Growing up, I spent a lot of my summers in Singapore. My grandmother used to bring my brothers and I every Sunday to the Buddhist temple.
It was early in the morning and the "mass" would only start around 11am but my grandmother was helping in the kitchen.
At the end of the ceremony we would do something called sharing of merits, which is the sharing of our good karma with others.
One person would be pouring water in a bowl and we would all chant : Idam me natinam hotu sukhita hontu niakayo 3x times
It is very common in Southeast Asia to share merits with those who have past away, especially in Thailand.
The Buddha said that is a duty for sons and daughters to perform generous acts and dedicated them to one’s parents once they pass away.
Before we get into the details of sharing merit we have to define what is merit. There are 10 forms of merit and I will list them below.
1. GIVING OR GENEROSITY
It is the most basic of practices in making merit. Giving of material gifts include food to the hungry, medicine to the sick and so on. Giving is highly praised by The Buddha since it is a fundamental virtue and since it helps reduce craving, the house-builder of suffering.
Whatever is a necessity of life to one who lacks it and whoever should supply that lack is said to give material gifts.
A giver of food, for instance, bestows five blessings to the receiver: long life, beauty, happiness, strength, and intelligence. As a result long life, beauty, happiness, strength, and intelligence will be his share. In addition, he accrues five more blessings: the affection of many, noble association, good reputation, self-confidence, and heavenly re- birth.
As in other good or bad action, so also in giving, it is the intention that really counts as the action, and not the mere outward deed.
2. MORAL CONDUCT
Moral conduct is the foundation of the whole practice. By observing the five or eight moral precepts, one acquires much merit. Leading a virtuous life, one experiences a happy and contented life here and in the hereafter. Virtue helps him to be fearless, as he has done no wrong to himself or to others. He feels no remorse, guilt or self-blame; hence he feels joy, rapture, calm and happiness; he achieves concentration, knowledge of seeing things as they really are, and so forth. In addition, he accrues five blessings: fortune as a consequence of diligence, good reputation, self-confidence, dying unconfused and heavenly rebirth.
Abstinence from taking life, stealing, and wrong sexual conduct, constitute moral bodily action. Moral verbal action is the next, split into four: abstinence from lying, harsh speech, tale-bearing and loose talk.
Finally, moral mental action is abstinence from covetousness, ill-will and wrong views. Without moral conduct, one’s progress in the spiritual sphere will definitely be limited.
Sīla or moral conduct is in each instance the clearly intentional restraint from bad actions. Shame and fear of doing evil are its proximate cause. For when they exist, moral conduct arises and persists; and when they do not exist, it neither arises nor persists.
Here again, the good intention that arises in one who takes the precepts and observes them is the way of making merit in moral conduct or virtue.
3. MEDITATION OR MENTAL DEVELOPMENT
This is one of the richest fields of making merit. There are two types of meditations, namely, Tranquility (samatha), i.e. concentration (samādhi), and Insight (vipassana). Both types have, as the goal, the experience of Insight and the growth of wisdom. One meditates to calm the grosser mental defilements and develop the mind in such a way that it gains real wisdom, which is not the result of mere book learning. It is the wisdom with which realization of Nibbāna is possible.
He experiences thus much happiness and gladness.
Tranquility or concentration bestows hence a threefold blessing: favourable rebirth, present happy life and purity of mind which are the preconditions of Insight by purifying the mind. As the Buddha said:
He who is mentally concentrated, sees things according to reality.
The good intention that arises in one who meditates are the way of making merit in meditation.
4. RESPECT OR REVERENCE
Respect as a way of making merit should be known in such acts as getting up from one’s seat, welcoming one’s mother, father, elder brother, elder sister or an elderly person, taking his/her luggage, saluting him, showing him the way, and so on. Or generally, respecting others’ feelings, privileges, property, and life; regarding them with deference, esteem and honour; avoiding degrading, insulting or interrupting them; refrain- ing from offending, corrupting or tempting them.
According to Venerable Nāgasena, there are twelve persons who do not pay respect or show reverence to others: a lustful person because of his lust; an angry person because of his anger; a confused person because of his confusion; an arrogant person because of his pride; one devoid of special qualities owing to his lack of distinction; an obstinate owing to his lack of docility; a low minded owing to his low mindedness; an evil man owing to his selfishness; an afflicted owing to his affliction; a greedy owing to his being overcome by greed; and a businessman owing to his working for profit.
It is clear that, in contrast to the above persons, the reverent and respectful man develops his mind (and thereby accumulates merit), for by his attitude he cuts down the defilement of pride and conceit.
Here again, the good intention that arises in one who shows respect or reverence is the way of making merit in respecting others.
5. SERVICE IN HELPING OTHERS
It is the next way of making merit. By being able to voluntarily serve the needs of fellow-beings with compassion one gains merit. Service as a way of making merit should be known in those acts whereby we carry out duties towards others.
6. TRANSFERENCE OF MERIT
Transference of one’s merit as a way of making merit should be understood in the case of one who made a gift or offering and transfers his accumulated merit thus: ‘May this merit be for so and so!’ or ‘May it be for all beings!’
Now, will there be a loss of merit to him who thus transfers it? Hell No. Just as when one lights an oil lamp and with it lights a thousand oil lamps, it cannot be said that his original lamp is exhausted On the contrary, the light of his original lamp being one with the light of the thousand oil lamps increases immensely. Likewise, there is no decrease of merit to him who transfers it thus; on the contrary, there is an increase in merit.
7. REJOICING IN OTHERʼS MERIT
Rejoicing in other’s merit as a way of making merit is to be understood as rejoicing with the words, ‘Good, well done when for instance, others share merit with us, or when they perform another meritorious act. This also falls within one of the four divine abidings, namely mudita (sympathetic joy) (see one of our previous videos for more details)
8. EXPOUNDING OR TEACHING THE DHAMMA (the truth that leads to the end of suffering)
If one expounds or teaches the Dhamma from desire or honour thinking, ‘Thus they will know me to be a preacher of the dhamma, a preacher of the truth, this kind of teaching does not yield much fruit. If, however, one makes the attainment of freedom from suffering the chief motive, and so expounds or teaches to others the Dhamma in which he is proficient, this good intention is the way of making merit in expounding the Dhamma.
It is worth noting that the Buddha said that the highest gift of all is ‘the gift of the Dhamma’. In other words, if one can open the eye of the Dhamma in another, by ex- pounding, teaching or explaining it to him, that is the greatest and the highest gift of all. In fact, the Buddha has said that even if one would attend to his parents by carrying them all his life on his shoulders, he would still not be able to repay the debt he owes to them. The only way is to teach and establish them in the Dhamma.
9. LISTENING TO THE DHAMMA
If one listens to the Dhamma thinking, ‘Thus they will take me for one of the ‘faithful’, this listening would not yield much fruit. If, however, one listens wishing his and the welfare of others thinking, ‘Thus there will be much fruit for me’, this good intention is the way of making merit in listening to the Dhamma.
10. CORRECTING ONE’S VIEW
The intention to correct one’s view is the way of making merit in right view. Correct view is, in fact, the actual feature of all the ten ways of making merit. For by it there is much fruit to one doing any sort of merit. Whatever merit one does, it is of great fruit, only if the view is correct or right, not otherwise.
Of these ten ways of making merit, the merit in giving arises when one thinks, ʽI will give a gift when one gives the gift, andwhen one reflects ʽI have given the giftʼ. Thus the three intentions — preliminary intention, intention at the time of giving the gift, and subsequent intention after giving it become one and constitute the way of making merit in giving.
The merit which consists of moral conduct or virtue (sīla) arises also (a) when one thinks, ‘I will fulfill the precepts’, (b) when one fulfils them, and (c) when one reflects ‘I have fulfilled the precepts’. All three intentions becoming one constitute the way of making merit in moral conduct. So it is for the remaining eight.
As you now know, there are numerous ways to make merit/good karma. Every time you have made some new merit. You can dedicated to a targeted person, a targeted group or all sentient beings.
They do not have to be alive. They do not have do be dead. This is the choice you have to make. When we share with those who are dead. It’s a very good way to "stay in touch" and have a healthy ongoing relationship with our loved ones who have departed.The merit and the amends you make can transcend the seen and reach the unseen.
Also I strongly recommend to share merits with the devas aka the angels, for lack of better term. The devas are just beings who have been reborn in higher realms.
They rejoice in the merit you share with them and keep a benevolent eye on you. They can offer a limited protection for you in this life. For example you could have an intuition not to go to a certain place or not to take a particular transport at this given time for there might be danger there. Those “inside voices” could be the fruit of the good merit you make so do not neglect the sharing of merits with devas.
A monk once told my mother, who asked what can we do if we want to help someone who is stubborn to grow in spirituality, that everybody has karma and some people are just not there yet. Their spiritual ears are not ready to hear the truth that will enable them to stop their suffering.
I know it is hard. A lot of us have loved ones who are seemingly helpless. They wallow in their suffering and no matter how much you try to help them, everything seemed to be in vain.
Sometimes it is just the case and people can’t be helped by traditional, mundane means. You have to be able to detach and be equanimous and understand that you have no control. If you done enough then you should not feel bad. You have not failed. What you can do is share merit with this person. Whenever you can and after you have done some good merit. Say to yourself "May this merit be share with the person you want"
You can go to this person and say that you have done this act for them. If they rejoice in it. They increase their merit as well and share the good karma. Sometimes, however people might be reluctant and not understand what are you doing even if you are being completely benevolent.
It does not matter share the merit with them, send them some metta (loving& kindness) as well. The positive energy they will receive is good merit being shared and that’s how the mind gets more clear and can grow in wisdom.
It might seem like nothing but it’s worth so much more than you can imagine so do not despair. Keep doing good and share those merits with others (dead or alive) and may we all grow more loving, caring and wise.
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As a meditation teacher, a fitness & and muay thai fanatic/enthusiast with a taste for entrepreneurship. He decided to create a business which can combine all his passions and inspire people all over the world by helping people physically, mentally and spiritually to find their purpose, well-being and health to thrive and contribute to this world.