V 1-23 Discussion of the Differences between Benevolent deeds and Meritorious deeds again 再谈善事和功德的区别
Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比，怎么写，都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.
Today I will discuss with you about ‘merit-virtues’. We are constantly talking about merit-virtues, but what is it? Why are benevolent deeds and meritorious deeds different? Why can meritorious deeds help eliminate karmic obstacles, whereas your benevolent deeds can’t? Why is doing the same thing sometimes considered meritorious while sometimes it’s considered benevolent?
When you have realised your Buddha-nature, what you do becomes meritorious. In other words, when you perform a benevolent deed, and it stems from your sincerity, and you manifested the Buddha-nature while performing it, then it becomes meritorious. You were able to realise your Buddha-nature of doing the deed. In other words, when performing a benevolent deed, and you can sense that this is something that Bodhisattvas do, then you can ascertain that this feeling stems from the Buddha-nature, then it means you have realised it. If you acted like a Buddha for one hour in the human realm, then everything you did in this period is considered meritorious. If you acted like a Bodhisattva for half an hour in the human realm saving and spiritually awaken others, then everything you did in this period is considered meritorious. For example, today you talked about the Dharma. At that time, you felt like you were the same as Bodhisattvas trying to save others. You felt pity towards them; you genuinely wanted to save them. So everything you and did is meritorious. On the contrary, if you harboured selfish motives in doing so for example, if they were your friends and relative, even if you put a lot of work into it, it’s just considered a benevolent deed, not a meritorious one.
From the perspective of one’s inherent nature, it’s about realising your Buddha-nature plus also how one then applies it. When performing any deed in the human realm, when one does something that resonates with the Bodhisattvas, then it’s meritorious. Please take note, when one can realise their own Buddha-nature and apply it in the real world, that’s merit.
What are the virtues? Being equitable is a virtue. One must possess an equitable mind for one to emanate an aura of great compassion and great mercy. If you don’t have an equitable mind, how could you do so? If Guan Yin Bodhisattva was not equitable, how could she come down to this world of endurance to spiritually awaken every sentient being? It’s because Guan Yin Bodhisattva possesses a merciful and compassionate mind, and she possesses the virtue of equality, that’s why she came down to save sentient beings. That’s why the virtues in ‘merit-virtues’ are important.
Viewing one’s nature is the merit; equality is the virtue. If you can witness your inherent nature, that’s merit. When one possesses an equitable mind, your virtues will become prominent. Our mind must be humble, if the deeds performed are based on our humility, that’s also considered meritorious. Your external form must show etiquette. What we pay most attention about in someone’s outward appearance and behaviour are their politeness and etiquette. If one can maintain proper courtesy and etiquette, then that’s a virtue. All of these principles to become an upright human were taught by the Bodhisattvas. Internally we must be humble, while externally we must appear courteous. As a cultivator, you must pay attention to what you say, don’t give others an opportunity to look down on you.
You must understand equality; equality depends on one’s understanding. If one can understand where equality should be founded upon, then one has already realised their Buddha-nature and has comprehended the principle. You must use a cultivational method to gain comprehension of one’s Buddha-nature. In truth, when one seeks worldly blessings, they don’t gain merit-virtues. You must be clear about this point; people who seek worldly blessings will obtain worldly blessings. Many people don’t seek for merit-virtues, only for worldly blessings. For example in Guan Yin Hall, many people pray for blessings on their children, on their health, on their wealth luck etc. These are all classified as worldly blessings, not merit-virtues. Worldly blessings and karmic obstacles work at the same time. For example, your body has karmic obstacles, and you perform a lot of benevolent deeds. You pray for worldly blessings, wishing you have a child. When you have given birth to a child, then this is your worldly blessing, yet your negative karma has not reduced by the slightest. You can’t say that you did a lot of good deeds and this has eliminated your karmic obstacles. That’s impossible.
True meritorious deeds only come after awakenment. Only when one utilises their Buddha-nature to perform their deeds would it be considered meritorious, it must be after when one has awakened. In other words, it happens only when one has awakened to the principles. If you haven’t awakened, and you said that you used your Buddha-nature to perform every deed, then these are empty words. For example, today, Master has helped an old lady pray to the Bodhisattvas to extend her lifespan. If Master hasn’t awakened, when Master helped the old lady pray to the Bodhisattvas because she treated Master well or helped Master before etc., at this moment when Master prays for her, it’s not considered meritorious. It’s because, in the depths of Master’s soul, it lacks the greatly merciful and greatly compassionate spirit of Guan Yin Bodhisattva to help her. Master only felt pity towards her since she was old, and thus decided to help pray for her. That can only be considered as a benevolent deed, not a meritorious one. Also, the effectiveness of the prayer won’t be as great.
In this case, although verbally, Master has said Master had used his Buddha-nature to help the old person pray to the Bodhisattvas to extend their lifespan, Master’s inherent nature was devoid of Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s compassion and mercy in his action. Do you know how Master prays? When Master prays to the Bodhisattvas to extend an old lady’s lifespan, it’s because she is cultivating their mind and practising Buddhism. She is so old and who only just awakened and started cultivating her mind. Hence I would pray to Guan Yin Bodhisattva to give her inherent nature and Buddha-nature a bit more time, let her live a bit longer so that she could realise more wisdom, realise her Buddha-nature and make more people believe in Guan Yin Bodhisattva. If the prayer was performed this way, the Buddha-nature within the inherent nature is manifested. You must discard all distracting thoughts and not be tainted by any selfish motives. You must arouse the Buddha-nature within the depths of your mind, then every deed that you perform will be considered as meritorious. A person must self-realise, they must possess both merits and virtues of the Buddha-nature then their deeds will be meritorious.
‘Every thought is unobstructed’ – Every intention and thought of anything that arises from your mind are basically unobstructed, and you can fully control yourself with your mind. When you have no mental obstructions, then you can constantly be in tune with your inherent nature. When your thoughts no longer consist of any distracting thought, you’ll be able to gain access to the sub-divisions of the inherent nature. Just accessing one’s inherent nature is not enough, you must also apply the Buddha-nature. For example, a person knows that they are performing deeds that Bodhisattvas would do, but simply safeguarding their image, their verbal conduct and their thoughts are not enough. It’s because they haven’t applied their Buddha-nature. They didn’t teach others about the Buddhist scriptures, the wisdom of Buddha, nor Buddha’s code of conduct. If you don’t apply Bodhisattva’s wisdom into your everyday life, then you are not behaving like a Bodhisattva, so the deeds you perform do not gain merit-virtues.