What is merit?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Sroberto
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Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:29 am

Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:55 am

]
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In some Buddhist communities, this list has superseded the importance of “being refrained from akusala” and pushed Buddhists to a frenzy of ritualistic merry-making out of craving rather than the earliest idea of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
[/quote]

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It gets straight at the heart of the matter, wbich is the same as what I was thinking. Correct me if I misunderstand your meaning, but to paraphrase, originally the Buddha taught that merit is basically the good that comes from keeping the precepts, which is another way of saying the fruit of kamma. It was 500 years later that the meaning of merit was expanded and modified into something beyond what the Buddha taught, that it is really an Abidhamma concoction..

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:59 am

Dhammanando wrote:
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.
Thank you. I have concluded that merit is the fruit of wholesome kama, not spiritual currency, and it is personal not transferable.

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:01 am

Sam Vara wrote:
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

Thank you. I have concluded that merit is the fruit of wholesome kama, not spiritual currency, and it is personal not transferable.

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:02 am

Sam Vara wrote:
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.
Thank you. I have concluded that merit is the fruit of wholesome kama, not spiritual currency, and it is personal not transferable.

Sroberto
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:29 am

Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:04 am

befriend wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:07 pm
Merit is good kamma. Bright kamma with bright results.
Thank you. I have concluded that merit is the fruit of wholesome kama, not spiritual currency, and it is personal not transferable

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

Re: What is merit?

Post by befriend » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:06 pm

isnt it good to make merit for the purpose of going to a safe realm like human or deva or brahma realm so we don't have to be reborn in a woeful plane? This is a question not a declaration.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

justindesilva
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Re: What is merit?

Post by justindesilva » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:47 pm

befriend wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:06 pm
isnt it good to make merit for the purpose of going to a safe realm like human or deva or brahma realm so we don't have to be reborn in a woeful plane? This is a question not a declaration.
This desire boils down to bhava asha , desire for existence. We should make merit for cessation of greed , aversion and delusion. The karma on merits accumulated thus will decide on our next realm. Furthermore the thoughts at last instance before death will be a strong factor on which realm and what status we will be born.

justindesilva
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Re: What is merit?

Post by justindesilva » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:50 pm

justindesilva wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:47 pm
befriend wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:06 pm
isnt it good to make merit for the purpose of going to a safe realm like human or deva or brahma realm so we don't have to be reborn in a woeful plane? This is a question not a declaration.
This desire boils down to bhava asha , desire for existence. We should make merit for cessation of greed , aversion and delusion. The karma on merits accumulated thus will decide on our next realm. Furthermore the thoughts at last instance before death will be a strong factor on which realm and what status we will be born.
However honest followers of pancasila will be assured of a rebirth either as a human or a higher realm.

Stillness
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Stillness » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:14 pm

Sroberto wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:55 am
Correct me if I misunderstand your meaning, but to paraphrase, originally the Buddha taught that merit is basically the good that comes from keeping the precepts, which is another way of saying the fruit of kamma. It was 500 years later that the meaning of merit was expanded and modified into something beyond what the Buddha taught, that it is really an Abidhamma concoction..
Yes. Correct. Especially about the Abhidhamma concoction! It’s actually about 1,000 years later: 500 CE (in common era) + 500 BCE (placing the Buddha roughly 500 years before the common era).
justindesilva wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:48 am
… believe that meritirious acts lead to richness , wealth and physical beauty.
Answered according to the Cūḷakammavibhaṅga-sutta (MN 135).

Richness and wealth:
One is greedy. Not a giver. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as a poor human.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be as a rich human.

Physical Beauty:
One has much hatred. Easy to get angry and unhappy. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as an ugly human.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be a pleasing human.
justindesilva wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:48 am
… believe that meritirious acts lead to richness , wealth and physical beauty.
The idea of offering flowers, lighting oil lamps, and offering dāna will result the beauty and health is a later fabrication. They might result, some wealth due to some wholesome thoughts occurred, if any, during the giving process, but being polluted by an underlying intention of expectation might spoil that too depending on the intensity of the greed. This is evident from the above quoted sutta.

Health:
One harms beings and caused distress in them. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as a human with much sicknesses.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be a as a human with less sicknesses.
befriend wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:06 pm
isnt it good to make merit for the purpose of going to a safe realm like human or deva or brahma realm so we don't have to be reborn in a woeful plane?
Is there any place safe in Saṃsāra as long as you are a commoner? Anyhow, your question should be, isnt it good to refrain from akusala for the purpose of ...

Sroberto
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Sroberto » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:38 pm

Stillness wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:14 pm
Sroberto wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:55 am
Correct me if I misunderstand your meaning, but to paraphrase, originally the Buddha taught that merit is basically the good that comes from keeping the precepts, which is another way of saying the fruit of kamma. It was 500 years later that the meaning of merit was expanded and modified into something beyond what the Buddha taught, that it is really an Abidhamma concoction..
Yes. Correct. Especially about the Abhidhamma concoction! It’s actually about 1,000 years later: 500 CE (in common era) + 500 BCE (placing the Buddha roughly 500 years before the common era).
justindesilva wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:48 am
… believe that meritirious acts lead to richness , wealth and physical beauty.
Answered according to the Cūḷakammavibhaṅga-sutta (MN 135).

Richness and wealth:
One is greedy. Not a giver. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as a poor human.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be as a rich human.

Physical Beauty:
One has much hatred. Easy to get angry and unhappy. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as an ugly human.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be a pleasing human.
justindesilva wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:48 am
… believe that meritirious acts lead to richness , wealth and physical beauty.
The idea of offering flowers, lighting oil lamps, and offering dāna will result the beauty and health is a later fabrication. They might result, some wealth due to some wholesome thoughts occurred, if any, during the giving process, but being polluted by an underlying intention of expectation might spoil that too depending on the intensity of the greed. This is evident from the above quoted sutta.

Health:
One harms beings and caused distress in them. That karma will result a birth in hell. If not, will be as a human with much sicknesses.
But, if refrain from that akusala, the result will be a heavenly birth. If not, will be a as a human with less sicknesses.
befriend wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:06 pm
isnt it good to make merit for the purpose of going to a safe realm like human or deva or brahma realm so we don't have to be reborn in a woeful plane?
Is there any place safe in Saṃsāra as long as you are a commoner? Anyhow, your question should be, isnt it good to refrain from akusala for the purpose of ...

Thanks again for your explanation of merit. It has redoubled my effort to find a monastery to ordain in where there is no emphasis on Abidhamma. Perhaps Mahamevnawa in Sri Lanka.

befriend
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Re: What is merit?

Post by befriend » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:44 pm

Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Mr Man
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Re: What is merit?

Post by Mr Man » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:47 pm

Sroberto wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:04 am
befriend wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:07 pm
Merit is good kamma. Bright kamma with bright results.
Thank you. I have concluded that merit is the fruit of wholesome kama, not spiritual currency, and it is personal not transferable
Merit is not the fruit. It is the actual wholesome action, as I understand it.

Merit is something that you do.

When other beings come into contact with one who performs meritorious actions they can benefit.

befriend
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Re: What is merit?

Post by befriend » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:40 pm

Stillness, Buddha recommended doing good things not only refraining from evil.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

WorldTraveller
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Re: What is merit?

Post by WorldTraveller » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:23 am

I find it very strange why the Buddha spoke conflicting ideas! :thinking: Compare AN4.57 that you are referring to with the above quoted MN 135.
AN4.57 says, Long life, beauty, happiness, and strength, all are the vipaka for the giver of dana. But MN 135 mentions different causes for those results.

AFAIK, Buddha's words are firm, not changing time to time like these days gurus since he first comprehend the Dhamma, and then only taught.
Mr Man wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:47 pm
Merit is not the fruit. It is the actual wholesome action, as I understand it.

Merit is something that you do.
Kusala (good deed) and kusala-vipaka (good result) are separate terms. But judging by the below answers, it seems punnya (merit) is a term for the action, but also with a reference to the resulting purification aspect of it. This purification is a result/fruit.
Stillness wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:44 am
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.
Dhammanando wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:14 am
Santānaṃ punāti visodhetī ti ‘puññan’ ti.
"It cleanses and purifies the mental continuum, thus it is called 'merit'."
Last edited by WorldTraveller on Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

befriend
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Re: What is merit?

Post by befriend » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:31 am

Buddha is not contradicting himself avoiding evil is good kamma doing good is good kamma.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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