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What Do You Mean Give My Merit Away?

Dear Interdependence Project Teachers,

I don’t know where I picked up this crazy idea to dedicate the merit of my practice to something or someone.  Well, that’s a bit of a lie; it was definitely from one or all of the teachers at IDP.  I started saying it after my meditation some unknown time ago, but I don’t know when, or why, or how, and I blame you for it.  Picking up this habit is like picking up the nervous tick of someone sitting beside you on the train.

But the reason I write to you today, and the reason why I choose to express myself in this rather inglorious tone, is that the teachers at IDP not only gave me this horrific habit, but they explained the purpose behind it in such a way as to make me understand it!

I do not remember if it was Robert or Crystal who said, “We’ve built up merit during our practice; now we can dedicate it.”  Ah ha!  So that is where the merit comes from:  from practicing.  It is not inherent in the idea; it is like capital acquired during practice.  Like resource gathering in real time strategy games!  I have money in my pocket now that I’ve listened or read or meditated, and I can dedicate it all to something or someone or even…dare I say…ME!

This morning after my meditation practice, I was faced with this moment of dedication for the first time since last night.  I thought to myself:  “Why should I give my merit away?  Sometimes I have pretty hard days.  Sometimes my life is rough.  I don’t have life completely figured out right now.  I do not have the correct number of friends, my bank account does not have enough money, my job may not be the right one, I don’t exercise enough, I have a tough time keeping my mouth shut, and…let’s just say that I need that merit so that I can make my life better.  I cannot nor will not give it away!  It is MINE!”

Alas, the resolution to my dilemma came to me not two seconds later.  I have another post-meditation practice:  I state a daily aspiration.  Sometimes it is simple—to finish the work I have to do; sometimes it is complex—to find another job; sometimes silly—to go crazy crazy garoooo-taloo; sometimes tender—to love everyone I have a hard time loving. 

Today my daily aspiration is inspired by the very confusion that you caused.  Today’s aspiration is:  To live my day in a such way that it allows me to feel safe and able to give away the merit of my practice.

So, there you have it IDP teachers.  There you have it you secular Buddhists you.  I’ll give my merit away, but only when I don’t need it, and I won’t need it if I don’t live my life in such a way as to need it.  Just so you know, today I did dedicate the merit of my practice to everyone else, and now I have attend to my aspiration or I’ll be in real trouble!

But how do I do that?!!  And don’t tell me it is by practicing!!!  That is what built up the merit confusion in the first place!  You know, I never would have gotten into this dilemma if you hadn’t so consistently jabbered rubbish in such a non-sensical (yet utterly true) way!

Sincerely,

Robert

PS.  If you say that the noble eight fold path contains the instructions for living today as I aspired, I will scream.  I will.  Don’t test me.

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