How to practice the dedication of merit

When we dedicate our meditation to others, says Lama Palden Drolma, we make our practice more open and beneficial. Illustrations by Carole Hénaff.

Illustration of a woman meditating, "For this merit, may all beings be awakened."
Many forms of Buddhist practice conclude by dedicating the benefit of our practice to alleviating the suffering of sentient beings and helping them to awaken.

The English word “merit” is defined as being or doing something worthwhile and creating value. It is said that when we meditate or engage in other forms of spiritual practice, such as yoga, singing, prayer, or singing, we are accumulating merit. Dedicating this value, this health, to all sentient beings expands our meditation beyond ourselves.

I had been studying and meditating in various traditions for a few years when, at the age of twenty-five, I met my elementary school teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, a Tibetan Vajrayana teacher. When he taught me to dedicate merit at the end of a session, I immediately noticed a big change in my meditation. I felt that my whole practice opened up and became easier. It was no longer just me. Dedicating merit to others freed my practice to include all beings, and this relieved the feeling of tension and contraction in my meditation. It was a relief.

Our radical imagination is that all beings are free, at peace, and awake.

When we include humans, animals, and all sentient beings, perhaps even alien life forms, in our practice, our mind connects with billions of beings. This expands our consciousness to untied immensity. From our normal, limited perspective, we experience ourselves and others as separate. Actually, this is not the case, because we are interdependent. When we dedicate the merit of our meditation to all beings, we are aligned with the truth of what it is, and our self-concept expands, though we do not immediately notice it.

By dedicating our meditation to alleviating the suffering of all beings, we dedicate ourselves to an act of radical imagination. Our radical imagination is that all beings are free, at peace, and awake. Imagining this stretches our mind and creates the possibility of it really happening, because if we can’t imagine something, it’s almost impossible to update it.

In this radical imagination, our vision includes everyone equally in our love. This develops our generosity, loving kindness and commitment to the equality of beings. This kind of charity does not realize the destructive actions of anyone. Rather, it looks at the possibility of unleashing and transforming the ignorance that drives people’s destructive actions.

Illustration of a woman meditating after lunch

Dedicating the merit of our spiritual meditation or practice is closely related to establishing an intention at the beginning of our practice. This cultivates what is said bodhichita, the mind awakens. So we go into meditation with the intention of benefiting all sentient beings. After that, we dedicate ourselves to the practice and, when we finish, we do our dedication.

Just as dedication enhances and enhances our spiritual practice, it can enhance all of our actions in daily life. The merit accumulated by any action, even if it is just washing the dishes or walking to work, can be dedicated to the benefit of all beings. This means that we can make a dedication at the end of a spiritual practice, or at the end of our day, after a meal, or at the end of any activity.

There are many different forms of dedication. You can also create a dedication in your own words. Some of the most common are:

Through this goodness awakening can spontaneously arise in our currents of being. Let all darkness and distortion disappear. May all beings be freed from the suffering and stormy waves of birth, sickness, old age, and death.

With this merit everyone can attain omniscience. Let him defeat the enemy, badly done. From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death, from the ocean of samsara, that liberates all beings.

Illustration of a woman meditating in the galaxy

Sometimes a dedication is made simply to the great final extension, or so-called dharmadhatu in Sanskrit. Tulku Urgyen, one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of the twentieth century, described dharmadhatu as “the space within which all phenomena manifest, remain, and dissolve again.” An example of this dedication is:

For the benefit of beings without exception, I dedicate without any reluctance all the merit accumulated by virtuous acts, to the incomparable extension of the whole.

When we conclude our practice — or any other positive activity — by dedicating the merit we have developed to others, we grow in our understanding of the non-dual nature of reality and our ability to benefit from it as a whole. Paradoxically, by dedicating the merit of our meditation to the benefit of all beings, we gain more benefits for ourselves, helping us to get closer to the reality of what it is.

#practice #dedication #merit

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