When we consider the process of action and reaction, we probably know from our knowledge of physics, astronomy and chemistry that the universe contains forces like electromagnetic or gravitational fields. And when we look at the Buddha’s teachings on kamma and vipāka, action and its results, we see that he suggests this is also a moral universe. Though some physicists might disagree, the Buddha taught that (along with the exclusively physical forces) there is also a moral causational field in the mental and physical universe thus the choices that are made have effects which resonate with the things that brought them into being. There is a cause and effect relationship between different aspects of life that, in the sphere of action, is deeply conditioned by the intentions behind those actions.
Within the realm of kamma and vipāka, …this moral aspect is a very important element. Good actions are good karma which leads to favourable results. For example, in monasteries throughout the Buddhist world we have a little ceremony for sharing the merits generated by the making of offerings. The servery at Amaravati Monastery has to be extended quite considerably every weekend to accommodate the amount of offerings that people bring, sometimes in honour of a birthday or to commemorate someone who has passed away, and before the meal we have a little ceremony of sharing blessings. Or we talk of coming to pay respects to the Triple Gem and entering into the field of influence of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. The term the Buddha used for this was a ‘field of merit’, puññakkhetta. You might think of a field of merit as something that happens in the temple, and the gravitational field as belonging to the physics department, but I’d say that these ‘fields’ are not just a matter of using the same word, but are equally real, genuine aspects of our existence.
Along with the laws of the material world, we have within our mental and physical universe the law of cause and effect, the law of the effects of good and bad action. Someone like the Buddha would create a very powerful field of merit, a pool of powerful wholesome qualities in the world, because he was extraordinarily wise, generous and kind, and he established a massive body of teachings. When you seek to draw close to the Buddha and participate in his teachings, you are entering that field. Using the analogy of astronomy, the Buddha’s influence is like that of a massive star which is very large, dense and heavy, and has a powerful gravitational field, so that its presence has a powerful effect and pulls things towards it. Similarly, a great being like the Buddha creates a very powerful field of merit or goodness, and by drawing close to such a person and entering his field, by picking up the Buddha’s teachings and being open to the examples given by him, you receive some of the blessings that are in that field. You receive the benefits within that sphere of influence, as you would feel the pull of gravity from a massive star.
This reflection from Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Who Is Pulling the Strings?