The Buddha taught that we should aim to “gather merit” in the days that make up our life. Just what does this mean? If we consider the word “merit” as positivity or living within ones positive influence, we can take a look at its value in our practice.
Whatever the circumstance may be, there is a difference between people who gather merit (or positivity) and those who do not. What do I mean by gathering merit? First, it is to be able to cultivate compassion; to have an altruistic motivation and to do things to benefit others. It is to help people in an appropriate way, such as giving advice, and likewise to be generous and disciplined and to develop patience – to develop these kinds of qualities and do things with a pure, sincere wish to help.
Moreover, someone who regards themselves as a Buddhist should “make offerings upward” and “practice generosity downward,” meaning that one should make efforts “upwardly”— to our practice, the buddhas, our teachers; and to our practice – and give “downwardly” in terms of our efforts, understanding and experience gained to all beings.
It is through these kinds of actions, done with a pure motivation, that we gather “merit,” and the result of this is that we will encounter fewer obstacles and hindrances in this life, our aims will be fulfilled, and things will go much more smoothly for all. True merit is much like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.
Peace and Love, Jim