The Three Merit in Buddhism

The Three Merit in Buddhism


Wishing to build a celestial mansion in heaven,
the best construction materials are generosity, morality, and meditation

(Pittaya Wong)


The Lord Buddha taught Buddhists to make merits frequently as it leads to happiness either materially, heavenly, and celestially.  When one makes merit, whether one is a Buddhist or not, one earns accumulable merit energy.  The merit energy, then, can enable many good happenings to one’s life such as success, good fortune, prosperity, wealth, good health, and longevity.  

When we make merit, the Law of Karma, which works like a software that operate realms of sentient beings, would calculate our mental, verbal, and physical deeds in order to incorporate the ‘karmic program’ altogether with ‘merit energy’ earning.  The karmic program and merit energy are promptly transmitted to be installed within ourselves, and it is the merit energy that energizes the program to enable karmic consequence in a timely manner, and this is the same to sin energy from our misdeeds.  Thus, the Lord Buddha taught his disciples to do good deeds, abstain from misdeeds, and purify their mind.

To compare the Threefold Training to the Three Merit in Buddhism, the Threefold Training which comprises of (1) Moral Discipline or Sila (2) Mental Concentration or Samadhi, and (3) Wisdom or Panna, mainly aims at ‘cultivation’ of merit towards the enlightenment, and the Threefold Training can be sub-categorized further into the Noble Eightfold Path.

In contrast, the Three Merit in Buddhism comprises of (1) Generosity or Dhana (2) Moral Discipline or Sila, and (3) Meditation or Bhavana, with an aim to ‘accumulate’ merit, so that one can enjoy, according to the Karma, meritorious consequence as well as enlightenment as the utmost fruition.  The Three Merit, although seems very close to the Threefold Training, can be sub-categorized into the Ten Ways to Earn Merit which comprises of:

A.  Generosity or Dhana

(i) Generosity

(ii) Merit Dedication

(iii) Merit Appreciation

B.  Moral Discipline or Sila

(iv) Observing Moral Discipline

(v) Practice Humbleness

(vi) Being Helpful

C.  Meditation Practice or Bhavana

(vii) Practicing Meditation

(viii) Learning the Dhamma

(iv) Teaching the Dhamma

(x) Having Correct View

As such, our Dhammonomic approach can express the relevance of various contributing factors toward the Three Merit in Buddhism with equations as follows:

Equation of Generosity (Dhana)

Merit Energy Earning =

[(Purity + Quantity + Quality) Given Object] x

[(Purity of Giver)] x

[(Purity + Number) Receiver] x

[(Purity + Determination)Intention of Giver]

This Equation of Dhana reflects the Buddhist teaching that it is not the quantity and quality of the given alone that yields much merit, but there are many other factors such as the purity of giver/receiver/the given, the determination, the pure intention, and the number of the given/receiver.

Equation of Moral Discipline (Sila)

Merit Energy Earned =

[(Thought + Speech + Action) x Moral Discipline]

This equation shows that one can earn merit from morally disciplining one’s thought, speech, and action by refraining from thinking, speaking, and acting unwholesomely.

Equation of Meditation Practice (Bhavana)

Merit Energy Earned = [(The Meditative Noble Eightfold Path) x Mind]

= [Meditative (Right Speech + Right Action + Right Livelihood + Right Effort + Right Mindfulness + Right Mental Unification + Right View + Right Intention)] x Mind

The equation of Bhavana expresses the correlation of all factors in the Noble Eightfold Path which yield merit from meditation when our ‘Mind’ becomes ‘Noble’ by achieving the meditative state of the eight paths or Magga.  Hence, the more Noble our mind becomes, the more merit we earn.

By Pittaya Wong

10 August 2018