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Thread: Overflowing Merit

  1. #1
    I was looking at sutta AN 5.45 recently and wondering what "overflowing merit" is exactly. When people talk about ways of gaining merit, I tend to think it sounds like trying to collect "Brownie points," rather than being spontaneous goodness flowing from the heart.

    Anyway, I'd be interested in reading your comments about the sutta (Bhikkhu Sujato translation):



    Overflowing Merit


    “Mendicants, there are these five kinds of overflowing merit, overflowing goodness. They nurture happiness and are conducive to heaven, ripening in happiness and leading to heaven. They lead to what is likable, desirable, agreeable, to welfare and happiness.

    What five? When a mendicant enters and remains in a limitless immersion of heart while using a robe …

    alms-food … lodging … bed and chair …

    medicines and supplies for the sick, the overflowing of merit for the donor is limitless … These are the five kinds of overflowing merit, overflowing goodness. They nurture happiness, and are conducive to heaven, ripening in happiness, and leading to heaven. They lead to what is likable, desirable, agreeable, to welfare and happiness.

    When a noble disciple has these five kinds of overflowing merit and goodness, it’s not easy to grasp how much merit they have by saying that this is the extent of their overflowing merit … that leads to happiness. It’s simply reckoned as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of merit.

    It’s like trying to grasp how much water is in the ocean. It’s not easy to say: ‘This is how many gallons, how many hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of gallons there are.’ It’s simply reckoned as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of water. In the same way, when a noble disciple has these five kinds of overflowing merit and goodness, it’s not easy to grasp how much merit they have: ‘This is how much this overflowing merit … leads to happiness.’ It’s simply reckoned as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of merit.

    Hosts of people use the rivers,
    and though the rivers are many,
    all reach the great deep, the boundless ocean,
    the cruel sea that’s home to precious gems.

    So too, when a person gives food, drink, and clothes;
    and they’re a giver of beds, seats, and mats—
    the streams of merit reach that astute person,
    as the rivers bring their waters to the sea.”


    https://suttacentral.net/an5.45/en/sujato




  2. #2
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    The best way of dealing with merit is to give it away, "May any merit gained by my acting thus go to the alleviation of the suffering of others." This used to be the best part of a puja, but got me puzzled looks when I told people this, who thought that gaining merit was what it was all about. Nothing wrong with gaining merit, but better to be a conduit to let it flow to others.

  3. #3
    But who or what decides it's important and actually gives merit to someone in the first place? Should we even expect a reward of "merit" for our positive thoughts and actions? Plus how does one know its accumulating or "overflowing"?

    In the past I used to accept what I was told about these things, but now I find it quite puzzling....

  4. #4
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    I find the idea of merit to be rather strange and probably one of those untranslatable ideas. I think it has been misunderstood from a Western Christian point of view where St Peter weighs up good and bad deeds before opening the pearly gates. My strategy is to put it in the 'not applicable' file and ignore it, apart from the wonderfully anarchistic element of giving away what we are supposed to be accruing in the puja.

  5. #5
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    I think of merit as beneficial intentional actions, which results are also beneficial. My analogy of mind is playing a game skillfully ,and, as a result, winning the game.

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