —
whom I have seen or never seen;
and others, neutral or hostile;

beings established in the cosmos —
the three realms, the four modes of birth,
with five, one, or four aggregates —
wandering on from realm to realm:

If they know of my dedication of merit,
may they themselves rejoice,
and if they do not know,
may the devas inform them.

By reason of their rejoicing
in my gift of merit,
may all beings always live happily,
free from animosity.

May they attain the Serene State,
and their radiant hopes be fulfilled.


"Itivuttaka: The Group of Ones" § 26.   {Iti 1.26; Iti 18}, translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.1.001-027.than.html .

Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash




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