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Transfer of Merits

A farmer invited Zen Master Wuxiang to release the soul of his deceased wife from suffering by chanting sutras. After the Buddhist service, he asked: “Master, do you think my wife can benefit from this Buddhist service?”

Zen Master Wuxiang replied honestly, “Of course! Buddha Dharma, like sunshine that covers every corner of the world, ferries all the miserable people to the world of bliss. The merits do not just go to your wife but all sentient beings.”

However, the farmer was not satisfied. He said: “But my wife is very vulnerable. Other sentient beings might take advantage of it and snatch away all merits she deserves. Can you just chant sutras only for her instead of for all others?”

Zen Master Wuxiang sighed deeply for the selfishness of the farmer, but still he tried to enlighten him, “Dedicating merits to other people is a wise approach to the practice of Buddhism. It benefits all sentient beings. The three types of dedication of merits include the dedication from phenomena to inner truth, the dedication from cultivation of causes to the fruition of Buddha hood and the dedication from smaller to greater vehicles. The dedication of merits is just like a ray of light that illuminates all sentient beings instead of only one being and it is also like the sun in the sky that shines down on everything. It resembles a seed, from which thousands of fruits grow out. It also resembles a candle in your heart, with which you can light up thousands of candles so that the world can become a much more luminous place. Yet no damage can be done to any light given out from a single candle. If such a mentality can be shared by everyone in the world, each one of us can benefit a lot from the dedication of merits from others. That is why in Buddhism, we treat all sentient beings in the world equally.”

Stubbornly, the farmer argued, “This is a good doctrine. But, Master, can you please make an exception for me? My neighbor, Mr. Zhao, is always bullying me. It would be great if you can exclude him from ‘all sentient beings’.”

Zen Master Wuxiang said with a severe tone, “How can you exclude someone from everyone?”

The farmer looked vacuous.

Here, the farmer perfectly illustrates the selfishness, calculation and insularity in human nature. It doesn’t matter whether other people are suffering or not as long as you gain your own happiness and benefits, does it? But how can you enjoy all the happiness and benefits while others are suffering in hell? Everything can be viewed from a worldly perspective as well as a supremely wise perspective. From the former perspective, there is difference while from the latter perspective there is only equality. So a ray of light can light up the whole room. It is impossible for it to illuminate merely one object without light up others.

A man who understands this is capable of possessing all. Abandoning one thing is abandoning everything. If you abandon everything, there is nothing left in your life.

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