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2. Merit ( Punnnw.gif (847 bytes)nnnw.gif (847 bytes)a )

It is advisable, before studding in details the manners of making, or accumulating Merit, to first know the nature of Merit and evil themselves. To many people, Merit is regarded as something good material following the merit-makers waiting to produce its results profusely to them in the hereafter. The same is true, so they conclude, of evil, which is no less material, being a written record inscribed on a dog's skin. This is the evidence against them, again in the hereafter. Such a concept, although considerable exaggerated, can be said to have a shade of truth behind the facade of personification.

In absolute terms, Merit is what uplifts the mind, whereas whatever impairs the mind is evil.

The mind that is uplifted, manifests in the increasing degree of refinement, cleanliness, purity and the like. Such are the marks of what is called Punnn.gif (73 bytes)nnn.gif (73 bytes)a i.e. Merit. On the contrary, evil implies the degradation, deterioration and danger acting upon the mind. It results in the mind being foul, polluted and dirty.

          2.1 It is Advisable to Make or Accumulate Merit

      As earlier mentioned, Punnn.gif (73 bytes)nnn.gif (73 bytes)a or Merit implies, among other things, the cleanliness of the mind. As such its value is clear enough since cleanliness is the requirement for our lives in all respects viz. cleanliness of the body, house, clothes and utensils, That is why we have to wash our faces, beds and clothes and clean our houses, dishes etc. All these so that those things may be washed off the dirt or filth, being thereby pleasant to look at and safe to use or consume.

        So is it with our mind. If it is cleansed, it will produce a thought that is correspondingly clear, penetrating and, what is more important, beneficial to all. Such a thought, or nature of the mind, augurs well for a realm of bliss after the dissolution of the physical body. That is why Buddhists are often taught by Bhikkhus to 'cleanse, or purify, their minds'. However, the term generally used is to 'make Merit', which is a scriptural idiom or phraseology.

        What is worth noting here is that the Merit, thus made or accumulated is for the doers' own benefit. Not, as is often understood, for the Bhikkhus, who are but instrumental factors. That those Bhikkhus have to receive alms from lay disciples is another point. This may be compared to the people using soap while taking a bath. Such an act is beneficial, producing a cleansing effect, to the people themselves. How much the soap manufacturer can enjoy its sales' profit is quite another matter. But it can not be said that the people use soap while taking a bath just because they want to support the snap manufacturer.

         2.2 Means of Making Merit (Punnnm.gif (847 bytes)nnnm.gif (847 bytes)akiriyam.gif (839 bytes)vatthu)

There are, in a sense, three ways of making merit viz.

2.2.1 Da.gif (845 bytes)na         : Dispensing Charity
2.2.2 Si.gif (57 bytes)la           : Observing Precepts i.e. self-control regarding words and deeds
2.2.3 Bha.gif (845 bytes)vana.gif (845 bytes)   : Mind Development

        In point of fact there are also several other means serving the same purpose. But on the whole it can be said that to follow the Dhamma of the Buddha or to do good in other ways can be regarded also as the acts of cleansing the mind. The three channels described above are just summary practices.

        Also in one sense, Defilements (i.e. Kilesa) taking control of the mind are of three main categories viz. Greed (including lust), Anger or hatred and Delusion. Hence the three kinds of making Merit prescribed by the Buddha to counteract those three Defilements.

        The more Defilements are overcome and conquered, the more purified is the mind, In scriptural terms, more Merit is steadily made, or accumulated.

        Now the process of a counteracting the influences of Defilements is to consist of three channels viz. Charity, Precepts and Mind Development. These three must be combined to form a unit whole, in order to be able to check the three-pronged assault on the part of Defilements. To dispense Chairty, without the support of Precepts and Mind Development, is no match for the strength of Defilements. The 'Merit' acquired thereby cannot function well enough.

         2.3 Explanation of The Means of Merit-Making
2.3.1 Daa.gif (75 bytes)NA (To dispense Charity) : Da.gif (845 bytes)na implies the giving away of material things. Its purposes can be two kinds as follows : To wash the mind off the dye of Defilement (here implying Greed or miserliness). To have in mind the benefit to accrue to the recipient.
Both purposes can be used to describe the meaning of Charity. In this theme, however, only the first  meaning is referred to. Factors for the Fulfilment of Charity (Da.gif (845 bytes)nasampatti).

For an act of Charity to yield the maximum result as mental detergent washing off the 'dye', three factors are required :

Vatthu (what) : What is given away is to be acquired by rightful means.

Cetana.gif (845 bytes) (why) : The act of Charity must be based on the motive of battling against Defilements (here Greed or miserliness)

Puggala (who and whom) : The giver and the recipient are virtuous and deserved persons.

Thus the act of dispensing Charity will produce exquisite, ultimate result with the presence of the above three factors. An absence of any one or more of them will weaken the effect more or less, depending on how many deficiencies there are and how much i.e. to what extent is the degree of deficiency. The giver's mind is sure to be steadily cleansed and purified, --with more Merit acquired, that is, each time such an act of ideal Charity is done.


2.3.2 SILA (Precepts) : This implies self-control as far as physical, verbal and mental acts are concerned. This means to abstain from whatever is prohibited, in accordance with a person's status. It is the training of both the body and the mind, beings a preliminary effective means if loosening the grips of Defilements on the mind and releasing its brilliance thereby. This is the intrinsic meaning of Punnn.gif (73 bytes)nnn.gif (73 bytes)a or Merit.

There are several grades or levels of Precept laid down by the Buddha viz. The Five or Eight Precepts, for lay disciples The 227 Precepts, for Bhikkhus

The Five Precepts are the fundamental ones, the rest beings the extended and enlarged form thereof and regarded as Vatta, tradition or etiquette.
2.3.3 BHaa.gif (75 bytes)VANaa.gif (75 bytes) (Mind Development) : By Bha.gif (845 bytes)vana.gif (845 bytes) is meant the process of training and developing the mind, providing it with a penetrating knowledge to the extent that it can be called Pannn.gif (73 bytes)nnn.gif (73 bytes)a.gif (845 bytes) (Wisdom) in the best sense of the term, by which all Defilements will be eradicated once for all. Its functions can be classified or graded as follows : Study : This includes learning, reading, listening and training for the acquisition of experiences Research : exercise of intellect, including reasoning, reflecting and the like Tranquility (Samatha) The practice of making the mind calm and one-pointed Insight (Vipassana.gif (845 bytes) : The practice of developing Wisdom by which to contemplate and penetrate the nature of San.gif (66 bytes)kha.gif (845 bytes)ra (the conditioners as well as the conditioned).
It is obvious how bha.gif (845 bytes)vana.gif (845 bytes) or Mind Development in the above sense is indispensable for all people, irrespective of age, sex and social status. It is the making, or accumulating Merit directly upon the mind itself. Such are the means by which the grips of Defilements will be loosened, and then removed, from the mind.


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