My biweekly post this Thursday at the Interdependence Project’s website is called “What is Merit?” It originally appeared right here at Parijata Press on February 25, 2013. Here’s an excerpt to jog the memory:

One of the stickier concepts from Indo-Tibetan Buddhism that is difficult to translate, both into the English language and in Western culture, is “merit” (Tib. བསོད་ནམས་ bsod nams, Skt. punya). There is also another tricky layer to this notion: the idea that there is an “accumulation” of merit that needs to be “perfected” in order to be able to awaken completely. What does all of this mean?

For starters, and has been acknowledged by many teachers, the words “merit” and “accumulation” themselves can often present challenges to making a beneficial connection with the principles that they point to. “Merit” can conjure an unhelpful sense of “trying to be a good Buddhist,” while “accumulation” feels like it has a bit too much overlap with a materialistic approach, with not enough acknowledgment of contentment.

Let’s start with the “merit” part. Normative English usage may point us to “being good or worthy,” but in Buddhism what we are talking about is a fundamental quality of positivity, benefit, goodness, and wholeness. If all conditioned things are interdependent, then merit is what happens when a process of interdependence is initiated by a positive intention and is supported by that intention throughout its course of development. Merit is positive interdependence.

Click through here to read it over at the IDP blog; you’ll find a host other great posts there too.

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