Charming acts (Merit 8)

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: “Monks, don’t be afraid of acts of merit. This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming β€” i.e., acts of merit. I am cognizant that, having long performed meritorious deeds, I long experienced desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming results….The thought occurred to me: ‘Of what action of mine is this the fruit, of what action the result, that I now have such great power & might?’ Then the thought occurred to me: ‘This is the fruit of my three [types of] action, the result of three types of action, that I now have such great power & might: i.e., generosity, self-control, & restraint.'”

Train in acts of merit
that bring long-lasting bliss β€”
develop generosity,
a life in tune,
a mind of good-will.
Developing these
three things
that bring about bliss,
the wise reappear
in a world of bliss
unalloyed.

β€” Iti 22, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The line that most strikes a chord with me is “don’t be afraid of acts of merit”. If we believe that wholesome actions, by us or others, produce real and desirable results, then what holds us back from setting wholesome action as a daily goal? Too busy? If we’re doing things all day long, how much more time does it take to reflect on the results of our actions along the way?

Why do we avoid reflecting on whether our actions and words reflect “generosity, a life in tune, and a mind of good-will”? Perhaps there’s a mental laziness, or perhaps we judge ourselves too harshly and get tangled up in our own analysis. Or maybe we haven’t really experienced bliss as a result of our efforts; it’s easy to miss because it can feel more like floating than like intense excitement.

Interestingly, the Buddha identifies his acts of merit as the source of his power (in various roles throughout lifetimes). Consider the Dalai Lama (or Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela) — where do you suppose his considerable power comes from?

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