From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:
In Buddhism there is much ado about merit. Yet it is very simple to understand. There are meritorious acts and non virtuous acts. If there is no knowledge of Dharma these two may seem the same. But in Buddhism there are rules of conduct. These are given as guides to happiness and good spiritual result.
Say one upholds proper conduct; kindness, stable mind, study, teaching, generosity, respect, meditation etc. That one is accumulating merit. Say another one steals, speaks harshly, harms others, is unkind, a criminal, selfish; this is degenerating merit.
Merit is necessary to approach the path honorably; and to continue, make progress. Merit is also necessary to keep living. It is said when the storehouse of one’s merit in this life is depleted then death occurs. Merit is also about habitual tendencies. If one is a criminal with criminal habits, or a murderer with the habit of killing or harming, this person is said to have a large storehouse of non-virtue, and will live a life that displays it.
So a mainstay of Dharma is the gathering of merit and the avoidance of non virtue. This way the habit of wholesome virtue is installed, and the habit of non-virtue is naturally dissipated. Imagine a legal scale; one pile of non-virtue and one pile of merit. As one adds to the merit, the non-virtue by comparison becomes smaller. Enough merit gathered, and non-virtue falls off the radar. In Buddhism we dedicate that merit of the three times, past present and future to the liberation from suffering of all beings; and for oneself as well. So one becomes like a wealthy person with a treasure trove of merit. Like gold it can be exchanged for benefit. If no merit is gathered the spiritual bank is empty. That results in spiritual poverty, and there is no good result. One may wish to be accomplished but the essential ingredient is missing.
By gathering merit one can be healthy, prosperous, smart, beautiful and wholesome. But the motivation is very important. Gathering merit for selfish reasons is almost useless. The merit is mixed like poison with tea. If one were to rob a bank and in so doing must be kind, generous and loving to the banker to “get in” and steal; this is strictly non-virtue due to bad intention. If one is a monk yet stops to minister to a dying woman, even a prostitute, and the intention is pure, then this is meritorious. Therefore we must always gather merit. Eventually the darkest non-virtue, even the gross obscurations can be purified! But not by acting better starting now. That is shallow and insincere. One must become self-honest and persevere in a deep, energetic and profound way to fill the great storehouse of merit. This is not for sissies! Sissies want it easy-pleasy. Saying words that are pleasing in order to be loved and admired. It will never happen, because to be truly loved and blessed, well, you have to have the merit for it. Put this teaching in your pocket; learn and accomplish Dharma to be truly happy!
Thank you very kindly for reading this small effort at teaching. May it touch your heart and bring you joy!
© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo