Last night Phakchok Rinpoche gave an empowerment of the Buddha Vajrasattva at the DMG Books office on the 22nd floor of the Sogo Building on Ploenchit Rd. There was a crowd of around sixty people, which filled up the hall. The empowerment went on for about an hour and there was a lively question and answer session. Then Rinpoche gave a lecture on “Four Points for Accumulation of Merit.” These are very good indeed and if anyone practices these four points diligently they are sure to reap a lot of benefits both for themselves and for sentient beings.
So here are the four points:
- Sympathetic Joy and Rejoice
- Taming the Mind
“Sympathetic Joy” means that you are pleased and happy whenever others are happy. This tends to go against the grain of most people, who feel that they are displeased or even unhappy when others are happy 🙂 Well, that is the ‘natural’ state of most people, so the way to practice is to cultivate genuine, uncontrived happiness whenever we learn that others are happy. This is a very good thing to do and will bring you a lot of merit. This way we are always joyful and thankful for being alive.
“Rejoice” goes with sympathetic joy. You ‘rejoice’ in this rather technical sense when you learn that others are doing good merits for other people. Suppose you see someone making an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you feel a fullness of happiness, rejoicing in the merit and the good deeds that she is doing. You are very joyful, very glad that she is doing such a good thing. This is what is meant by rejoicing. The Buddha tells us that the merit gained by genuine rejoicing is equal to that which accrues to the person who actually does the merit. So rejoicing is very powerful.
The second point is motivation, which is very important. You have to make merit out of a pure motivation, such as to achieve the state of Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings (this is called ‘bodhicitta’), or if you are a Theravada practitioner you might wish for the state of Nirvana. In either case, this is the pure motivation and acts performed under this pure motivation will accumulate a vast amount of merit. Rinpoche advised us not to make merits out of self-interested motifs, such as “I want to become richer” or “I want to go to heaven.” This is not pure and will not bring you the greatest amount of benefit.
So there was a question from the audience on whether making merit which in the end will bring benefits to oneself is something that is done out of self-interested motifs or not. For example, one wishes to become a Buddha as a result of making the merit; is this actually a pure motivation as one wishes ultimately to gain something for oneself? Well, I remember that the Dalai Lama has said that the greatest benefits of the bodhicitta aspiration is to oneself. This is the supreme Buddhist irony — the more you do for others, the more benefits you gain for yourself. But you are not thinking of yourself; you are thinking of others, and the benefits to yourself are corollary to that.
The third point is to tame the mind. The reason why we are making merits — making offerings to monks and nuns, giving alms to the poor, volunteering in charity organizations, donating your blood to the Red Cross, practicing meditation, etc — should always be that you want to tame your mind. That is, you aim at reducing and eliminating all the defilements or negative emotions that arise in your mind. If you practice meditation and do not aim at reducing the defilements, observing how they arise, stay and disperse, then Rinpoche said that it will be like shooting an arrow without knowing the target is. So when you practice meditation, or when you do the merits that you are doing, always be mindful of your own possible defilements and keep them away.
The last point is perhaps the most important one, which is dedication of merit. The worst thing a practitioner can do is to keep all the accumulated merits to oneself. That will destroy almost all of the merits that one has actually accumulated. So in all practice sessions, always dedicate the merits to all the sentient beings. Rinpoche compares this with depositing the money in a bank. Your accumulated merit is the money that you should be depositing in the Buddha’s bank where the Buddha is the CEO and the bodhisattvas are the middle management and staffs. Now if you deposit your merit to this bank your interest will increase a hundred fold, a thousand, or a million fold. He said however the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas are dedicating the merit, I will join in that too! In this way you dedicate the merit like the Buddhas and Bohisattvas do. This will only increase your merit.
So the talk ended naturally with a dedication of merit session and everyone present was very blessed by Rinpoche’s presence and his lively teaching.