What is merit?

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Sroberto
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What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm

Could someone explain what is merit, exactly? Where and how does merit 'reside' or come into existence, and bow does merit differ from karma? Thank you.

santa100
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Re: What is merit?

Post by santa100 » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:05 pm

Refer to the links for definitions of merit, kamma, and their relationship

BKh
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Re: What is merit?

Post by BKh » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:34 pm

Merit is another word for happiness, according to the Buddha...

https://suttacentral.net/iti22/en/ireland
“Bhikkhus, do not fear meritorious deeds. This is an expression denoting happiness, what is desirable, wished for, dear and agreeable, that is, ‘meritorious deeds.’ For I know full well, bhikkhus, that for a long time I experienced desirable, wished for, dear and agreeable results from often performing meritorious deeds.
Although the Pali word is puñña, it could also be translated as good karma in general.

If you haven't alread, I recommend reading Ajahn Thanissaro's anthology called Merit.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html#Merit
(scroll down)
ReadingFaithfully.org Daily Practice with the Suttas | becomeabuddhist.org
audtip. org Audio Sutta Recordings | BuddhaRupa Images of the Buddha across time and space

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Sam Vara
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:42 pm

Merit is a translation of the Pali word 'puñña'. Here is Ajahn Sucitto reflecting on the concept.
The term 'puñña' (related to 'boon' and 'bounty' in English) is a key reference in Buddhist Asia. It means 'goodness', but is often translated as 'merit' to capture some of the nuances of the term. Because in English we might say: 'that's a good car' or 'you have good handwriting': the term is ethically neutral. Placed upon the object, it signifies my approval but it say anything much about 'goodness'. Puñña however refers to a potency that's present whether anyone acknowledges it or not; it is an immaterial current that moves through the interrelated cosmos; it can be generated and directed by skilful intentions – and it accumulates. To fill in the view a little: the Buddhist cosmos (as was the case with all human worlds prior to the scientific and rational revolution) is an interconnected whole that includes the human psyche with its intentions and associations; the human body; the natural world of sun, rain, trees, and animals; and the supernatural world of guardian and evil spirits, and ghosts. Acts of puñña can have effects that move through this realm. If monarchs rule rightly, the sky gods (devas) are pleased and rain comes on time; if the opposite, or if people are obsessed with passion and greed, then the earth dries up. In the Jātaka tales, every time the Buddha-to-be made a commitment to develop selfless actions (pāramī) the throne of the king of the gods warms up and he flies down to bear witness. In the Buddhist cosmos, acts of puñña are the steps towards harmony, well-being and full awakening.

Sounds absurd? Yes, by and large this cosmos is now largely overturned, and we have a cosmos made of two realities: physical objects as we perceive them through our senses, and our feeling and affective/responsive minds. Other living beings only have such meaning as we give them. Thus a pet is regarded as a quasi-human – often a kind of child – whereas a farmed animal is regarded as a commodity: meat on legs. Trees of course are just lumber – wood to be cut, carved or pulped. Earth is soil to be used and doctored with chemicals, or dirt to be mined. Things only have the value that we give to them, a value determined by monetary considerations. What that view converts the planet, and our fellow-humans, into is the ongoing horror-story of our time. Let alone what it does to those who see things this way: a descent from the grace of empathic and values-based humanity into an exploitative mind-set that is both insatiable and ungrounded. Such beings may have gained 'wealth' but they've lost a place in the living cosmos. In the Buddhist cosmos of gods, humans, animals and demons, this mind-set is called 'the hungry ghost.'

In Thailand, where I entered Buddhist practice, puñña (Thai 'buhn' – pronounced close to 'boon') and its opposite pāpa (Thai 'bahp') support the axis of everyday practice. Far from being metaphysical concepts, they are fundamental essences that fill out the exhortation to uplift and share the good and move away from the bad and guard one's mind from it. The results of good and bad accumulate: that's kamma.
http://sucitto.blogspot.com/2017/10/

You might also want to have a look at Ajahn Thanissaro's compilation, which has a rather more prosaic introduction, but follows up with suttas:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/merit.html

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:47 pm

http://sucitto.blogspot.com/2017/10/

You might also want to have a look at Ajahn Thanissaro's compilation, which has a rather more prosaic introduction, but follows up with suttas:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/merit.html
Thank you. But I dont understand why teachers speak of merit as a thing, an object that exists in its own right independent of the person acquiring it. For example, dedicating merit to a deceased loved one like you might loan someone your car, as if it were an object.

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:50 pm

santa100 wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:05 pm
Refer to the links for definitions of merit, kamma, and their relationship
There the buddha is speaking of merit as an adjective. My question is why teachers refer to merit as a noun. I dont understand why teachers speak of merit as a thing, an object that exists in its own right independent of the person acquiring it. For example, dedicating merit to a deceased loved one like you might loan someone your car, as if it were an object.

Thank you

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Sam Vara
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:50 pm

Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:47 pm
Thank you. But I dont understand why teachers speak of merit as a thing, an object that exists in its own right independent of the person acquiring it. For example, dedicating merit to a deceased loved one like you might loan someone your car, as if it were an object.
It can be addressed as an object in its own right simply because it is an abstract noun; much the same way that we can talk of "goodness" or a virtue independently of the person who is good or virtuous.

I'm not sure about the dedication of merit, but I think it means something different from what we mean when we talk about loaning an object. We can dedicate something to someone while still retaining possession of it. There is a use of the term which is "realist" as per Ajahn Sucitto's article above: some people might consider that there is an objective field of merit which is affected by our good actions whether we acknowledge it or not. Others, however, might use the term to mean that the goodness of their action should be seen as honouring a being other than themselves. It doesn't directly help that being, but it reminds all concerned (the doer of the action, and those witnessing the dedication of merit) of that other being and their goodness. In the West, people sometimes mean something similar when they do something "to honour" or "in memory of" a dead relative, for example. Or consider how a piece of music or a novel can be dedicated to someone by the composer or author. It's not loaned like an object, but calls that person to mind with positive intention.

Saengnapha
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:56 pm

Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:50 pm
santa100 wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:05 pm
Refer to the links for definitions of merit, kamma, and their relationship
There the buddha is speaking of merit as an adjective. My question is why teachers refer to merit as a noun. I dont understand why teachers speak of merit as a thing, an object that exists in its own right independent of the person acquiring it. For example, dedicating merit to a deceased loved one like you might loan someone your car, as if it were an object.

Thank you
Merit is a dhamma (thing) and is dependent on a condition. Things are impermanent and are not independently existing. No one acquires merit because there is no person to acquire anything. This is conventional thinking when we say we are making merit or dedicating it to someone. There is no one there who is making it or taking it. The same thing goes for rebirth, kamma, etc.

James Tan
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Re: What is merit?

Post by James Tan » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:53 pm

Merits is the fruits or outcome or results for wholesome action or good deeds (which inherently produces a kind of reward) .

Dedication of merits is sharing of something. Sharing such as giving "things" to others is similar to sharing merits .
It may be money, food, material, knowledge , skills , power , joy or happiness and doing work on behalf of someone etc.

Power or happiness for example is not something concrete existing which is not different with merits .
:reading:

befriend
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Re: What is merit?

Post by befriend » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:07 pm

Merit is good kamma. Bright kamma with bright results.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

Stillness
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Stillness » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:44 am

Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
what is merit, exactly?
Some commentators give a clear definition of ‘‘puñña’’ as the kusala-kamma (wholesome deed) which purifies and cleanses the doer's mind. Hence, the puñña is a synonym for kusala with an emphasis on its purification aspect. In the early suttas, Buddha often talked kusala as being refrain from 10 akusalas. A person who conducts the below ten considers as engaged in akusala:
1. destroys life,
2. takes what is not given,
3. engages in sexual misconduct,
4. speaks falsely,
5. speaks divisively,
6. speaks harshly,
7. chatters idly,
8. one who is covetous,
9. full of ill will,
10. and holds wrong view
~ From SN 42.6

Around 500 CE, non-canonical texts introduced a list of 10 meritorious actions (dasa puñña-kriyā vattu).
Giving (dāna)
Morality (sīla)
Meditation (bhāvanā)
Service or performing duties to superiors (veyyāvacca)
Paying respect to those who are worthy of it (apacāyana)
Giving of merit (patti-dāna)
Rejoicing in the merits of others (pattānumodanā)
Teaching the Dhamma (dhamma desanā)
Listening to the Dhamma (savanaṃ)
Straightening wrong views (diṭṭhijukamma-miccevaṃ)
And some commentators together with the compilers of later texts have gone to greater lengths in turning puñña into patti (merit)—a spiritual currency—which one should collect as much as possible.

In some Buddhist communities, this list has superseded the importance of “being refrained from akusala” and pushed Buddhists to a frenzy of ritualistic merry-making out of craving rather than the earliest idea of letting-go (nekkhamma) of craving. Also, these later texts turned the puñña into something can be given to another (a copy-paste). Therefore the list has "giving merit" and "rejoicing merit".

The karma cannot be transferred so does the resulting purity or impurity of. When I perceived a wholesome action done by another person, depending on my views and state of mind, there will be karma generated in me, but it's never the same karma of the 1st doer either in quantity or in quality.
Evil is done by oneself, by oneself is one defiled.
Evil is left undone by oneself, by oneself is one cleansed.
Purity & impurity are one’s own doing.
No one purifies another.
No other purifies one.
~ Dhammapada 165

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Dhammanando
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:14 am

Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
Could someone explain what is merit, exactly?
Santānaṃ punāti visodhetī ti ‘puññan’ ti.
"It cleanses and purifies the mental continuum, thus it is called 'merit'."

It consists in the wholesome volition (kusala cetanā) present on any occasion of dāna, sīla or bhāvanā performed by a non-arahant.
Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
Where does merit 'reside' or come into existence,
In the mental continuum.
Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
and how does merit 'reside' or come into existence,
As with any sort of cetanā, the proximate cause of merit is the associated dhammas, with the three wholesome roots, non-attachment, non-aversion and non-delusion, being the most significant of these.
Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
and bow does merit differ from karma?
As others have said, merit is synonymous with wholesome kamma.

Stillness
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Stillness » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:42 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:14 am
Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
and how does merit 'reside' or come into existence,
As with any sort of cetanā, the proximate cause of merit is the associated dhammas, with the three wholesome roots, attachment, aversion and delusion, being the most significant of these.
A typo, perhaps. Should be the opposite.
...with the three wholesome roots, attachment, aversion and delusion, being the most significant of these.

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Dhammanando
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:26 am

Stillness wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:42 am
Dhammanando wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:14 am
Sroberto wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:22 pm
and how does merit 'reside' or come into existence,
As with any sort of cetanā, the proximate cause of merit is the associated dhammas, with the three wholesome roots, attachment, aversion and delusion, being the most significant of these.
A typo, perhaps. Should be the opposite.
...with the three wholesome roots, attachment, aversion and delusion, being the most significant of these.
It was indeed. Thank you!

justindesilva
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Re: What is merit?

Post by justindesilva » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:48 am

what is merit, exactly?
[/quote]

[/quote]
Around 500 CE, non-canonical texts introduced a list of 10 meritorious actions (dasa puñña-kriyā vattu).
Giving (dāna)
Morality (sīla)
Meditation (bhāvanā)
Service or performing duties to superiors (veyyāvacca)
Paying respect to those who are worthy of it (apacāyana)
Giving of merit (patti-dāna)
Rejoicing in the merits of others (pattānumodanā)
Teaching the Dhamma (dhamma desanā)
Listening to the Dhamma (savanaṃ)
Straightening wrong views (diṭṭhijukamma-miccevaṃ)
And some commentators together with the compilers of later texts have gone to greater lengths in turning puñña into patti (merit)—a spiritual currency—which one should collect as much as possible.

The karma cannot be transferred so does the resulting purity or impurity of.
~ Dhammapada 165[/quote]
[/quote]

We learn from Budda damma that all actions ( by word or deed) originates in the mind.
Then the volition of such actions lead to ones kamma and a purified mind with 24 sobana mental states leading actions to merits.
As all buddhists are of various mental states some devotional followers who do not go by intellect believe that meritirious acts lead to richness , wealth and physical beauty. Such devotional buddhist lay people offer flowers , light oil lamps and offer dana to sangha as well as lay people( beggars) expecting beauty, health and wealth.
As these lay devotees volition is not totally void of loba, dosa , moha the effect of their acts of merits may not be 100 percent successful.
But they too are on the path of merit and it is worthwhile discussing actions of merit hoding on to greed.

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