Why and How Merit Circulates

Here is a short extract from an email received recently.

When I was a smallish boy I would speed on my bike to a 06:30 Sunday mass that was in Latin (which I liked) and devoid of a sermon (which I liked even more). It was a small chapel in which nuns were always in silent prayer 24 hours a day. Somehow I thought that was good, holding the world together in ways I couldn’t understand. Perhaps you do something similar.

In my reply to the above I picked up on merit, the circulation of spiritual merit, which is what I understand silent prayer to be about.

Dear Friend,

Put in simple language, the way I understand merit is ‘good’ generates ‘good’ and the moving of good is through intention. Further, the circulation of good comes about because there is no separate abiding individual self. Since nothing is separate in the fundamental sense, and with Mind infinite, intentional prayer helps the world at a level of functioning which isn’t easily understood by reason. How merit works is mysterious. Anyway however unknowable spiritual merit may be that doesn’t stop merit washing over and through the world. To the benefit of all, like it or not.

I love that the nuns were seen to be in prayer 24 hours a day. In rotation I’d hope! In the days when that was possible it gave people, you as a young boy, a glimpse of the religious life and of course threw up the spiritual question, Why and what are they doing? Even though the religious life is now less on the streets and in the churches, to be seen and wondered at, I feel there is still an intuitive appreciation of its value. Maybe this is because the impulse towards altruism is, must be, built into our makeup. Living an intentional life, with the intention to be the best person one can be, to be kind, generous etc. does help people and not simply on the level of a smile or a wave or cash transferred to a good cause.
With Bows, Mugo
(the original text has been extensively edited)

Earliest Evidence of a Buddhist Shrine at Lumbini

Well this is all interesting news…..photos of monks sitting in the midst of the dig are moving.

“This is the earliest evidence of a Buddhist shrine anywhere in the world.

“It sheds light on a very long debate, which has led to differences in teachings and traditions of Buddhism.

“The narrative of Lumbini’s establishment as a pilgrimage site under Ashokan patronage must be modified since it is clear that the site had already undergone embellishment for centuries.”

The dig also detected signs of ancient tree roots in the wooden building’s central void – suggesting it was a tree shrine.

Tradition records that Queen Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha while grasping the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden.

From BBC Website ‘Earliest shrine’ uncovered at Buddha’s birthplace.

First Steps With Fear

Here is Leo Babauta a well-respected seasoned blogger talking about what he does when he has run out of ideas for a blog post. Something that happens to me rather regularly.

Fear stops us from figuring out the best course of action….start by calming down, and don’t run around like a chicken without a head. I like to relax myself with a small meditation — just watch my breath, then my body, then the sounds and light around me. I can do this wherever I am. By being present, I realize that everything is OK, that this moment is perfect, that my life isn’t about to come crumbling down.

From When You Run Out of Ideas – Zen Habits

When lost for an idea for a post Leo consults his ‘ideas list! Something I’ve periodically kept but not reliably. In the quoted article there are a number of ideas on ways to stimulate ideas for posts. The following is his last way to find ideas.

I look inside. Again, I’ll sit still, and turn my gaze inward, and try to see things about myself that I hadn’t noticed before, or haven’t noticed in some time. I’ll reflect on things I’ve learned, things I’ve been doing, new practices that have been useful. This is the most useful technique of them all, by the way, because often the answer has been inside me all along, but there’s so much going on inside us that we forget to notice.

This advice is about finding ideas to write about and I’ll take up some of them, especially the ideas list. Your contributions to that list, via email, would be appreciated.

I’m returning to that first sentence, Fear stops us from figuring out the best course of action….start by calming down.  But fear excites doesn’t it. Or numbs.

Remoteness – Morecambe Bay?

Morecame BayThe other day I sat with a companion on a bench, this scene stretching out before us. Hardly a remote spot yet in a certain kind of way it is. The sense of remoteness, that’s distanced in time and space, is relative. Relative to what one has become accustomed to through habit or forced by circumstances. I’ve known the utter remoteness of being in the Australian Outback, it was empty, yet full at the same time. Morecambe Bay has a similar feel, especially with the tide out as you see it above. Most of us connect with landscape in this expansive way which for me brings calm and deep pleasure. The bench on the edge of the wide sweep of the Bay was the perfect spot to sit and contemplate out loud the wide sweep of our current lives and the living of them.

Convalescence for example brings a sense of remoteness from the cut and thrust of daily living. It’s a circumstance forced upon one and like it or not resting indoors is required. Being confined to bed and chair can have the walls leaning in and the outside world recede, which is much as one might expect. Obviously getting better doesn’t happen over night and time can hang heavy.  For some people however unanticipated benefits open up when sequestered thus. Such times in one’s life, for longer or shorter periods, need not be a matter of straining to get back to normal and for some normal may never come again. Unfortunately. What could be the benefit of enforced remoteness, of having to stay indoors?

I was talking to a chap recently who is recovering from foot surgery. He has spent time while he mended in a garden hut just a few steps away from his home and family. Being in the hut, He said  I could have been half way up a mountain it felt that remote. One might wonder at this, I did. Returning to Morecambe Bay for a moment could not the  sense of remoteness found in landscape be more about bringing ones inner world back into focus. Bringing with it calm and deep pleasure. A call to contemplate and retreat to perhaps a vastly expanded inner world too? With the thought about the impact of landscape upon us could the remoteness of confinement similarly bring ones inner world back into sharp focus and deepen it? I’d like to think so. In the sense of being drawn within I’d like to think we can be ‘remote’ where ever we are,

For those who feel themselves trapped, restricted, confined and not free to move. The movement within is a worthwhile journey, ‘though not easy.

Call to Care


It feels good to have plants around and to benefit from what they give. I expect there’s scientific knowledge regarding why this is so. I know already it’s beneficial to health to have plants around one’s work space, which invariably includes electronic equipment. But I’m thinking the benefit I derive is from the opportunity the plants give me, to give to them. To give them care and attention. Living things do not flourish and eventually die if they are not looked after properly. We are guardians to that which surrounds us are we not?

From Caring – An Expression of Gratitude
I love this Cyclamen. Each day a flower head emerge just a little bit more out of the green forest of leaves. Brilliant colour too. I’ve linked to the post I wrote for Field of Merit this afternoon. Hope it means something to you. I firmly believe in looking after stuff around me which is really a way of showing ones appreciation and gratitude. Doing the best one can in this regard does not mean attempting perfection.