Author Topic: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?  (Read 24956 times)

dsiluvu

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What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« on: July 15, 2012, 10:12:11 AM »
As Buddhist we often hear this word MERIT and KARMA but do we really understand this? And how do we know we have collected Karma or Merits???

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On merit then sets out in general terms the types of meritorious activities that conduce to that happiness, focusing primarily on three: giving, virtue, and meditation. The next three sections focus on the ways in which each of these activities can be pursued so as to produce the most happiness. For instance, the section on giving discusses how the happiness of generosity can be maximized by wisely choosing the proper motivation for giving a gift, a proper gift, and a proper recipient for one's gift. The section of virtue shows how to learn from one's past mistakes without succumbing to debilitating feelings of guilt. The section on meditation discusses not only how the development of good will — the meditative practice most often cited in conjunction with merit — can lead to happiness both now and in the present, but also how it can help minimize the bad results of one's past unwise actions.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/merit.html

Hence from what I gather above it is all dependent on the right kind of motivation. If one's motivation is to benefit all sentient beings/others then one collects merit. If the motivation on one self, for the liberation of one self or if it is tainted with the 8 worldly concern... then it becomes Karma.


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Karma Deals with the Results of Acting Constructively or Destructively

First of all, karma is talking about what is the result of acting constructively, and what is the result of acting destructively. It is talking about behavioral cause and effect. We do use expressions like “laws of physics.” These are physical things: there is no justice involved with objects following the laws of physics. Even among the Chinese, where laws are just part of the universe, the idea of justice is still there. Here in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, however, we are talking about a system that makes sense, but is not based on justice or fairness. It is just what is.


From the above explanation and also explanation from my teacher... karma is an action done -ve or +ve but is driven by the thought of benefitting oneself. Eg. If I feel nice today and want to treat my friend for a meal because I want my friend to appreciate my friendship and to look "good" hence it is karma.

If I think I want to treat my friend to appreciate her and to bring happiness to her and with this act of giving may I be able to treat more people, others and give unconditionally whether or not anyone knows and not expecting anything in return not even praise... this then becomes "merit".

Also merit can be transferred and can be brought forward to the next life... but karma is cause and effect, once you have experience your good/bad karma, it is then finished and you will experience another set of karmas... cause and effect. And karma can run out but merit don't. Any thought?
What do you guys think?



vajratruth

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2012, 11:43:18 AM »
Thank you dsiluvu. You covered most of the points about Karma and Merits.

Generally speaking, Karma is finite whilst the results of Merits doesn't diminish. To be clear, both Karma and Merits can multiply  but Karma stops once it has ripened. Merits on the other hand, has no "used by date" and does not exhaust.

If I generate positive Karma from virtuous acts that I do in this life, it might help me take better rebirth in the next but it will not be able to get me out of the clutches of Samsara.(Note that this is a gross generalization because a lot of other factors come into play to determine the conditions of our rebirth). Therefore once the better rebirth takes place, that Karma is finished. On the other hand, if I generate Merits, it will continue to serve me even after I have taken rebirth and will keep doing so until I attain enlightenment. The difference between the two is the potency it wields and its efficacy in getting me out of Samsara which is the ultimate aim of practice.

I may have the good Karma to meet a good teacher but if I do not have the Merits, I may not be able to comprehend the teachings and gain the knowledge to take me out of cyclic existence. Therefore the idea is to generate Merits instead of Karma.

In order to generate Merits we need to (i) cultivate the highest motivation of benefitting all sentient beings and (ii) and in the Vajrayana tradition, focus on the Guru as the object of our motivation and action. And if I see my Guru as the Buddha himself, then the accumulation of Merits is enhanced. Therefore the fastest way to accumulate Merits in to serve our Guru well and take his tasks to fruition.

More on Karma Vs Merits:

http://www.dorjeshugden.com/forum/index.php?topic=1374.15

diamond girl

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2012, 06:47:28 PM »
From the sharing here, I deduce that karma, both positive and negative, are not desirable because it keeps us in samsara. I used to think that we should pursue the accumulation of positive karma because that would act like insurance for our future lives. However, after reading your thread and reading up about teachings on karma and merits, I realize that we should dedicate our precious human life to collecting merits. In fact, merit is our fuel that will empower us towards realizations, attainments and enlightenment.
 
Meritorious actions, i.e. actions of body, speech and mind are motivated by the intention to benefit others. Merits have the power to cut out our illusions and delusions so that we create a more conducive condition to learn and practice Dharma for mind transformation and eventual liberation. On the contrary, actions that are based on selfish intention only create karma.
 
One may ask: How does merit lead the path to enlightenment? Merits cut away our illusion which is the ingredient that gives us the false belief that our samsaric pursuits will satisfy us and make us happy. For example, we have the illusion that having money, status and companionship will make us complete and happy. So we spend all our energy and time to pursue these things only to find out at the end that we are still not happy nor even remotely contented. In our unhappiness, we dwell deeper into our illusion that maybe my next job or relationship will make me happy. With time, we get pulled into a vicious downward spiraling journey that feeds and enhances our delusion.
 
When our illusions are cut off from our minds, we find ourselves in a state of mind that is focused and able to learn the Dharma well to attack our 3 poisons. Therefore, if we are really in pursuit of liberation, we will urgently work to accumulate a lot of merits to protect our minds from harmful illusions.
 
Btw, it is said that Lord Buddha exhausted all His karma when He obtained Enlightenment.

dsiluvu

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2012, 08:20:46 PM »
Another point is that I have heard that even if you have set the right motivation but forget to do the dedications after you have done the positive actions... and along the way you say... get upset/angry over something/someone...then the good merits that you have accumulated is all burned up? Is this TRUE??? Has anyone heard of this before?

If this is so then each time I have finished doing the "good" deed... I should remember to always always dedicate it. But what's a simple correct way of dedicating it ... especially if I am someone pretty infant in Buddhism. Are there specific prayers we should say or can we just think; this one's is for all sentient beings... is that good enough?

Aurore

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2012, 10:38:41 AM »
Another point is that I have heard that even if you have set the right motivation but forget to do the dedications after you have done the positive actions... and along the way you say... get upset/angry over something/someone...then the good merits that you have accumulated is all burned up? Is this TRUE??? Has anyone heard of this before?

If this is so then each time I have finished doing the "good" deed... I should remember to always always dedicate it. But what's a simple correct way of dedicating it ... especially if I am someone pretty infant in Buddhism. Are there specific prayers we should say or can we just think; this one's is for all sentient beings... is that good enough?

There are specific prayers you can recite to dedicate your good deeds. In fact, I found this on this website itself under prayers section.

Recite this and think strongly of who you want to dedicate to. If there's no one in particular dedicate to all sentient beings is also good. You can think strongly may this merits help to transform their minds. May this merits help them meet the dharma.

Dedication of Merits
DI-TAR GYI-PAE NAM-KAR GE-WA-YANG
Any white virtues I have created like this,
DUE-SUM DE-SHEk SrAE-CHAE TAM-CHAE-KYI
Of all the Sugatas of the three times and their Sons
DZAE-PA MOEN-LAM MA-LUE DrUP-PA-DANG
To accomplish every deed and prayer,
LUNG-TOk DAM-CHOE DZIN-PAE GYU-RU NGO.
And to hold the scriptural and insight Teachings, I dedicate as causes.
DE-YI TU-LAE TSE-RAP KUEN-TU DAK
By the power of this, may I in all my lives
TEK-CHOK KOR-LO ZHI-DANG MI-DrAEL-ZHING
Not separate from the Four Wheels of the Mahayana,
NGE-JUNG JANG-SEM YANG-DAK TA-WA-DANG
And the Paths of Renunciation, Bodhicitta, Right View.
RIM-NYI LAM-GYI DrOE-PA TAR-CHIN-SHOK!
And the Two Stages, may I travel to the End!
Verses of Auspiciousness
SrI-ZHI NAM-KAR JI-NYE GE-TSAEN-GYI,
By the excellence of all the white Virtue in Samsara and Nirvana,
DENG-DIR MI-SHI GUE-PA KUEN-DrAEL-TE,
Henceforth may all be free of ill-omen and decline,
NAE-KAP TAR-TUK GE-LEk NAM-KAE DZOE
And enjoying the celestial treasure of temporal and ultimate
PUEN-TSOk PAEL-LA ROEL-PAE TrA-SHI SHOK!
Good fortune, perfect and glorious, may all be auspicious!
KUEN-KYEN LO-ZANG DrAk-PAE CHOE-KYI DER,
In the monasteries of omniscient Tsongkhapa,
LAP-SUM NAM-DAK TSE-CHIK DrUP-LA TSOEN,
Striving one-pointedly to accomplish the Three pure Trainings,
NAEL-JOR RAP-JUNG TSOk-KYI YONG-GANG-WAE
May hosts of yogins and clergy throng, so that
TUP-TAEN YUEN-DU NAE-PAE TrA-SHI SHOK!
The Sage’s Teachings stay long – may all be auspicious!
ZHOEN-NUE DUE-NAE LA-MA LHA-CHOK-LA
Since, from your youth, to the supreme Guru-Yidam
SOEL-WA TAP-PAE LO-ZANG DrAk-PA-YI
You made requests, Je Tsongkhapa, may we
JIN-LAP ZHUk-NAE ZHAEN-DOEN LHUEN-GYI-DrUP,
Walk in your blessing and spontaneously benefit others -
LO-ZANG DOR-JE CHANG-GI TrA-SHI SHOK!
In Losang Dorje Chang, may all be auspicious!
DOE-GUE JOR-PA YAR-GYI TSO-TAR PEL,
As all wished-for endowments increase like a lake in summer,
KYOEN-ME RIk-KYI DAEL-DrO GYUEN-CHAE-ME,
May we find without break the freedom of faultless birth,
NYIN-TSAEN LO-ZANG DAM-PAE CHOE-KYI DA,
And spend day and night with Tsongkhapa’s holy Dharma,
PUEN-TSOk PAEL-LA ROEL-PAE TrA-SHI SHOK!
Enjoying its glorious perfection – may all be auspicious!
DAK-SOk NAM-KYI DENG-NAE JANG-CHUP-BAR,
From now until I and others are Enlightened,
GYI-DANG GYI-GYUR GE-WA CHI-SAk-PA,
(By) whatever merits we have done and will heap up,
ZHING-DIR JE-TSUEN DAM-PAE ZUk-KYI-KU
In this land may the Holy Venerable One’s Form-Body
GYUR-ME DOR-JE TAR-TAEN TrA-SHI SHOK!
Endure like immutable vajra – may all be auspicious!



In regards to merits burned up, I heard before from a reliable and trusted source hence I don't doubt it. However, I don't know how it will work since the correct method for dedicating merits were only practiced in Buddhism which is by generating motivation and doing a dedication prayers. Does this mean that every other person who is non-Buddhist whom has done meritorious deeds must dedicate their merits in the correct manner otherwise it doesn't count? How would this explain in the context of such person as Mother Theresa who has done many meritorious deeds? As human, it is possible for her to have anger and negative thoughts.

I think it would be diifcult to dedicate the merits collected every single minute as you never know when you will get angry. To me, the best method is to watch our minds 24/7. Perhaps this concept helps us to be mindful of our thoughts and action at all time.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2015, 04:05:07 PM »
Thank you dsiluvu. You covered most of the points about Karma and Merits.

Generally speaking, Karma is finite whilst the results of Merits doesn't diminish. To be clear, both Karma and Merits can multiply  but Karma stops once it has ripened. Merits on the other hand, has no "used by date" and does not exhaust.

If I generate positive Karma from virtuous acts that I do in this life, it might help me take better rebirth in the next but it will not be able to get me out of the clutches of Samsara.(Note that this is a gross generalization because a lot of other factors come into play to determine the conditions of our rebirth). Therefore once the better rebirth takes place, that Karma is finished. On the other hand, if I generate Merits, it will continue to serve me even after I have taken rebirth and will keep doing so until I attain enlightenment. The difference between the two is the potency it wields and its efficacy in getting me out of Samsara which is the ultimate aim of practice.

I may have the good Karma to meet a good teacher but if I do not have the Merits, I may not be able to comprehend the teachings and gain the knowledge to take me out of cyclic existence. Therefore the idea is to generate Merits instead of Karma.

In order to generate Merits we need to (i) cultivate the highest motivation of benefitting all sentient beings and (ii) and in the Vajrayana tradition, focus on the Guru as the object of our motivation and action. And if I see my Guru as the Buddha himself, then the accumulation of Merits is enhanced. Therefore the fastest way to accumulate Merits in to serve our Guru well and take his tasks to fruition.

More on Karma Vs Merits:

http://www.dorjeshugden.com/forum/index.php?topic=1374.15


Sometimes the words Merits and Karma seem like Buddhist jargon and often just to shut someone up.  The explanation here is very clear and we need to do meritorious acts in benefiting others unconditionally to gain merits and at the same time be mindful not to be ''bad'' in our body speech and mind activities in order not to create the negative cause and effects of karma.

Yes Karma can be exhausted as do all the Buddhas.  In a weird way it is quite nice to know that. 

eyesoftara

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2015, 04:49:10 PM »
The main reason that karma is exhaustible i.e. once the result from the particular actionhas ripened the karma is gone according to the law and effect is that like any act of cause and effect it is done in conjunction with self as the subject. Whether the motivation is good or bad it is still in with the identification of a self as the basis.

Merits on the other hand is an action done in conjunction with benefitting others as the basis. It is done without the agenda of the self for example to look good to others or expectations of praise in return. I am in the opinion however that the dedication done to seal the merits is an act of truly making sure the act is truly for others by the power of the object that is the Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.  That means if an act is purely for others and not on the basis of the self, it is still merits even without dedications.

What do everyone think?

cookie

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2015, 10:53:40 AM »
"" From the sharing here, I deduce that karma, both positive and negative, are not desirable because it keeps us in samsara. I used to think that we should pursue the accumulation of positive karma because that would act like insurance for our future lives. However, after reading your thread and reading up about teachings on karma and merits, I realize that we should dedicate our precious human life to collecting merits. In fact, merit is our fuel that will empower us towards realizations, attainments and enlightenment.""

This sounds right but it also sounds very tough !! Minding our speech, thoughts and actions in order to generate good karma consistently is already very difficult to achieve. It looks like that is insufficient. We have to work towards generating Boddhicitta (for the sake of others) 24/7 consistently till we become Enlightened.
 
 

Midakpa

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2015, 01:37:03 PM »
Merit is good fortune created by virtuous actions, a fundamental concept in Buddhism. The accumulation of merit is considered essential for results in one’s spiritual path. It is based on the idea that one’s actions (karma) create an imprint in the mind stream and if these actions are positive (kindness, generosity, patience, etc) then merit is accumulated.

Karma means "all intentional bodily, verbal, and mental actions that are the cause of rebirth in the higher or lower realms". It is the law of cause and effect which describes the relationship between events in the realm of mind and of matter.

The difference is that karma is a universal law and applies to both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The law of cause and effect applies whether one believes in karma or not. Merit is a concept that is found in Buddhism. Buddhists believe that one needs to collect a lot of merits (and wisdom) in order to advance on the spiritual path. Thus the practitioner is encouraged to do good deeds and dedicate them towards one's future enlightenment.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2015, 03:02:53 PM »
Merit is good fortune created by virtuous actions, a fundamental concept in Buddhism. The accumulation of merit is considered essential for results in one’s spiritual path. It is based on the idea that one’s actions (karma) create an imprint in the mind stream and if these actions are positive (kindness, generosity, patience, etc) then merit is accumulated.

Karma means "all intentional bodily, verbal, and mental actions that are the cause of rebirth in the higher or lower realms". It is the law of cause and effect which describes the relationship between events in the realm of mind and of matter.

The difference is that karma is a universal law and applies to both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The law of cause and effect applies whether one believes in karma or not. Merit is a concept that is found in Buddhism. Buddhists believe that one needs to collect a lot of merits (and wisdom) in order to advance on the spiritual path. Thus the practitioner is encouraged to do good deeds and dedicate them towards one's future enlightenment.

Very clear explanation of Merits and Karma. So if we consciously create merits and have positive imprints, then will it assist in eradicating negative Karma.

Being enlightened as a Buddha, there is no longer Karma in possession, as such karma can be exhausted to the point of equanimity.  Is that a correct conclusion of the difference of merit and karma?

kelly

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2015, 07:34:20 AM »
Thank you everyone very well explain on karma and merits, so I suppose when one has collected enough merits then that person will already achieve enlightenment , because one will have the wisdom to understand emptiness so as a buddhist we need to set our motivation to collect merits means a motivation that free from eight worldly concerns.

Tenzin K

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2015, 02:35:09 PM »
Merit is a concept in Buddhism/Hinduism. It is that which accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts, or thoughts and which carries over throughout the life or the subsequent incarnations. Such merit contributes to a person's growth towards spiritual liberation. Merit can be gained in a number of ways, one of the sutras that reflect this teaching is the Sutra on the Ten Wholesome Ways of Actions which suggest ten ways in which merit-making can occur in the Buddhist context

Karma is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.



Matibhadra

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2015, 03:15:06 AM »
Quote
Karma is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves.

While the word “karma” is indeed popularly often used to mean the “result” of a person's actions, this is incorrect, as the actual term for such result is vipaka, or karmaphala (fruit of action).

Karma is the action, vipaka or karmaphala is its result or fruit.

gbds3jewels

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2015, 08:54:14 AM »
dsiluvu stated that "Hence from what I gather above it is all dependent on the right kind of motivation. If one's motivation is to benefit all sentient beings/others then one collects merit. If the motivation on one self, for the liberation of one self or if it is tainted with the 8 worldly concern... then it becomes Karma."

Since we are beings of samsara govern by one or more of the 8 worldly concerns, to me it almost seems impossible to collect any merits whatever we do. Collecting karma I fully understand and agree. Even if the motivation is slightly tainted, an act of kindness is still an act of kindness, hence good karma. Since pure motivation that is not tainted by any of the 8 worldly concern is not achievable by most, then how is it possible to collect merit.

Andrea Keating

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Re: What is the difference between Merit and Karma?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2015, 06:25:57 AM »
Same action but by having different thoughts in one's mind, one gets different consequence.  Never underestimate the power of the mind!  To me, Karma and Merits are just terms being used to describe phenomena. The key here is the state of mind when the action is committed.  To get us out of the suffering realms, we must get rid of our self-grasping mind.  So focusing on just ourselves when a good action is carried out leads only to a good experience.  Whereas focusing on others with a good act will help us to remove the importance of “I”.  Spiritual attainment is achieved when the “I” is  removed.