Tag Archives: Merits

Sutra of the Past Vows of EARTH STORE BODHISATTVA with commentary on Sutra by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

Namo Earth Store Bodhisattva

Namo Ti Tsang Wang P’u Sa

Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva

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with commentary on Sutra by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua


FROM ANCIENT TIMES, the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva has been one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist sutras.  “Earth Store” is a literal rendering of the bodhisattva’s original Sanskrit name, Ksitigarbha.  In the Buddhist pantheon, he is one of the most highly celebrated bodhisattva, along with Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, and Samantabhadra.  These four represent the four basic Mahayana qualities:  Manjusri represents great wisdom; Avalokitesvara, great compassion; Samantabhadra, great meritorious deeds; and Ksitigarbha, the great vow – the vow to help and to cross over all sentient beings.  “If I do not go to hell (to help them there), who else will go?” is the famous pronouncement of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

In the seventh century A.D., this sutra was translated by Siksananda from the Sanskrit into Chinese, but not until this publication has it ever been translated into English.  Dharma Master Heng Ching’s work is not a critical study in the traditional Western scholarly sense.  However, it bears special importance, as it is accompanied by the comprehensive commentary of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua.  Without such an accompaniment, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Western readers to understand the significance and applications of this sutra.

One of the aims of the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions is to make available religious teachings that were previously inaccessible to the English-speaking student of religion.  In this light, the Institute is honored to publish this invaluable source of learning and awareness.

The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions

APRIL 1974

The Sutra On The Merit Of Bathing The Buddha

(Tripitaka No. 698)

Translated during the Tang Dynasty by Sramana Sig Yee Jing

Thus have I heard: 

At one time the Blessed One was in Rajagriha, on Eagles Peak, together with one thousand, two hundred and fifty monks. There were also an immeasurable, unlimited multitude of Bodhisattvas and the eight classes of gods, nagas and so forth, who were all assembled. At that time, the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva was seated in the midst of this assembly. Because he aspired to extend compassion toward all sentient beings, he thought: “by what means do the Buddhas, Tath¨¢gatas, obtain the pure body, furnished with the marks of the great person?” Again he thought: “all classes of living beings are able to meet the Tath¨¢gata and approach him with offerings. The blessings that are obtained are without measure or limit. I do not yet know, however, what offerings living beings will make or what merit they will cultivate after the death of the Tath¨¢gata so as to bring about those roots of good merit that quickly lead to final, supreme enlightenment.” After thinking this, he then arose from his seat and bared his right shoulder, having bowed his head at the feet of the Buddha; he knelt upright, with palms in salutation and spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I wish to ask questions and hope that you deign to acknowledge them.” The Buddha said, “Noble son, I will teach according to what you ask.”

At that time the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva spoke to the Buddha saying, “By what means do the Buddhas, Tath¨¢gatas, perfectly enlightened ones obtain the pure body, furnished with the marks of the great person? Also, all living beings are able to meet the Tath¨¢gata and approach him with offerings. The blessings that are obtained are without measure or limit. I have not yet discerned what offerings living beings will make or what merit they will cultivate after the death of the Tath¨¢gata so as to bring about those good qualities that quickly lead to final, supreme enlightenment.”

At that time, the World Honored One said to the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva: “excellent, excellent, that you are able for the sake of future beings to bring forth such questions! Now listen carefully, reflect on this well, and practice as I say. I will explain for you in detail.”

The Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva said, “So be it, World Honored One, I dearly wish to listen.”

The Buddha explained to the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva: “Noble son, you should know that because giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and wisdom; benevolence, compassion, delight, and should know that because giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and knowledge and experience of liberation; the ten strengths and the four confidences are all the characteristics of the Buddha and are all various kinds of knowledge, virtue, and purity, they are the purity of the Tath¨¢gata.

If the Buddhas, Tath¨¢gatas, are in this way given various offerings with a pure heart¡ªincense, flowers, gems, garlands, banners, parasols, and cushions¡ªdisplayed before the Buddha, multifariously adorning him, and the marvelously scented water is used to bathe his noble form, the dark smoke of the burning incense will carry your mind to the Dharma realm. Furthermore, you celebrate the extraordinary merit of the Tath¨¢gata with food and drink, percussion and stringed music; you will manifest the superb vow to direct your mind to the supreme ocean of omniscience. The merit thereby produced will be immeasurable and without limit; it will be perpetually continued through successive rebirths to the point of enlightenment. Why is this? The blessed wisdom of the Tath¨¢gata is inconceivable, infinite, and unequaled.

Noble son, all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, have three bodies. They are known as the Dharma body or Dharmakaya, the glorified body or the Sambhogakaya, and the manifestation body or the Nirmanakaya. After my Nirvana, if you wish to do homage to these three bodies then you should do homage to my relics. But these are of two kinds: the first is the bodily relic; the second is the Dharma-verse relic. I will now recite the verse:”

All things arise from a cause.

The Tath¨¢gata has explained their cause

and the cessation of the cause of these things.

This the great ascetic has explained.

“If men, women, or the five groups of mendicants would build an image of the Buddha; or if those without strength would deposit one as large as a grain of barley, or build a stupa¡ªits body the size of a jujube, its mast the size of a needle, its parasol equal to a flake of bran, its relic like a mustard seed¡ªor if someone writes the Dharma verse and installs it inside the stupa, it would be like doing homage by offering up a rare jewel. If in accordance with one¡¯s own strength and ability one can be truly sincere and respectful, it (the image or stupa) would be like my present body, equal without difference.

Noble son, if there are beings who are able to make such excellent offerings, they will glorify themselves by achieving the fifteen superb virtues. First, they will always be modest. Second, they will manifest a mind of pure faith. Third, their hearts will be simple and honest. Fourth, they will cleave to good friends. Fifth, they will enter a state of passionless wisdom. Sixth, they will constantly encounter Buddhas. Seventh, they will always maintain the correct teaching. Eighth, they will be able to act according to my teaching. Ninth, they will be reborn in pure Buddha fields according to their wishes. Tenth, if they are reborn among men, they will be noblemen of great families; being respected among men, they will produce joyous thoughts. Eleventh, being born among men, they will naturally set their minds on the Buddha. Twelfth, an army of demons will not be able to harm them. Thirteenth, they will be able in the final age to protect and maintain the True Dharma. Fourteenth, they will be protected by the Buddhas of the ten directions. Fifteenth, they will be able to quickly obtain the five attributes of the Dharma body.”

At that time, the World Honored One uttered these verses:

After my death

You will be able to honor my relics

Some will build stupas

Or images of the Tath¨¢gata.

At the place of the image or stupa,

One who anoints that spot of ground

With various incenses and flowers

Scattering them over its surface

Uses pure, beautifully scented water

To pour onto the body of this image,

Offers it various flavorful drinks and foods,

Fully maintaining it with oblations,

Eulogizes the virtue of the Tath¨¢gata,

Which is endlessly difficult to conceive;

Through the wisdom of skillful means and the supernatural power of the Buddha

Such a one will quickly reach the other shore of Nirvana.

He will obtain the diamond body

Complete with the thirty-two marks of a great person

And the eighty minor signs of excellence.

He will ferry the multitude of living beings to the shore of Nirvana.

At that time, the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva, having heard these verses, addressed the Buddha saying, “Future living beings will ask, ?(r)why bathe the image?¡¯”

The Buddha answered the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva: “Because you will equal the Tath¡§¡égata in producing right mindfulness. You will not be attached to the two sides that deceive people with ?(r)emptiness?¡¥ and ?(r)being.¡¯ You will long insatiably for virtuous conduct. The three emancipations, morality, and wisdom will be constantly sought to escape the endless cycle of birth and death. You will produce great compassion toward all living beings. You will aspire to obtain and quickly perfect the three kinds of bodies.

Noble son, I have already expounded for your sake the four noble truths, the twelve conditioned co-productions and the six perfections. Now I teach the method of bathing the image for your sake and the sake of the various kings, princes, ministers, concubines, princesses, gods, nagas, men and demons. Among the various types of homage, this (the bathing of the image) is the best. It excels the giving of the seven jewels equal to the sands of the Ganges.

When you bathe the image, you should use ox-head sandalwood, white sandalwood, red sandalwood, or aloe-wood incenses. You should burn Mountain Top Tulip incense, ?(r)Dragons Brain¡¯ incense, Ling-ling (Mountain) incense, and so forth. On the surface of a clean stone you should grind these to make paste; use this paste to make scented water and place it in a clean vessel. At a clean spot, make an altar with good earth, square or round, its size suited to the circumstances. On top establish the bathing platform and place the Buddha image in the middle. Pour on the scented hot water, purifying and cleansing it, repeatedly pouring the pure water over it. The water that is used must be completely filtered so as not to cause harm to insects. Drops from two fingers of the water with which you bathed the image should be taken and placed on your own head?athis is called ?(r)good luck water.¡¯ Drain off the water onto clean ground without allowing your feet to tread upon it. With a fine, soft towel wipe the image, making it clean. Burn the above name incenses spreading the aroma all around and put the image back in its original place.

“Noble son, the consequence of performing this bathing of the Buddha image is that you and the great multitude of men and gods will presently receive wealth, happiness, and long life without sickness; your every wish will be fulfilled. Your relatives, friends, and family will all be at ease. You will bid a long farewell to the eight conditions of trouble and forever escape the fount of suffering. You will never again receive the body of a woman and will quickly achieve enlightenment.

When you have set up the image and burned the various incenses, face the image, clasp your palms together in pious salutation and recite these praises:

I now bathe the Tath¨¢gata.

His pure wisdom and virtue adorn the assembly.

I vow that those living beings of this period of the five impurities

May quickly witness the pure Dharma body of the Tath¨¢gata.

May the incense of morality, meditation, wisdom and the knowledge and experience of liberation

Constantly perfume every realm of the ten directions.

I vow that the smoke of this incense will likewise

Do the Buddhas work of salvation without measure or limit.

I also vow to put a stop to the three hells and the wheel of samsara,

Completely extinguishing the fires and obtaining the coolness of relief

So that all may manifest the thought of unsurpassed enlightenment

Perpetually escaping the river of desires and advancing to the other shore of Nirvana.”

The Buddha finished expounding this Sutra. At this time there were among this assembly an immeasurable, unlimited number of Bodhisattvas who obtained stainless concentration. The countless gods obtained never lapsing wisdom. The multitude of Voice Hearers vowed to seek the fruits of Buddhahood. The eighty-four thousand living beings all manifested the thought toward unexcelled, complete enlightenment.

At that time, the Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva said to the Buddha: “World Honored One, being fortunate to receive the compassion and pity of the Great Teacher (the Buddha), we shall teach the method of bathing the image. I will now convert kings, ministers, and all those of good faith, cheer, or merit. Every day I will bathe the noble image to procure great blessings. I pledge to always receive and carry out with pleasure

“The Sutra On The Merit Of Bathing The Buddha.” 

The Rituals and Festivals of the Buddhist Life by Robert C. Lester

The Rituals and Festivals of the Buddhist Life
by Robert C. Lester

Daily and Periodic Rituals

Merit is made and shared through daily, periodic, and special rituals and yearly festivals. Morning and evening services of chanting or worship take place in every monastery, temple, and home. With the placing of flowers and the lighting of candles and incense before a Buddha-image or some other symbol of the presence of the Buddha, monks chant together and the lay family offers a prayer. The flowers, beautiful one moment and wilted the next, remind the offerers of the impermanence of life; the odor of the incense calls to their mind the sweet scent of moral virtue that emanates from those who are devout; the candle-flame symbolizes enlightenment.


The central daily rite of lay Buddhism is the offering of food. Theravada laity make this offering to the monks. Mahayana laity make it to the Buddha as part of the morning or evening worship. In both settings merit is shared.

The weekly Observance Day rituals at the Theravada monastery are opportunities for both laity and monks to quicken faith, discipline, and understanding, and make and share merit. On these days, twice each month, the monks change and reaffirm the code of discipline. On all of these days, they administer the Eight Precepts to the gathered laity, the laity repeating them after the monks and offer a sermon on the Dharma. The monks our water to transfer merit to the laity; the laity pour water to share this merit with their ancestors.

Zen monks twice each month gather in the Buddha-hall of their head temple and chant for the welfare of the Japanese people. Pure Land Buddhist congregate at the temple once each week to praise Amida.

Rites of Passage

There are special rituals to mark, protect, and bless the occasions of major life transitions. They publicly mark and protect times of passage from one status to another times of unusual vulnerability such as birth, birthdays, coming of age, marriage, the entering into a new house, and death. Monks preside over ordinations, funerals, and death commemoration rites. In the Theravada tradition, ordination is a puberty or coming-of-age rite. Theravada monks also preside over birthday and new-house blessing rites. Ex-monks elders in the lay community perform the rituals for childbirth and marriage.

In Japanese Pure Land, the lay priest presides over rituals of the first presentation of a child at the temple, confirmation of boys and girls at the age of puberty, and death. Japanese Buddhists undertake marriage at the Shinto shrine, presided over by Shinto priests.

Yearly Festivals

Buddhists everywhere celebrate the New Year and the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. The beginning of a new year is, generally, a time for “taking stock” of one’s karma, cleansing, and well-wishing. In Theravada communities the New Year is celebrated in mid-April on the lunar calendar and lasts for two or three days. The laity ritually bathe the Buddha-images and sprinkle water on the monks and the elders, showing respect and offering good wishes. The monks chant blessings on the laity, and together they share the merit of the occasion with the dead. The New Year appropriately begins at the end of the dry season and the beginning of new life in nature. The pouring of water is not only an honoring of the Buddha, the monks, the elders, and the dead but also an offering for plentiful rain and prosperity in the days to come. In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, the laity build sand mounds (stupas) at the monastery or on the bank of the river. Each grain of sand represents a demerit, and placing the grains in the monastery or letting them be washed away by the river symbolizes a cleansing from bad deeds. Bringing sand to the monastery also serves to renew the floor of the compound.

Zen and Pure Land Buddhists celebrate the New Year on the Western calendar. This is an occasion for Zen monks to publicly read large volumes of sacred sutras, thereby sending out cleansing and enlivening sound waves for the benefit of all beings. Pure Land Buddhist hold special services at the temple twice daily in praise of the Buddha Amida.

Theravada Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha on the same day the full moon of May, called Vaisakha. In Sri Lanka, it is a festival of lights, and house, gardens, and streets are decorated with lanterns. It is not a major festival in other Theravada countries, but, occurring on an Observance Day, it is at least an occasion for special food offerings to the monks and more than the usual devotion to keeping the moral precepts.

Japanese Buddhist celebrate the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment on different days of the year: the birth on April 8, the enlightenment on December 8, and the death on February 15. The birth celebration, Hanamatsuri, is a flower festival and time for ritually bathing images of the Buddha. Enlightenment Day (Bodhi) and Death Day (Nehan [Nirvana]), are simply occasions for social worship.

Theravada Buddhists mark the beginning and end of the rain-retreat, which generally coincide with the beginning and end of the rains. They conclude the year with a harvest festival. Theravada monks enter rain-retreat on the full moon of either June or July. The three- or four-month period is a time of relative austerity for both laity and monks.

The monks remain in the monastery, spending more than the usual time in study and meditation. No marriages or public entertainments occur in the lay community and the laity are more devout in their attendance of Observance Day ceremonies and in their daily food offerings. The Observance Day on which rain-retreat commences is generally occasion for the entire lay community to offer food and many more than usual undertake to spend the day at the monastery, keeping the monastic precepts.

The full-moon observance with which the rain-retreat ends is much like that with which it begins, with the exception that the monks gather privately and invite each other to point out infractions of the monastic code during the retreat period. The mood of this observance is a happy one the rains have ended (usually), the monks may again move about, and public celebrations are in order. The month that follows, mid-October to mid-November, is the time for Kathina, the offering of cloth from which the monks prepare new robes. Kathina offerings are typically a group effort of an entire village, a lay association for merit making, a government agency, or the employees of a prominent commercial establishment. Typically, the group approaches the monastery in joyful procession. Upon arrival, the presiding monk administers the Five Precepts to the laity, receives the cloth, and declares the great merit of such offerings. The monks jointly chant a blessing verse and the laity pour water, symbolically transferring apportion of the merit to the ancestors.

Theravada Buddhist honor and transfer merit to their ancestors on every occasion of merit making and sharing. Japanese Buddhist give special honor and merit to their ancestors three times each year: on the spring and autumn equinoxes in March and September and during the month July 15-August 15. The equinox festivals, called Higan, “Other Shore,” mark times of transition in nature and therefore are occasions to reflect on the passage of time and the progress of being toward enlightenment — the other shore.

SOURCE Copyright © 1987 by Robert C. Lester



Transfer of Merit

By Rev. Jisho Perry
Saturday April 10, 2004

The Body of the Buddha permeates the universe;
it manifests itself in front of all of us;
there is no place where it does not so manifest itself;
it does so for every relationship and in all need
yet it is still in its own true place;
the seas of its merit cannot be counted.1


The Buddhist practice of transferring merit comes out of the understanding that there is value or merit in our spiritual practice. The law of karma states simply that our actions, all intentional or volitional actions, have a moral and spiritual effect or result. Sometimes these are discussed as good and bad, but this is misleading in that there is no judgment in the impersonal workings of the law of karma. We frequently discuss the harmful effects because they are so painfully evident as suffering in our daily lives. We want to learn how to deal effectively with this suffering and convert it into understanding so as not to continue the endless cycle of birth and death. Since enlightened action leaves no wake, it frequently goes unnoticed. We do not often see or discuss the actions that cause merit or good karma. It is also important to note that actions that tend to cause good karma, if done for the selfish purpose of getting a spiritual reward may have an effect that will not necessarily appear to the recipient as if it were a reward. I remember a story from India about the various effects of those who removed a banana peel from a path. Of course the one who carelessly left it there or those who ignored it got no reward; the man who carefully removed it for the purpose of receiving a reward was reborn in a less fortunate state, while the playful child who, almost unconsciously, kicked it aside was saved from being struck by a tumbling stone on the very same path in a future birth. The sage, who moved it aside without thought of reward or punishment, just doing what needs to be done, received the highest reward of spiritual blessings.2 From this it is important to see that the physical action is not the chief factor in the workings of the law of karma, but rather the state of mind of the actor at the time of the acting. It is also important that we do not perform spiritual service for the purpose of some selfish reward. The Buddhist act of transferring the merit of services expresses the desire for selfless service. The Tibetan ( * edited by me : all schools teach ,not just Tibetan Buddhism) Buddhist teach that all suffering is created by the desire to seek pleasure for ourselves while all happiness is created in selfless service to others.

We should know that some actions such as our meditation, religious ceremonies or services, rosary recitation, and all actions done with a pure heart and with the intention of keeping the Precepts result in merit, value or reward. The merit does not make us rich or famous; these things need to be forsaken utterly if we are to know the Truth and have real peace in our lives. The merit we gain is in doing the best we can for the benefit of all living things.

Doing the best we can always entails seeing where we can do better. This is what is meant by “always being disturbed by the Truth.” As we view the imperfections of our actions, we are allowed to see with the eyes of the Buddha:  “That which understands error is not itself in error”3 So one of the merits of our training is to be aware of the places where we need to purify our heart, and if we view this with the eyes of compassion, we will also see that what we have done in the past was the best that we could have done for that time. And now in the present moment, we may be able to do a bit better by acting with greater compassion, love and wisdom.

“The four wisdoms, charity, tenderness, benevolence, and sympathy are the means we have of helping others and represent the Bodhisattva’s aspirations” [Italics added.]4 The transferring of merit is a way of expressing all of the four wisdoms simultaneously. After daily meditation and Morning Service we offer the merit of the service to the Buddhas and Ancestors. In the Ceremony honoring the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokiteshwara, we offer the merit to the Bodhisattva to further her work of hearing the cries of the world. In the Founder’s Ceremony we are doing a memorial, offering the merit to the founder of the monastery, or church. In addition “we pray that the merits thereof shall not only be given to our founder, but light the way of all who have not yet found the Truth.” In the Midday Service we offer the merits of the ceremony to all so that they may be able to realize the Truth. (A common mistake that is made in reciting this offering is that the word “they” is emphasized as if there were some difference between them and us. Anyone who knows the Truth knows that there is a fundamental unity with all life; although we get individually the results of our past karma, the Buddha’s enlightenment was, is and will always be universal. This is expressed as knowing that all is one and all is different.)  In transferring merit to all, we must first be doing the best meditation we can to act in harmony with the four wisdoms. Thus transferring merit is the gift of our daily services and expresses charity. Instead of doing our meditation and services for our own benefit, we are willing to offer up that merit to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Ancestors to use as best they can. Although charity is usually thought of as giving material possessions, wealth or property to others, it can also be seen in giving our time and energy to help others, and also in our spiritual efforts. The lifelong commitment to selfless service is the reason for Buddhist monasticism. Lay Buddhists express this in the taking of the Precepts at Lay Ordination.

Merit can also be transferred to specific individuals. This is done at the funeral and memorials done for a dead friend or relative. Rosary recitation can also be done for specific people or animals who are in spiritual need, suffering from acute trauma, illness or accident, or who are dying or recently dead. The Ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts is used as a memorial for those who hunger for the Truth as well as specifically named individuals we wish to be remembered at that time. The transfer of merit can be directed individually, collectively, or both simultaneously. Again it is helpful to keep in mind that “All is one and all is different.”

In or near the meditation or ceremony halls of the temples of our Order are usually found boards with transfer of merit cards giving the name, date and, frequently, the circumstances that inspired the request for the transfer of merit for a person in need of help. Usually there is a tragic death, such as suicide, a person with cancer, one recovering from a major accident, someone who is about to undergo surgery, or is recovering from it, or someone experiencing some major upheaval or difficulty in their life. Drawing our attention to the suffering of others and the transience of all life has in and of itself great merit, and benefits those who feel sympathy and send their thoughts of concern and good wishes to those who are experiencing moments of crisis or intense suffering. There is an exchange here. In giving our concern and sympathy we simultaneously receive much benefit. As Great Master Dogen says, “When ever one speaks kindly to another his face brightens and his heart is warmed; if a kind word be spoken in his absence the impression will be a deep one:  tenderness can have a revolutionary impact upon the mind of man.”5 To feel sympathy for the suffering of another and to think tenderly or kindly of him or her is of great value.

Thus in giving merit, we are feeling sympathy, expressing it in a tender fashion and performing an act of charity, thus we have found a wise way of helping others. This is the meaning of benevolence. Acting for the benefit of others without thought of reward for ourselves is another way of understanding benevolence and expressing the Bodhisattva mind. Thus the transfer of merit expresses all four of the wisdoms: charity, sympathy, tenderness and benevolence simultaneously.

Usually, perhaps only in the back of our minds, there is a contract in our gift. This can be expressed as: “I’m going to do this nice thing for you, but you should then do something for me in return.” And frequently when we receive a gift there is a sense of obligation to repay it. Transfer of merit is a gift that does not require repayment. It is enlightened action that leaves no wake. (This image is of the wake of a large boat which, at best, only jostles the boats and people it reaches, and, at worst, overwhelms them.) The idea of repayment comes out of a karmic misunderstanding that pervades the entire human condition. Great Master Keizan explores it thoroughly in Chapter XVII of the Transmission of the Light, [Denkoroku]6, the Story of Kanadaiba meeting Ragorata. A monk had died without receiving the Transmission of the Truth and felt guilty about having received the gifts of the faithful, so he returned as a tree fungus in order to repay the people who, with a pure heart, had offered him food. Great Master Keizan points out that there is no need for repayment, and to cling to such a notion simply adds to the karmic cycle of endless rebirths and deaths. “With the illusion of repaying others karma goes on unending.” Kanadaiba advised Ragorata and his father to continue eating the mushrooms until they no longer appeared. The old man offered his son Ragorata to train with Kanadaiba, but felt that he, himself, was too old, not realizing that there are no barriers to training and that waiting for another time, another life, a better place or some other condition in order to commit oneself to training is not going to help. But if we do the best we can right now, the highest enlightenment can be ours. Ragorata found great value as a result of making a pure hearted gift, even to an unworthy monk. If we train for the sake of training, simply because it has merit or value in and of itself, then we can just do what needs to be done irrespective of any desire for reward or fear of punishment. Then there is no repayment; it is just the work of a Buddha. The transfer of merit can be as this, provided we do it with a pure heart.

In Buddhism giving and receiving are simultaneous. We are already whole and complete just as we are. Nothing is gained in birth or lost in death. When someone close to us dies we are not diminished. If we give something away we are not lessened by this act. If we receive something we are not enriched. In the Scripture of Great Wisdom, the prajnaparmita can be translated as “going, going, going on, and always going on, always becoming Buddha”. This way of translating it emphasizes the on-going process of enlightenment rather than something attained or received. Giving is as thus. It the process of giving up the self we can know something far greater. There is merit in acting on this level of understanding.

We need not ask nor hope for a specific result. One of the Universal Laws is that the Law of Karma is not answerable to one’s personal will. In transferring merit, do not get involved in sorcery or pray that some event should happen. This is the wrong use of religion. It is also completely unnecessary, for another Law of the Universe is that evil is vanquished and good prevails. It is unnecessary and harmful to use religious practice to manipulate things or events trying to make the universe to suit our personal wants and fears. It is of much greater benefit to put oneself in harmony with the enlightenment that already permeates the universe. Since suffering is a universal condition inherent in the very nature of existence, no one can enjoy the harmony of body and mind without the complete acceptance of suffering for both oneself and for others. If we can accept suffering, we can transcend it. Or as Great Master Keido Chisan puts it: “The moment the Buddha is transcending us, he is embracing us.”7

“If we can give up something as small as the self, we can know something as great as the Universe.”8Ultimately, we realize that there is no essential difference between the Buddha and ourselves, and this embraces all of the human condition including the moments of birth and death, illness, crisis, accident, and tragedy. Yet we must still individually act. We must see that we live in the world of samsara or illusion, and within that world is the opportunity to do the work of the Buddha. Our efforts to give selflessly reach their spiritual culmination in the monastic Ordination Ceremony: “To whom do we offer this merit?  To where do we offer it?  The offering, the donor and he who receives [it] are completely immaculate. There is nothing to be desired. Let us, together with all living things, offer this common merit to the highest Truth.”9

Source : Edmonton Buddhist Meditation Group