Today’s advice from the heart:
Dedicate your virtues throughout the day and the night, and always watch your mind.
In Buddhist tradition, any merit one gains by one’s actions in the world is supposed to be dedicated to others. The most auspicious dedication being to dedicate any merit to or for the benefit of all sentient beings. Nothing more or less specific, the idea being that it goes where it is needed. The reminder to dedicate merit is worthwhile, since it’s rather easy to forget about doing (kind of like any other ritualized practice, I suppose).
The notion of acculuation of merit is not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, so I suppose I’m pretty far behind on dedicating it to others. I think part of me isn’t real sure I gain any merit and, therefore, doesn’t think too much on having a store or it to send to others. Then again, I do spend some time each day and again each evening doing what is, I suppose, a much more humble version of this process.
I have always believed that the things we think and say about others has the ability to do and be more than our speaking or thinking. I suppose that might sound odd to you, but here, it makes sense because we know that all issuance has the potential to create change in the world (i.e., analogy: a pebble dropped in the ocean makes ripples and those ripples, eventually, reach the shore).
The biggest part of my practice is simply learning how to avoid generating negativity in the world. It’s a damned hard task, actually, because I am a stubborn, impetuous, and utterly extroverted thing. I don’t have enough ego to think that’s ‘good’ or even ‘helpful’, so most times, I try to content myself with having managed to avoid ugliness or hurtfulness in relation to others. And, when I am feeling especially good, tender, loving, whatever, I undertake a small ritual of my own, which serves in the place of dedicating merit.
I have a long running list of people I’ve known in my life. I remember where in this world they are, who their spouses or significant others are, who their children are… and at night, before I sleep and each day, when I wake, I make of that list a litany and mantra and I send a thought of love and care and hope for good things and happiness to each of them.
What I say varies, but it is usually along the lines of, “I wish for you happiness. I wish for you love and closeness and care. I wish all good things find you, no sadness bind you, and that you and those you care for are always safe, secure, and savoring life.”
When I can manage it, I conduct the same ritual for those I parted poorly from and those whose names still bring anger or tears. Oddly, it becomes easier to do this with time. I think about the probability that, were they not unhappy, fearful, or angry, chances are that our knowing one another might have been more enjoyable for both of us. To the extent this could be true, I want to think they become happier so everyone else they meet can enjoy them in a way I was not able to experience.
Which leads to the second half of this piece of advice from the heart — watching your mind. It becomes more apparent to me that when I spend more time doing things like the above, I haven’t the time to let myself tumble off the path of gentleness and kindness. It makes me a better person, slowly, I suppose, but it beats no progress, eh?
The mind is a slippery and habit-laden thing. It is an effort in every moment for me to keep it bridled and pointed in the direction I wish it to look and orient itself. I am constantly surprised how much work it takes to break down old habits and instill new ones. Of course, the helpful and good part to it is that I am noticing the fact that it does, actually, work.
Tonight, I have been thinking of the folks on that second list. I let myself grieve them and miss them and wish it could have been different and, when I’ve purged all of that and can bring a calm mind to things, I give them my hopes and wishes for pleasant, happy, loving environments; that they be surrounded by people who care for them and treat them well, that they are delighted in work and home life, that hard times cannot find them and happy times are constant companions. I guess you could say I wish for them all the things I wish I had been able to give and be for them when I knew them.
It is now both the least and the most I can do. It seems to me that finally being able to manage it is not really something to be proud of, but perhaps it is something to be thankful I can do.
My hope is that, with time, I can be good to those I meet in ways that will matter. Practice definitely is in order and while I may not follow official tradition in how I try to dedicate things, I do think it is still helpful both for generating good things for others as well as helping me in the ongoing effort to watch my own mind.
This piece of advice from the heart, to me, expresses the need to think, speak, and wish well for others and to utilize that process to also keep your mind on things that really matter and have potential to make a difference in the world.