Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 12/02/2012

Merit Matters – Equanimity and Urgency

PunnaI listened to a Dhamma talk yesterday by a bhikkhu that I had never heard of before and was struck by something he said-actually it was the theme of his talk as whole which was why most beings end up in lower realms after their present life in the human or deva realms. In essence, the venerable stated that being born into the sugati (blissful) realms which include the human realms on up through the brahma realms  takes a lot of merit and as we live out our lives we burn through this merit like crazy. Now, because samsara has no discernible beginning it’s not as if we use up all of our merit but when the vast share of it that condition our apearance in the sugati realms is used up we often have a lot of bad kammic seeds just waiting to ripen. And, unsurprisingly, when things are going well many of us don’t bother with making a lot of merit or other good kamma–it’s only when the chips are down that many of us begin to try to act more skillfully. And, that is, in a nutshell why it is so easy to fall from a birth as a deva directly into hell.

Now, if your a secular Buddhist or not even Buddhist at all everything I just said my be a hard pill to swallow but it is pretty much the traditional understanding of kamma. In fact, without serious hermeneutic contortions it is hard to see how one could practice the 8FP or understand the 4NT although there are many out there who do it (I am not capable of such intellectual gymnastics personally). But, be that as it may: this bhikkhu at once brought me to a clearer understanding of what samvega and pasaddha might mean (see here for a great discussion on the subject by one of my favorite teachers:

In other words, I can’t justify my complacency in thinking that since I was born into the human realm this time and had the great fortune to meet with the Dhamma I can pretty much coast on ahead without worrying too much (and, yes, I really have thought this way often in the past). But, I can simultaneously let go of my obsessive worrying about the future by accepting the fact that most of the things thatbefall me are a result of my kamma. Only through accepting with upekkha what is happening now can I hope to understand it  and no longer be captive to circumstance. For the umpteenth time the Dhamma has saved my life and I am inspired to make a resolve to make more merit through dana, sila and samadhi than I felt necessary before.

May we not squander the blessings of our lives and may we strive to realize the truth in this very life!

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  1. Thank you for the pingback – lots to read on your blog 🙂

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A hub for the music, culture, knowledge, and practice of Irish stick-fighting, past and present.