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 Post subject: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:46 am 
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Ok, this must be a really elementary question, and I'm almost embarrassed to ask it. But somehow, I either can't remember or never actually understood this. . .

Why is accumulating merit (which is conditioned/relative) necessary in order to awaken to Buddhahood (the unconditioned)?

Or to put it in a different way - How is it even possible to accumulate enough merit to awaken to a truly unconditioned state?


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:32 pm 
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dakini_boi wrote:
Ok, this must be a really elementary question, and I'm almost embarrassed to ask it. But somehow, I either can't remember or never actually understood this. . .

Why is accumulating merit (which is conditioned/relative) necessary in order to awaken to Buddhahood (the unconditioned)?

Or to put it in a different way - How is it even possible to accumulate enough merit to awaken to a truly unconditioned state?


By giving it away.

This is a great question.

Gathering merit is like being a gardener, who has one bucket in which to gather water for the garden
and because we are not enlightened yet, this bucket has a tiny leak in the bottom of it.
So, the farmer has to keep filling the bucket over and over again
and also he has to pour the water out into the garden quickly before the water leaks from the bucket.
The gardener wants vegetables, not just a big puddle.

You have to dedicate the merit accumulated through the virtuous actions of your body speech and mind, for the benefit of all beings, at the end of any meditation session or after any positive activity, because until you are enlightened, you may still generate negative thoughts such as anger, and this would destroy whatever merit you have acquired.

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Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:39 pm 
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Thanks a lot for that answer. It also cleared things up for me to understand more clearly.


Kindest wishes, Dave

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Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:35 pm 
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PadmaVonSamba - thank you. I enjoy your explanation of merit, but this doesn't really answer my question. My question is - why is merit necessary in the first place in order to awaken? If Buddhahood is completely beyond cause and effect, why does accumulating merit (or for that matter, doing any dharma practice), which is relative and conceptual, eventually result in Buddhahood?


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:08 pm 
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The gardener has a garden of sticks. When he accumulates two sticks and applies the method of rubbing them together he sees them disappear. Now he's excited, so he continues rubbing until there are no more sticks.

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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:41 pm 
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dakini_boi wrote:
PadmaVonSamba - thank you. I enjoy your explanation of merit, but this doesn't really answer my question. My question is - why is merit necessary in the first place in order to awaken? If Buddhahood is completely beyond cause and effect, why does accumulating merit (or for that matter, doing any dharma practice), which is relative and conceptual, eventually result in Buddhahood?


What you say is correct. Buddhahood is completely beyond cause and effect.

Dispelling the obscurations to realization, however, is all about cause and effect.
In fact, the entire point of all dharma practices is the removal of things that block our realization of buddhahood.
So, even though Buddhahood itself is completely beyond cause and effect,
realization of it depends a great deal on cause and effect.

It's like the old metaphor of the Sun hidden behind the clouds.
The Sun is still shining whether we see it or not.
From the vantage point of the Sun, it doesn't matter whether there are any clouds blocking our view or not.
So, as with Buddhahood, it is unconditional.
But for us here on the Earth's surface, we can only see the Sun when the clouds are not obscuring our realization of it.

Likewise, even though Buddhahood is unconditional, we don't have realization that because of the obscurations.

So, that is why we have to work at clearing away the things that obscure our realization of Mind's true nature.

"Merit" is a funny word for "punya" which means karmically wholesome action.
So, it's not like racking up points.
It's not as though you collect 100,000 merits and then you get the Buddha prize: :buddha1:
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:51 pm 
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Don't make Unconditionality a condition of Buddhahood!
:tongue:

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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:18 pm 
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In one of Nagarjuna's text Nagarjuna said that merit (skillful means/compassion) is like the father and wisdom is like the mother. The mother gives birth and the father supports.

You need merit to provide for the inner and outer conditons necessary for achieving Buddhahood.


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:48 am 
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dakini_boi wrote:
PadmaVonSamba - thank you. I enjoy your explanation of merit, but this doesn't really answer my question. My question is - why is merit necessary in the first place in order to awaken? If Buddhahood is completely beyond cause and effect, why does accumulating merit (or for that matter, doing any dharma practice), which is relative and conceptual, eventually result in Buddhahood?


Merit is something that act to clear the obstacles that block your own Buddha nature.

Have you ever experienced reading a Sutta 10x but you get the meaning?

But, after sometime for example 1 week, where in that week you just do chanting or praying, and when you read that Sutta back, you get the meaning. This is one of the example how merit work.

It can also be like because you have merit, you can see right teaching at the right time, etc.

We don't know exactly how it works. But, if you ever experience something like oh I don't understand this before, how can now I understand it so easily? Or something like usually it is very difficult for me to get this, why now it is so easy?

That is the function of merit. So it act like something in assisting you in smoothing your journey in awakening your Buddha nature.

We need to realize this emptiness, but reading heart Sutta for example, no increment, decrement, no eyes, no ears, etc. doesn't mean we can get the exact meaning. We can repeat the word, but it doesn't mean we can get the exact meaning. We can reread it 100x, but it doesn't mean you can get it. Merit can clear your obstacles, in order to get the exact meaning. Once you get it, your awakening is so called improved. Next you move to other thing, or something you don't understand. After sometime, your merit together with your effort make you understand again. So this cycle keeps repeating until you reach the state of no more learning, which is fully buddhahood.

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I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:57 am 
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dakini_boi wrote:
Ok, this must be a really elementary question, and I'm almost embarrassed to ask it. But somehow, I either can't remember or never actually understood this. . .

Why is accumulating merit (which is conditioned/relative) necessary in order to awaken to Buddhahood (the unconditioned)?

Or to put it in a different way - How is it even possible to accumulate enough merit to awaken to a truly unconditioned state?


The awakening of any of the three vehicles is awakening to the unconditioned.
The difference for the path of a bodhisattva is not here, however, but in the other conditioned qualities that a buddha has.
These include the powers, the unshared buddha qualities, and so forth.
These are required to liberate others, they are not required for one's own liberation.

But still, some amount of merit is required for any awakening to the unconditioned,
because on the path, one still needs various conditioned and mundane requisites,
like food, clothing, time to practice, and so forth.

Though, also be careful not to posit the "unconditioned" as something metaphysical beyond the conditioned,
as many teachings would simply state that the unconditioned is the nature of the conditioned itself.
Or, to put it another way, without the conditioned there is not unconditioned
(and this is not just merely in the semantic usage of relativistic language, either).

~~ Huifeng

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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:27 am 
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Quote:
Question: "What is called Buddha?"

Answer: "To awaken according to Dharma, to awaken to the fact that there is nothing to be awakened to, is called Buddha."

The Bodhidharma Anthology, J. L. Broughton


What is called accumulation actually is relinquishment.


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:11 am 
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Removing the stains from a mirror so that it reflects does not mean that one has produced the mirror. Gathering merit so that ignorance can be overcome does not mean that one has produced enlightenment.
:namaste:

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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:54 pm 
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Thank you all, it helps. :anjali:


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 Post subject: Re: Merit & Buddhahood
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:10 pm 
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It's good to note that while it is often said that through making offerings, building temples and so forth, one accumulates merit, it is more accurate to say that these are things which provide an opportunity for the accumulation of merit.
Whether very much merit is actually gained or not really depends greatly on the mind or attitude of the person engaging in merit activity.

These activities, being generous, dedicated, and do forth, prepare the mind and make it a suitable receptacle for the teachings. It is through doing them, rather than what is being done, that they help to eliminate obstacles to realization.

If a person just donates money to a temple hoping for a better rebirth or some personal good fortune as a result, the merit gained will not be very much, even if they donate a huge sum of money. Conversely, a person with little money who donates even a small amount with the wish to benefit all beings would accumulate a great deal of merit.
.
.
.

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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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