Acts that gain you merit or पुण्य.
Earlier I wrote about Karma Yoga and doing work such that it becomes a way to enlightenment. Part of this are acts conducted to spread the word about a spiritual path. These acts could inspire others to take a look at this path and also support a person walking this path.
Recently I was looking to watch a movie and looking through various channels for a few movies landed up on a movie of the life of Zen master Dogen in 1200, Japan. A little bit unsure of how this would be, I ended up watching it. What a lovely movie it was. So far I was clueless about any actual sect or historic movement of Zen in Japan, but this movie gave me a good entrance into it. It also added to many of my own experiences of spiritual processes and understanding of spiritual infrastructure.
Finding this beautiful movie out of the blue, brought to mind something I heard often at my time at a Buddhist retreat in Australia. ‘Acts of merit’.
Donations to such causes or to any other activity that helps support and promote the Buddha Dharma are considered acts of great merit for Buddhists. This is seen across most (if not all) religious and spiritual paths. Whatever help and support on my spiritual path this Zen movie has given, the makers and people involved in bringing this movie to me would also greatly benefit.
If one looks at this ideology with scepticism then it comes across as a good marketing initiative. It is not ‘Donate to us’ but rather ‘Gain merit by donating to us’. Smart, isn’t it? And this is something that I have seen at other spiritual paths too. They are asking for money from us, but it is suggested that it is our good fortune to be able to donate to them. Sometimes it feels like a very high handed way of doing things.
Do you see what I am saying? Not only are you existing on my money but you want me to feel grateful that I can fund your work.
It is really amazing.
But in the genuine paths, if you spend some time with these people you will realise that at the same time they also embody deep qualities of selflessness, dedication, meditativeness and more. So most of us urban creatures are left moved and a bit perturbed. And the urbans who don’t spend time with these people to observe the spiritual depth in them leave thinking it is all a sham.
What is this about?
And monks (and nuns) of almost all paths live such simple and minimalistic lives. Often even threadbare. That to see them showing high ground while receiving aid is just contradictory.
But, one has to look at it deeply. And be serious and active in your spiritual quest to understand the nuance.
Acts of Merit in Buddhism and पुण्य in Hindu culture – How Does This Help?
These acts and donations do indeed do great service to supporting and inspiring people to follow the spiritual path. And since spiritual enlightenment is considered the highest attainment and of greatest benefit to the world – acts that help someone towards it are considered of great merit.
Anyway the money / time / energy we have will be used somewhere. Then instead of using them to increase the materialism and inane in the world, we are spending it on deeper pursuits. The one, true solution to everything. An inner solution, where people are striving to rid all conflict from within themselves.
When looking at merit we are looking at Karmic aspect of things. And in karma generally the intention is given greater weight age than the final impact. And so the idea always is to inculcate a bhaav (intention/state) in the person to aid someone else’s spiritual growth and to help create a spiritual infrastructure in the world. This will help a lot in creating a pleasant and productive inner situation. It would create greater unity and a caring culture within the Sangha or community.
The acts itself would have a positive impact too. Assuming they are done in a sensible manner (ideally directed by the spiritual leaders or someone wise). It would help create a stronger spiritual infrastructure in which the person himself/herself could find support. And it would help strengthen people walking the spiritual path, thus creating a more spiritually inclined society.
And apart from these completely quantifiable and reason-able points, there is also the fact that over births there is due repayment as suggested in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. (Don’t know of other paths).
There are ample stories which highlight the abundant fruits of good deeds over the births. Especially good deeds to Buddhas or seekers on their path – usually once the seeker reaches enlightenment, he / she has to clear their pending karmic dues before leaving and inevitably any small help provided over the many births to the seeker is fulfilled.
Bhaav and Not Impact
Here is the key – since Karma is more related to the bhaav (inner intention or disposition) hence it is not like an external system that you can just fool. You may pour in lots of money into good merits because you want the good results of it in your life, as promised by the scriptures. And this kind of thinking is often seen in people who follow But this is not the right bhaav. The right bhaav is when you truly wish to support another spiritual seeker. Or are humble enough to just offer something to your spiritual path.
Though even in the case where lots of money is poured in with a selfish motive of getting the promised karmic returns – it is still a lesser good deed. Because you could pour the money into pockets of thugs or evil people of society to get the rewards. But you didn’t, you instead invested in something that you (and others) consider higher and purer. That by itself has some merit.
And so on.
The point being that karmic value for the Bhaav is higher than the actual Act.
— Sadhguru (@SadhguruJV) June 16, 2017
This is why at times stories glorify some people who have committed atrocious acts. Like Angulimala – he was a dacoit chopping of people’s fingers. But he gained enlightenment in only a moment with Buddha.
Gratitude As A Seeker
And as a seeker myself, I acknowledge the people that put out these supports in various paths around the world. Which I may at some point of time come to and receive.
This movie was one such step. And I feel grateful to the people who put it out there, and so someone like me chanced upon it. Otherwise there is never any dearth of the mainstream entertainment movies out there. But someone took the step to put out a movie on a Zen master. And they made it so well, that it actually brought forth very genuine spiritual insight and message.
So, as an urban minded person I am usually sceptical of religious and spiritual messages put out there. After all spirituality isn’t something to speak or write or make a movie on. It is an internal clarity and focus. But over time as I live a spiritually aligned life, I see the value of these supports.
this blog, started out as a tool for me on my spiritual path – it helps me deepen my thoughts and refine my clarity on matters, but over time my internal situation has evolved. It is now also an offering to other seekers out there, that you may benefit or gain some insight on your path.