The dedication of merit and blessings is a practice that is very common and ordinary in Buddhist cultures like Thailand. This practice helps counteract our tendency to focus on the problems, the flaws, and the obstacles we believe we have to overcome, whether real or perceived. We can set all that aside and instead, bring our attention to the conditions in our lives that are blessings—those conditions that align themselves with what is meritorious and good.
It’s not so difficult to do. If we think of the surroundings we’re in—they’re about as idyllic as we could hope for. We’re not oppressed by war, famine, or pestilence. It’s an incredibly fortunate time and place we live in. These are blessings. And while we are under government regulation with our building codes and other mundane details, the government doesn’t prohibit monasteries like ours from existing. So we have this opportunity to live here in an American Buddhist monastery, and to practice the Dhamma.
In addition, there are so many people who freely offer their support to us. We have more than adequate food, dwelling places, clothing, and medicine. We’re supported every day by people’s generosity, and we live in dependence on them. It’s essential for us to recollect that truth—that blessing—and by frequently practicing the dedication of blessings to others, we can keep that recollection fresh in our minds.
As monastics, we are not only on the receiving end. It’s also our role to give and to share. In carrying out this role, we have the opportunity to reflect on what we are offering, and to reflect on our attitudes with regard to giving. This is one aspect of making sure we are worthy recipients. It underscores the fact that our relationship with those who support us is one of mutual generosity, which is in itself, a great blessing.
Now just consider the culture of virtue that’s been established here. We’ve all committed ourselves to living in a virtuous way, with integrity, according to the moral precepts. That too is a blessing, to live in a situation where there is this quality of integrity and trust. It supports, uplifts, and encourages us.
These are some of the many blessings that we’re virtually swimming in here. By bringing them to mind, we are able to share and dedicate them. They can become a field of blessing and merit, not just for ourselves, but for others as well. Attending to our blessings, bringing them to mind, reflecting on this field of merit—this is important to do as we go through our day.
The foundation for this practice is selflessness. That’s what really brings about the sense of merit and blessing—we are willing to set aside our personal agendas and preferences, our views and opinions, and everything that comes out of our obsession with “me” and “mine.” Certainly, these things come to the surface in all of us, and I’m not suggesting we deny or try to annihilate them. Rather, this is about redirecting our attention away from self-oriented concerns so that we can step into this field of blessing and merit.
There is a verse from the Dhammapada where the Buddha instructs us to do things that are aligned with what is good and meritorious. He encourages us to do them over and over again because, as we develop an affinity for acting in that way, it will lead to our ease and well-being. This certainly applies to the practice of dedicating merit and blessings. It is something that can hold us in a place of ease; and if we are grounded in that place as we apply effort in our practice, our efforts will be held within that same quality of easefulness.
There is a lightness to experience when people live with a sense of generosity and selflessness. We can share in that, and dedicate the goodness of merit and blessings that come from it.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume One, (pdf) pp. 137-139.