In the next few days there will be some coming and going. One of the laypeople who has been here a while will be moving back to Thailand in a few days. There’s a word in Pali that’s an epitaph of the Buddha: sugata. It means coming well or going well. What is a sugata? What is someone who goes well and comes well? When a person makes kamma (performs actions), and this action has been purified in the present moment, then one is making good kamma. If one makes good kamma now then, as we get older, we go well. If we make good kamma in the past then wherever we go we’ll arrive in a good place. These two things go together.
The Tathagata, the Buddha, was someone who brought to fruition the ten perfect qualities of an awakened being (Paramitas) and wherever he went he was received well. I once asked Ajahn Anan about the miraculous birth of the Buddha and how it was said that he emerged from the side of his mother and walked seven steps forward with flowers growing out of the ground to receive his feet. I asked him if that’s a story or are we supposed to believe that flowers were growing out of the ground to receive the Buddha when he took his first steps. Ajahn Anan answered that it may well have happened like that but here, right now, if someone makes a lot of merit then that merit receives him wherever he goes. For example right now, an attendant may come in and bring me tea or if I walk he may follow me and bring an umbrella to shade me from the sun. Where does that come from? It comes from merit. These things can’t arise without causes and conditions. Ajahn Anan took that as a mundane example to show that our merit is something that we generate throughout the day and something that will be our provision for the future.
If we make merit here in the present, then when we leave, we do so in a good way and wherever we go, that merit will be there to receive us. So this is one way to consider merit, to consider our practice in a broader perspective. It’s paying respect, doing service for your elders, looking after the seniors, looking after the juniors, developing sati (mindfulness), dana (generosity), sila (morality) and bhavana (mental cultivation); all of these things are avenues for generating merit. When they ripen they will be there to receive us even before our feet touch the ground.