Having established that acting from a clear baseline intention to ‘train’ oneself is ‘good’ and that the intention put into action (sitting formally included) has merit and has a positive impact on others, the questions are ‘How does merit work’? Does it make a difference? How do you know it works and how do you do it’? These are questions best answered by entrusting oneself to a process. The process of daily practice, day in and day out. The answers come via anecdotes from people who have experienced receiving merit. I’ve had my own experience of that. Through talking to other trainees about what they understand, and how their practice of transferring merit takes form. Sometimes answers come when least expected. So it is with training generally.
Personally, I don’t deliberately offer merit, although I do ask for the full name of people I hear of who are in extremity and keep a private list of names on my altar. During the day names come in and out of my mind, I regard this as giving a non-deliberate ‘push’ in their direction. Or is there a pull from those in need? I don’t know. They are included in some subtle way.
There has been a great call of recent weeks for people to join with others, on-line, to sit together and many are engaging with this, and benefitting as several people have reported. Similarly, we have posted videos of a couple of our ceremonies on the Throssel website, which people have joined in with, which is great. We normally encourage people, if they can, to sit with a meditation group, priory or the like because doing so has a positive impact on the meditation of all there, as mention before. The merit that is generated through this common activity is greater than the solo efforts of an individual alone. For those who sit with others, for any length of time, this is unmistakable. So, unseen and unacknowledged the merit of the meditation circulates and supports all present. Circulating no less for sitting on-line, together with others.
One of the reasons we recommend, and ask, that people follow the same tradition, Serene Reflection Tradition way of practice/sitting, is that there is a common unified baseline intention to – Just Sit. No add ons like visualizations, repetitions of a koan or mantra, for example. All fine within the tradition they come from, but that’s not our tradition. So, sitting together, reciting a scripture together, in unison expresses the truth of non-separation. We talk about reciting with ‘one voice’. It’s a way to alleviate the very real sense of being separate, individual, isolated, different and fundamentally alone. You could say that a kind of resonance is set up when people practice together in the same space. Much like when a bell is struck next to, but not touching, another bell. The vibration passes, unseen, between the bells and the second bell sounds.
The ‘big cry’ I mentioned early is that yearning of the heart to share in, connect with, be verified by, that deep resonance shared between those with a common purpose. Especially when that common purpose is formed in the deepest possible part of our consciousness. Yes, people are joining together to sing and dance and exercise and practice yoga and check in with family and friends. Yes, and there is a joy and a bond which alleviates the isolation and basic loneliness many will be suffering. The big cry, the calling of the heart, however, is of a different order. Although it may not be that apparent, given how the social aspect of connecting to fellow sitters is a reward in itself. For short I’m calling the resonance effect a ‘Merit Field’ which is unseen, unknowable, with the ordinary everyday mind, but none the less ‘real’. This resonance cannot, in truth be hindered by physical distance, though clearly confirmed and reinforced, currently, via on-line connections.
Thus it is trainees act as spiritual ‘anchors’ as touchstones for one another. As I see it the monastery, priories and individual monks function in this way too. It should be understood however that, while such anchors are encouraging, they are not essential to practice. Which is just as well since even our trusty internet can fail us at any moment. And if it does, then what?
Obviously dear readers I’m preparing my talk here. I find I can think more clearly by typing into the editor on Jademountains. I’m in effect talking to somebody(s) and so doing I can find my voice. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being there.