Making Merit - or is it craving?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
cooran
Posts: 8502
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby cooran » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:51 am

Hello all,

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this short opinion piece:

‘’Upon arriving in southern China in 527 CE, Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch, visited Emperor Wu of Liang at his capital in Nanjing. This monarch was proud of his many great acts of charity: building temples, copying sutras, feeding monks. When he asked Bodhidharma how much merit all this had earned him, he was crestfallen when the monk bluntly told him, "None at all."

Bodhidharma was trying to make a point (you can probably find it by googling him), but there's another point that people ought to think about. I understand that many Thai Buddhists perform acts of charity - donating money to temples, etc - with the intention of earning merit. Such merit-making sounds praiseworthy, but is not entirely altruistic: they expect that the merit thus earned will guarantee them good fortune in this or some future life.

I understand that the Buddha taught that karma is produced, not by specific actions, but by the underlying motivation for those actions. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) He also taught that craving is the cause of suffering. Is it not reasonable to assume that if you perform good works with the motive of gaining good fortune in the future, that craving will undermine and nullify the effects of those good works?

Merit-making with no desire for reward is admirable; but the craving for reward poisons it. As the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu remarked, "That's not religion; that's just a business deal."’

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion ... 89582.html

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
Hanzze
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:08 am

Just that! *smile*


BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Nate sante baram sokham _()_

whynotme
Posts: 479
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2011 5:52 am

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby whynotme » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:35 am

Dear Cooran,

IMO, i don't agree with that story or the shocking strategy of zen tradition.

First of all, it is against the Buddha's teaching, he said even throw away waste food for worms still have merit. So to speak the truth, IMO, even when showing off, there is merit for the one giving.

Secondly, there are many ways to express something in a pleasant way to householders to understand. E.g when the Buddha taught lay people, he always began with teaching about merit, about devas, about happy lives because of merit, and then when their mind were ready he taught about suffering, not that he jumped straight to those things when others were not ready.

I think normal people like praising, so let assume that if he ask me, at first I will praise his deeds, that let his mind has joy and happiness, then I will teach him that his deeds will bring much more merit if he did it with other intentions like many of the suttas teach about merit.. When people are happy, they mind are easily concentrated to accept right things and give up wrong things. Even something is right but saying that make people feel angry or unhappy, IMO, it is not a good strategy to save them.

Regards
Please stop following me

User avatar
Hanzze
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:49 am

Just that! *smile*


BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Nate sante baram sokham _()_

User avatar
Dan74
Posts: 3012
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:03 am

I guess Bodhidharma was urging the emperor to see beyond his notions of accumulating merit. To see the conditioned nature of good karma and bad karma. Emptiness.

It is not a denial of merit-making. Indeed Chinese Buddhism is very big on making merit. Form is emptiness, but emptiness is also form. So seeing into the conditioned nature does not mean such acts are pointless. It is grasping after merit that is pointless, not merit-making itself, though its fruit are conditioned and ultimately unsatisfactory.

There are many versions of this story. Some that differentiate the good karma and true merit (which is more akin to insight and liberation). I guess in Zen the key teaching is a sweeping away of the attachment to the worldly, even when the worldly is acts of great merit like supporting the Dharma.

"What is the highest meaning of the holy Dharma?' asks the Emperor.

"Vast emptiness, nothing holy," came Bodhidharma's reply.

The emperor was very learned and renowned for his good deeds. He was adept in the worldly Dharma. Perhaps he was ripe for the rug to be pulled from under his feet? This is the shocking tactic of the Zen school - whatever is the most immediate attachment, that is snatched away. For one who is not yet proficient in the worldly, you don't snatch the worldly. But for one who has mastered the worldly and pitches his tent there, he/she is urged to keep going. Sometimes setting that tent on fire is the only way to make someone move...
_/|\_

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Ben » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:30 am

Hi Chris,

Yes, intention is key. However, its my contention that even if one is mainly motivated by greed for future rewards, then the act of giving itself must contain some moments of genuine selfless generosity for that individual to give at all.
I recently completed reading a very interesting work which discussed at length the role of merit making in Burmese society and how it binds the laity, sangha and state together and how it legitimizes the state. It makes for some very interesting reading.
http://www.amazon.com/Burmas-Mass-Lay-M ... 0896802558
I highly recommend it.
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
bodom
Posts: 5713
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby bodom » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:47 pm

Merit making is a wholesome desire to do good (chanda in pali), chanda also being one of the four bases of success. The Buddha encouraged the cultivation of good deeds or merit making.

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html
http://www.ajahnchah.org/

User avatar
kirk5a
Posts: 1959
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:00 pm

Who understands the precise working out of kamma? ;)

However, I can become aware of the effect of my own actions on my own state of mind. Good actions, good results - "visible here and now." Now when people start looking outside of their own mind, thinking that means money will fall from the sky, yes there is clearly a problem.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

User avatar
Hanzze
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:09 pm

Just that! *smile*


BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Nate sante baram sokham _()_

Sylvester
Posts: 2205
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:26 pm


User avatar
kirk5a
Posts: 1959
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:38 pm

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

User avatar
DAWN
Posts: 801
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:22 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby DAWN » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:07 pm

Good action without Metta is craving
Metta without good action is suffering
Metta with bad action is folly
Bad action with metta is zen [joke :spy: ]

PS there is a level when you must let go subjectiv metta (doing merit), and dwell in absolute metta, wise metta, without good or bad, without judging, without correcting, but let dhammas be what they are - this is a absolute merit action, absolute metta, wise like a mirrow.

I heared that once Bouddha said somethink like : if you still in that state of mind during the time that takes a dew to flow down on your face, that will be more meritious that if you build a thousands of stupa.
Perharps he takes a not exactly the sames images, perharps he has never said that... but anyway it's true. :meditate:
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...

santa100
Posts: 2673
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby santa100 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:08 pm

I think the act of making merits, whether for a selfless/altruistic purpose or for selfish purpose do result in a more comfortable life later on. However, whether this comfortable life will be conducive to awakening or liberation, it all depends on the original "intention" of the person. Just look at people like Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump, or more extreme examples like Stalin, or Kim Jong Il, they must've done tons more "merits" than any of us, but does that mean they have a better chance at attaining final liberation? Emperor Wu did obviously enjoy all the luxuries as fruits of his merits, but at the end, he still died because of illness and starvation! This minute detail is a very important point for us to remember..

User avatar
kirk5a
Posts: 1959
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:22 pm

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
Posts: 10649
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Contact:

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:03 pm

Image




befriend
Posts: 1075
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:39 am

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby befriend » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:21 pm

this is a little off topic but is it bad to do good deeds out of happiness for oneself and at the samet time out of compassion for the recipient. i enjoy the bliss that comes from giving, i could see how someone could get attached to it, and LIKE it. so is it better to not think of onself at all when giving?
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

User avatar
DAWN
Posts: 801
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:22 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby DAWN » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:39 pm

Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 3670
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:19 pm

Venerable Ledi Sayādaw often criticised so-called "merit-making" too. However, it does depend a lot on having the right-view and right intention. Giving alms, firmly believing in the rich fruit of wholesome kamma, hoping for long life, wisdom, health, wealth, and other blessings in future existences is not necessarily craving to enjoy sensual pleasures — one may merely wish to gain favourable circumstances to practice the Dhamma in future lives. The noblest giving is done aspiring to realise the cessation of craving (nibbāna).

The Bodhisatta also practised the perfections throughout many existences, wishing to attain Omniscience. We must distinguish between the unwholesome kamma of craving (tanhā), and the wholesome desire to attain spiritual progress (chandiddhipāda). Without a strong desire to succeed, nothing can be attained.

In his (Gambhīra Dīpanī) he admonished a rather materialistic Buddhist minister.

NOW, it’s the most favourable chance,
five rare attainments to enhance,
oh! You’re a man of international fame,
and you’ve plenty of affairs all the same.

They seem important and real,
but they are not worthy nor essential.
Your viewpoint is neither clear nor right,
in charcoal-room at dark cloudy midnight.

You perform good actions occasionally,
according to your whims, traditionally.
Time is steadily passing without stopping,
as to death, the leveller, you’re approaching.

As a gift or fee for the executioner,
with various foods, to present or to offer,
resting in the aggregates of wealthy chamber,
you are waiting to die with satisfaction
enjoying the worldly assumed perfection.
• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1160
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:32 pm

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

User avatar
kirk5a
Posts: 1959
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Re: Making Merit - or is it craving?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:53 pm

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230


Return to “Connections to Other Paths”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 34 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine