Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

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Bankei
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Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Bankei » Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:29 am

Hi

Ancient and Modern Theravadins claim merit can be transferred to others. If this is the case why is it that demerit cannot be transferred?

What is the logic behind transference of merit? It is a noble aspiration but doesn't make sense to me.

Thank

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Individual » Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:41 am

Bankei wrote:Ancient and Modern Theravadins claim merit can be transferred to others.

This is a practice among Mahayana Buddhists and it is predominant among Theravadins in Buddhist countries, but it is not a teaching of the Buddha or early Theravada commentators. Apparently (I found a source through Google) which claims that it is explicitly rejected in the Kathavatthu, but despite this, it is strangely mentioned in a text of a later date, the Buddhapadana. It seems like Theravada Buddhism over time was influenced somewhat by trends in Mahayana practices. I think Ven. Dhammanando would be able to say more in detail on this and give you a better answer.

The Dhammapada seems pretty explicit about rejecting the idea of transferring merit (Dhp 165):
Evil is done by oneself,
by oneself is one defiled.

Evil is left undone by oneself,
by oneself is one cleansed.

Purity & impurity are one's own doing.
No one purifies another. No other purifies one.

The mere idea of even considering "transferring" merit seems to miss what merit is, conflating it with a common superstition.

As Accesstoinsight.org's glossary says:
puñña [pu~n~na]: Merit; worth; the inner sense of well-being that comes from having acted rightly or well and that enables one to continue acting well.

This is distinguished from the common Asian Buddhist misunderstanding of kamma as some kind of mystical "stuff" you carry with you, like a kind of external or paranormal energy or substance that can be stored or transferred. But kamma is simply action, and this action is cetana, that is, intent, and punna is simply the inner sense of well-being that comes from wholesome action.
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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 14, 2009 6:19 am

There is some discussion of sharing merit here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1068

The Theravada position is not that the merit gets "given away", it is that we give the opportunity for others (devas, deceased relatives in the hungry ghost realm, etc...) to rejoice in our meritorious deeds.

See the other thread for more details and Sutta references.

Metta
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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby gavesako » Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:07 am

During the recent political trouble in Thailand, some of the parties have performed "Buddhist" ceremonies directed at an (imagined) protective deity of Siam, asking him to "smite their opponents with terrible misfortune" so that they cannot exert their power anymore (i.e. Thaksin and his people). This may sound like voodoo or perhaps transfer of demerit...

:spy:
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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby cooran » Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:29 am

As has been stated here and in the other thread, Merit is not 'transferred' - it is shared.

Merit and Spiritual Growth ~ Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#merit

metta
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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:45 am

gavesako wrote:During the recent political trouble in Thailand, some of the parties have performed "Buddhist" ceremonies directed at an (imagined) protective deity of Siam, asking him to "smite their opponents with terrible misfortune" so that they cannot exert their power anymore (i.e. Thaksin and his people). This may sound like voodoo or perhaps transfer of demerit...

:spy:


Or it sounds like what theists sometimes do. The War Prayer by Mark Twain is worth a read:


http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:49 am

Hello,

The followers of Mahadeva, founder of Caitika school of Buddhism, originated the theory of gifts (deyyadhamma), which stated that the merits gained by the donation can be transferred to anyone. Later this theory evolved in the Mahayana theory of 'transfer of merit' (parinamana).

In Mahayana, Bodhisattva is seen as one who transfers his merits to other believers, and takes their bad karma on himself. This is exemplified by Tibetan breathing meditation practice, whereas with every outbreath one imagines that he is sharing merits with others, and imagines that with every inbreath takes in others' demerits.

The 'parinamana' theory infiltrated into the Theravadin rituals , especially in Sri lanka.

See: http://books.google.com.ua/books?id=PO0lZ-TFssMC

Metta, Dmytro

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jun 14, 2009 9:15 am

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Bankei » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:24 am

Thank you for all or your replies.

Sharing of merit sounds better than transferring of merit.

But if merit can be shared, then surely demerit can be too?

What do you think?

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:27 am

Greetings Bankei,

An example of sharing demerits would be beating someone up, and then going to your mates to brag about it and get enthusiastic about the fact you'd hurt someone. You've created unwholesome mindstates for yourself and you're prompting and encouraging them in others.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:25 am

Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone. :)
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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:34 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Smile and the world smiles with you... :)


I'll smile to that bhante... thanks for sharing merit!

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:12 am

cry and you cry alone.


Excerpt for those who want to drag you down into the same who they are in. Misery Loves Company.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Will » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:47 pm

Dmytro wrote:Hello,

The followers of Mahadeva, founder of Caitika school of Buddhism, originated the theory of gifts (deyyadhamma), which stated that the merits gained by the donation can be transferred to anyone. Later this theory evolved in the Mahayana theory of 'transfer of merit' (parinamana).

In Mahayana, Bodhisattva is seen as one who transfers his merits to other believers, and takes their bad karma on himself. This is exemplified by Tibetan breathing meditation practice, whereas with every outbreath one imagines that he is sharing merits with others, and imagines that with every inbreath takes in others' demerits.

The 'parinamana' theory infiltrated into the Theravadin rituals , especially in Sri lanka.

See: http://books.google.com.ua/books?id=PO0lZ-TFssMC

Metta, Dmytro


A little clarification on the Tong-len (giving & taking) practice of the Tibetans. They make clear that there is no actual absorption of evil or transference of good to others. This practice is only for uplifting our mind and making it more selfless. When one is very far advanced on the Path, then an actual healing or blessing from a distance, is possible.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta

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Re: Transfer of Merit - why not demerit

Postby Shonin » Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:14 pm

It seems to me that others have the potential to inherit the consequences of my good and bad actions at all times - which is why I act with care. I'm not talking about mysterious ceremonies, but the natural laws of cause and effect.


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