Topic 8: Merit-Making

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In the Buddha’s Words, pp. 143-179 (“The Way to a Fortunate Rebirth”).


kamma (karma): volitional action, conduct, “practice”

result (vipāka), fruit (phala), old kamma: future effects, good or bad, personally experienced.

  • You are heir to your deeds (you make the (inner) world you live in)

  • Types of result: happiness , (un)favorable realm or circumstances of rebirth, qualities of character, (rarely) (un)favorable events

  • Not all experiences, circumstances result from kamma

  • One-to-one matching of kamma-result unlikely

bright kamma: wholesome, skillfull (kusala) righteous (dhammic) action

dark kamma: unwholesome, unskillfull (akusala) unrighteos (undhammic) action

  • body: 1. killing/violence, 2. theft, 3. sex with inappropriate person

  • speech: 1. false, malicious, harsh, idle

  • mind: 1. coveting, 2. ill-will, 3. distorted view (no generosity, renunciation, karmic results, rebirth, obligation to parents, awakening)

neither bright nor dark kamma: kamma to end kamma, to reach nibbāna (nirvana)

merit (puñña): accumulation of good results (bright kamma) through skillful action

bases of merit: generosity (dāna), virtue (sīla), meditation (bhāvaṇa)

  • Highlighted: gift to Buddha, to Sangha (field of merit), of Dhamma; with pure intentions

  • virtue: gift of freedom from fear, hostility and oppression

  • meditation for purifying intentions, esp. kindness (mettā), Brahmāvihāras

streams of merit:

  • Refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha (object of devotion, source of wisdom)

  • Five Precepts: Not to kill, steal, misuse sexuality, lie, intoxicate self

Uposatha Days (each quarter moon), imitate an arahant

  • Five Precepts, but not misusing sexuality → celibacy

  • no eating after noon; no entertainment, no self-adornment; no high beds

Buddhasasana, Sasana, Buddhism in social, historical dimensions

What holds Sasana together:

  • Refuges: Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha (esp. noble ones)

sources of wisdom, example, instruction, admirable friendship

  • Institutional Sangha, monastic order

  • Generosity to Sangha provides opportunity for individual aspirations

  • Sangha spins off “noble ones,” sustains teachings, influences others


Qualities of Meritorious and Demeritorious Deedspdf_24x18

Unskillful (Demeritorious)

Skillfull (Meritorious)


Greed, Hatred, Delusion

Renunciation, Kindness, Wisdom

Affective Quality


Gladden the Heart

View of Reality



Result in World*

Generally harmful

Generally beneficial

Result for Actor

Degrades character

Builds character

* Actions of Body and Speech (rather than mind).

Field of Merit.

Qualities of the recipient help determine degree of merit.

Fertile fields of merit: Noble Ones, Monastic Sangha, Buddha, Sasana.

Also: The truly needy, artists, musicians, those who do charitable work.


Choice of parameters: gift to a monk or gift to the entire Sangha? Gift to a homeless person or gift to the poor.

Gift of the Dhamma surpasses all other gifts. But recipient can also be a fertile or infertile field.


“Sex, Sin and Buddhism,” Bhikkhu Cintita. On line at:















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