In the Milindapanha the King Milinda conveys the idea that if the recipient is not mindful of a gift of merit being presented, the giver gets no advantage thereby. Naagasena quotes a few examples to prove that is wrong. The disagreement is that the act of transfer is an act of selflessness and the feedback of the action on oneself has a cleansing effect, as well as on the individual to whom the act is aimed at. Naagasena tells Milinda, “If a person transfers merit, that merit develops and grows more and more, during the act of transferring it, and the merit of that performance he is able to
distribute it to whomsoever he will.”
The Buddha first visited Sri Lanka on Duruthu Poya Day, arriving at Mahiyangana, Mahanaga Garden in 528 BC and in the ninth month of Buddha hood. On this day the Yaksa Clan spread in the island congregated there for a meeting. The Yaksas were converted to Dhamma and the Buddha was also successful in getting Maniakkhika of Kelaniya, the head of Naga clan to Mahiyangana, who listened to his preaching. It was one of the earliest recorded social conflict resolution strategies in the world. Buddha suggests that in a society oppressed by differences and conflicts, a person called Mahasammata elected from among them should uphold and preserve peace through laws of righteousness. He should adhere to standards of authority, transparency and answerability. In Maha Sudassana and the Chakkavatti Sihanada Suttas Buddha elaborates this when he discussed the Dhasaraja Dhamma.
‘Acts of merit’ bring Joy and contentment to the doer in this world and in the next.
“ As a stream must flow and reach and fill the far-away main,
what is given here will reach and consecrate the spirits.
Water poured on mountain top would soon tumble down and fill the plain
like what is given here will get to and bless the feelings there.”
- Nidhikanda Sutta
Punna in Pali is a concept in Buddhism/Hinduism. As a result of good deeds Merit is accumulated and carries over through the life and the subsequent births. There are a number of ways in which merit can be gained. The Sutra suggests ten different ways in which it can occur. According to The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutta of Mahayana fame one can “transfer” one-seventh of the merit of an act to a loved one who is no more, to lessen the deceased’s misery in their new lives. Mahyna or a Theravada Concept?
Some Western scholars of Buddhism, believed that the transfer of merit was a Mahayana concept developed at a late period and that it was rather discordant with Buddhist perceptions of karma theory. Heinz Bechert, believes the doctrine in its developed form to an era between the 5th and 7th centuries. However, Anthony Barber differs in his views, notes, merit transfer was an integral part of Buddhism practiced from Buddhas times in India. Buddhism teaches that the accumulated merit can be transferred, can be shared with others; it is reversible and the persons who receive can be either living or dead.
The mode of transfer is quite simple; the doer has merely to wish that the merit he/she has gained accumulate to somebody in particular, or to ‘all beings’, a wish purely mental or expressed by words. All actions, according to the Buddha, what really matters is thought. Transference is mainly an act of the mind. Tirokuddha Sutta – Khuddakapatha says, there is no use in weeping, lamenting, feeling sorry and bewailing; such approaches are of no consequence to the departed ones. Some simply waste on meaningless rituals and performances in remembrance of departed ones. They do not realize that it is not possible to help the dead simply by constructing graveyards, tombs, Monuments and other paraphernalia; instead doing some meritorious acts like building orphanages , schools, temples, libraries, hospitals, or distributing religious books and other numerous related charitable deeds.
In the Milindapanha the King Milinda conveys the idea that if the recipient is not mindful of a gift of merit being presented, the giver gets no advantage thereby. Naagasena quotes a few examples to prove that is wrong. The disagreement is that the act of transfer is an act of selflessness and the feedback of the action on oneself has a cleansing effect, as well as on the individual to whom the act is aimed at. Naagasena tells Milinda, “If a person transfer merit, that merit develops and grows more and more, during the act of transferring it, and the merit of that performance he is able to distribute it to whomsoever he will.”
In the Theravada tradition rebirth is an immediate happening after a person’s death, so transfer of merit as performed, cannot rationally be of any advantage to the deceased person. He would have to shoulder the weight for the kamma that is owing to him. The transfer of merit for a deceased will though benefit the giver as it should make a sense of loving kindness in that person.
Whatever the arguments may say, in transferring merit to dead, the most popularly practiced ritual is by inviting Maha Sangha to the residence of the deceased on the seventh day and on completion of third month followed by on an yearly basis on the death anniversary, along with large gathering of relatives, friends and neighbors. A large majority use huge quantities of carcasses of innocent animals brutally slaughtered for food in preparation of dishes for the Bikkhus and lay devotees to satisfy their palatal greed.
How do they know, or what makes them so sure that the carcass of the seer fish that they bought encouraging the slaughterer to kill more next day and make those sumptuous deep fried slices does not belonged to their loved one who died a few years ago and reborn an aquatic animal? They now enjoy the flesh along with the high priest of the very temple the deceased was a Dhayake and a host of friends and relatives joining them.
Alms and Flesh Eating
There is a long passage in “Lakavatara sutta”, prohibiting consumption of flesh, killed or dead. In fact Buddha predicted in the Sutta that later monks will “hold spurious writing to be authentic Dhamma, and will concoct their own suttas and claim that Buddha allowed eating carcasses of dead animals.” A passage shows Buddha speaks out very forcefully against eating meat, that it is undesirable and karmically unwholesome, and is unequivocally in favour of vegetarianism.
In Dhammapada, Danda Wagga verse 129 says,
“Sabbe bayanti maccu no —Na hanneiya- na ghayate”, ‘Na Ghayate’ means NO CAUSE TO KILL.
Jivaka Sutta says, Meat should not be partaken under three situations: when it is seen or heard or suspected that animal has been slaughtered for the eater; when it is not seen or heard or suspected, in which meat can be eaten.
The meat prepared for eaters do not belong to “Thricotika parisuddha” category: it is a myth created through erroneous interpretations by those who are greedy for flesh: if you eat you contribute to the crime; its killed for you! A completely vegetarian diet is a natural and logical outcome of the moral precept against killing. If at least half the Buddhist population stopped eating meat, we could avoid the sacrifice of millions of animal lives every day.
In a country with a 70% Buddhist population , it is regrettable to learn that only an insignificant number of monks or laymen practise vegetarianism.
Let me conclude with an anecdote, which goes as, the fisher folk in the village invited the Village Headman and his wife for a meal at his residence. Presenting two dishes of fish of two different varieties to the virtuous man and mentioning the name of the variety, he said, “Sir, this one I caught especially for you”, and vice versa.
The Headman, avaricious though realize the folly. If he eats, it becomes obvious that it is not ‘thricotica parisudda’ and as such the noble man he, would be committing a sin.
Witty man rejoined, “I say, you serve this to my wife, and let me have the one which you killed especially for her.”