Ngöwa: Dedication

When one has done the first six limbs of the seven-part practice, one has already accumulated some merit. In addition, there are also merits or good karma one has accumulated through other actions such as charity, meditation or even just making others smile. One has accrued a lot of good deeds and these must be secured in the mindstream. In order to make a positive and lasting imprint on one’s mind, one must carry out a dedication of these merits or good deeds.

If one does not dedicate the merits, Buddhist texts state that a moment of anger or regret can fully erase them. It is like a monetary saving, which can be lost to thieves or robbers if not secured properly through methods such as fixed deposit or investment. Thus, any meritorious deed must be promptly secured through dedication. Besides, dedication also helps the merits to grow perennially, just as financial savings grow with interest.

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Who should one dedicate the merits to?

Buddhist masters state that one should dedicate the merits to all sentient beings in general but one may also have a particular person such as a parent or deceased person as the primary beneficiary. Even when one dedicates the merit to a specific person, it is important to include all sentient beings and dedicate the merit for their happiness in order to have greater impact. If the dedication is done properly, it is believed that the merit of a good deed can be transferred to another person. Thus, the intended beneficiary such as the deceased person will receive the merit and the resultant benefit from the merit.

 

By doing the dedication, one allocates the merits to the recipient and gives up the sole ownership of the merits. In this way, the merit cannot be used up or destroyed by a sudden anger or remorse because it does not just belong to oneself. Dedication is also practice of giving and in doing the dedication, the practitioner becomes used to giving or charity, which will eventually lead the practitioner to enlightenment and happiness.

What should one dedicate the merit to?

One’s good deeds may be dedicated to a special cause such as alleviating hunger or elongating the life. If one earnestly prays for one’s merits to give rise to such results, it is believed that through power of the mind, the merits will lead to such results. However, the most overarching and effective mode of dedication is to wish the intended beneficiary and all other sentient beings to reach enlightenment – the ultimate state of happiness – and also obtain happiness in the interim period while they are in the worldly existence, as a result of one’s merit. If the merits are dedicated to the enlightenment of all sentient beings, the merits are said to remain unexhausted until the sentient beings have reached enlightenment.

How does one dedicate one’s merit?

In Mahāyāna Buddhist practice, it is important to selflessly give away one’s merits without any attachment. Many people mistakenly view merits as precious spiritual assets, which should not be shared and forget that the more one shares the merits the more they grow. One must do the dedication of merits with a sense of uninhibited generosity. It is also crucial that the merit is not dedicated to just an inferior or small causes such as getting rich or living long. The best mode of dedication is to dedicate one’s merit, however little, to the cause of reaching perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. A person must think “I dedicate the merits from this deed and all other merits I and others have accumulated in the past, accumulate in the present and shall accumulate in the future to the sentient beings so that they reach the perfect enlightenment, the state of ultimate happiness, and also attain happiness in the interim period of their worldly existence.”

If one does not know how to dedicate, there are many standard verses which can be used to make a dedication. One can also think that one is dedicating the merits in the same manner Buddha Śākyamuni or Mañjuśrī dedicated their merits for the sake of the sentient beings. In the ultimate form of dedication, one also needs to understand the illusory nature of things that one does not exist, the beneficiary does not exist and the merits also don’t exist. All are in an illusory state of emptiness. By having such awareness of the illusory nature of things, one will be able to overcome attachment and fixation on the merit.

Dedication is the final limb of the seven-part practice and is a fundamental concluding procedure in Mahāyāna Buddhist practice. All positive deeds must conclude with prayers of dedication so that the merits are secured and enhanced for perpetuity. It is an exceptional practice of giving.

 

Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, founder of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called Why We Do What We Do.

 

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By doing the dedication, one allocates the merits to the recipient and gives up the sole ownership of the merits. In this way, the merit cannot be used up or destroyed by a sudden anger or remorse because it does not just belong to oneself.

This piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called "Why we do what we do".

Collection Bhutan Cultural Library
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Karma Phuntsho
Editor Bradley Aaron
Year published 2015
Original year published 2014
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