LIFE IS A CHOICE
Life is a choice. And if it is clear to you at this moment that every second of each day you are breathing, mindfully conscious and awake to all that you are, you will resonate with these words. It is also quite likely that you have experienced many, many different types of circumstances throughout your life, maybe quite a few tantric, ecstatic, sacred and joyful, some traumatic, losses of loved ones, failures, rejections, a major sickness where you suffered greatly and may still be suffering, where you don’t believe that life is a choice and that the almighty forces have forgotten you. (see Essays on Karma).
However, whatever experiences you have had in your life to arrive at the realization that life is a choice deserve congratulations and a big hug that is enduring and everlasting.
Furthermore, having had countless experiences where you have spiraled toward broader, deeper and more vivid, states of awareness, helps you see right now with more clarity and affirmation what is valuable in your life; what is worth focusing on, spending time with, making long term plans for, and working with. We make discoveries about people we are attracted to, feeling closer to them, trusting them, showing our secrets and being vulnerable to their tenderness and mystery. We strive for degrees of higher learning, more prestigious positions in a company, a rich, handsome, sexy partner, higher salaries, support in political office, exposure and recognition in social media and your community. And as you are incredibly valuable to yourself the value you have for yourself hopefully equals the value you have for others, that they have for themselves and for You.
As you choose LIFE each day you invest in a personally owned value bank, where you value yourself with as much of your energy, time, love and devotion to building a future life on a future-now, or Future-Presence. It is possible you are already doing this without knowing it—over and over again with countless activities that perpetuate, nurture, celebrate and colorfully demonstrate you are ALIVE. Maybe it is something as simple as meditating for 30 minutes, or walking instead of taking the subway, or doing 25 sit-ups every morning; maybe it is running 20 km each day, or practicing guitar when you are feeling down, volunteering at a charity twice a week, or fasting for 7 days twice a year, or every Sunday.
One big or very little investment in your personal Dharma value bank means you are Choosing Life Now!
Well, maybe you now know something about Dharma from reading this website, and it is a catalyst for making ‘Life is a Choice’.
Dharma Healing is the value bank. It is the “Life is a Choice” affirmation of where you dive deep into seeking and learning about You, resonate with your rituals of personal wellness, bend and harmonize with challenging lessons; nurture, feed, strengthen, empower and enlighten your own Dharma Bank.
Regarding Dharma Healing you relinquish all that stops, binds, holds back, abuses, and traps you from seeing and building on these very valuable investments.
Regarding Dharma Healing you come to terms with the necessary and unnecessary boundaries, with the necessary and unnecessary resources of your natural existence that you are responsible for. Whereas the more you study, understand and come up to accept and design your center and personal mandala, the more you encounter your own Law and authority and the magic of its creation.
However, this responsibility to You, and living by your Dharma, and all of what your Dharma is, may cause you to suffer from time to time, as the boundaries delude you, seeming much smaller than our law, our authority; they may appear fine but in actuality are dysfunctional, distorted and ego-self-imposed. Maybe your mandala is restricted by time and space, family conditions, relationship issues and the pressures of prescribed limitations, as well as the definitions of what expansion or wealth actually mean to you.
Sometimes it is difficult to see which boundaries are necessary and which are not, which ones are real and allow you to expand in consciousness, expand your true happiness, expand the authenticity of your center; and which ones do not allow you to expand and seem to trap you or reject your heartfelt efforts sending you unloved and hurt into a corner of your mind that longs to belong—not to the outside world of society, friends, colleagues and family—but to your true divine Self.
In truth it is really your lack of seeing these boundaries clearly, and loving your divine Self enough where you are able to act accordingly to protect You and graciously move beyond time, space and society with your Dharma value bank.
In truth it is always the attachments to the samsaric world of our Karmic self that is the delusion we actually hold on to as our identity, attitude, issues or reality, or our title and possessions—our perspective of time and space, which can often cause us to suffer. (Praticcasomupada—the Wheel of Dependent Origination, the Wheel of Samsara)
Meanwhile, as we realize this glowing pearl of wisdom, the difficult experiences destine us to go deeper. In fact with each difficult experience we go through the harder and fiercer the Karmic life history pushes out to consciousness, to challenge those self-imposed boundaries; bursting the wheel of samsara on its axil, bursting apart the self-made legacy that you had no idea was ready to transition or terminate; erupting seed after seed of Karma to conscious discernment for purging and liberation.
Many of us tend to put more value into “life is a choice”, into our law, our authority, our Dharma when we have suffered. Meaning, if you are awake, and mindfully present you have probably had quite a few fumbles or knocks in life; have struggled over time with dozens of self-made boundaries. Thus, You, as I, know what is valuable and do not give in to anything less. This means you know how to walk looking up for inspiration, and know how to walk looking to the earth for solace, with gratitude, patience, humility, love, truth, divine ethics, rhythm, harmony, mindful presence, vibrant effort, unconditional charity, sincere responsibility, innocence, and equanimity. (The 10 Paramitas or 20 Barames, the 10 virtues of being a human being)
And as we elaborate the thought that Life is a Choice, survival—although we may not know it—is a major mission we are responsible for. Of course, unlike our ancestors, including pre-humans, most of us don’t need to hunt or gather our food. We don’t need to have someone guard our homes for wild animals or thieves. Unless of course you are protecting a fortress full of gold, living in a wild jungle, war zone (or America). You may feel that most of your life just carries on without your invitation, without your intervention; that you breathe, sleep, eat, poop, walk, talk, and think completely giving little thought or effort to these simple activities.
Never the less, when our survival encompasses the responsibility of our mind to acknowledge that our thoughts create our reality, every iota, every bit of quantum, every tooth you brush twice a day, every bite of food you chew, and digest, each gulp of water you swallow and minutes spent sitting on the toilet become a phenomenon, when you slow time way, way down.
Unfortunately most of us usually take survival for granted. But that is where we deceive ourselves—now and forever. For this is the heart of the idea and interpretation that life must be and is always a choice. Thus. . .
Taking command of your survival—where you slow time down and speed up your Life force (speed up your metabolism)—charge your Divine Light “up”–is where your Dharma is valued most
“Better to understand for a single day the fleeting nature of things than to live for 100 years without such understanding.” The Buddha, verse 113, The Dhammapada
I often try to fathom the extent of the infinite depth of mind and opportunity we each have within to integrate Right Intentions, Right Actions and Right Thought into our choices. It makes great sense to believe that if we see that our lives are one among many over eons of time, then creating the Right Intentions for the benefit of all living beings, including deceased loved ones, gives us a kind of mighty divine hand in overcoming all Karmic history throughout our whole ancestry, and that which we personally inherit from our family. In addition, simultaneously, the Karmic history of all humanity reaps the benefits of this merit making.
You will find this next Sutta by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera a flowing gesture of loving sacrifice as we focus on transferring our efforts and accomplishments in meditation to our deceased loved ones.
What Buddhists Believe
The Significance of Transference of Merits to the Departed
By Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
If you really want to honor and help your departed ones, then do some meritorious deeds in their name and transfer the merits to them.
According to Buddhism, good deeds or ‘acts of merit’ bring happiness to the doer both in this world and in the hereafter. Acts of merit are also believed to lead towards the final goal of everlasting happiness. The acts of merit can be performed through body, speech or mind. Every good deed produces ‘merit’ which accumulates to the ‘credit’ of the doer. Buddhism also teaches that the acquired merit can be transferred to others’ it can be shared vicariously with others. In other words, the merit is ‘reversible’ and so can be shared with other persons. The persons who receive the merit can be either living or departed ones.
The method for transferring merits is quite simple. First some good deeds are performed. The doer of the good deeds has merely to wish that the merit he has gained accrues to someone in particular, or to ‘all beings’. This wish can be purely mental or it can accompanied by an expression of words.
This wish could be made with the beneficiary being aware of it. When the beneficiary is aware of the act or wish, then a mutual ‘rejoicing in’ merit takes place. Here the beneficiary becomes a participant of the original deed by associating himself with the deed done. If the beneficiary identifies himself with both the deed and the doer, he can sometimes acquire even greater merit than the original doer, either because his elation is greater or because his appreciation of the value of the deed is based on his understanding of Dharma and, hence, more meritorious, Buddhist texts contain several stories of such instances.
The ‘joy of transference of merits’ can also take place with or without the knowledge of the doer of the meritorious act. All that is necessary is for the beneficiary to feel gladness in his heart when he becomes aware of the good deed. If he wishes, he can express his joy by saying ‘sadhu’ which means ‘well done’. What he is doing is creating a kind of mental or verbal applause. In order to share the good deed done by another, what is important is that there must be actual approval of the deed and joy arising in the beneficiary’s heart.
Even if he so desires, the doer of a good deed cannot prevent another’s ‘rejoicing in the merit’ because he has no power over another’s thoughts. According to the Buddha, in all actions, thought is what really matters. Transference is primarily an act of the mind.
To transfer merit does not mean that a person is deprived of the merit had originally acquired by his good deed. On the contrary, the very act of ‘transference’ is a good deed in itself and hence enhances the merit already earned.
Highest Gift to the Departed
The Buddha says that the greatest gift one can confer on one’s dead ancestors is to perform ‘acts of merit’ and to transfer these merits so acquired. He also says that those who give also receive the fruits of their deeds. The Buddha encouraged those who did good deeds such as offering alms to holy men, to transfer the merits which they received to their departed ones. Alms should be given in the name of the departed by recalling to mind such things as, ‘When he was alive, he gave me this wealth; he did this for me; he was my relative, my companion, etc. (Tirokuddha Sutta — Khuddakapatha). There is no use weeping, feeling sorry, lamenting and bewailing; such attitudes are of no consequence to the departed ones.
Transferring merits to the departed is based on the popular belief that on a person’s death, his ‘merits’ and ‘demerits’ are weighed against one another and his destiny determined, his actions determined whether he is to be reborn in a sphere of happiness or a realm of woe. The belief is that the departed one might have gone to the world of the departed spirits. The beings in these lower forms of existence cannot generate fresh merits, and have to live on with the merits which are earned from this world.
Those who did not harm others and who performed many good deeds during their life time, will certainly have the chance to be reborn in a happy place. Such persons do not required the help of living relatives. However, those who have no chance to be reborn in a happy abode are always waiting to receive merits from their living relatives to offset their deficiency and to enable them to be born in a happy abode.
Those who are reborn in an unfortunate spirit form could be released from their suffering condition through the transferring of merits to them by friends and relatives who do some meritorious deeds.
This injunction of the Buddha to transfer merits to departed ones is the counterpart of the Hindu custom which has come down through the ages. Various ceremonies are performed so that the spirits of dead ancestors might live in peace. This custom has been a tremendous influence on the social life of certain Buddhist countries. The dead are always remembered when any good deed is done, and more on occasions connected with their lives, such as their birth or death anniversaries. On such occasions, there is a ritual which is generally practised. The transferor pours water from a jug or other similar vessel into a receptacle, while repeating a Pali formula which is translated as follows:
As river, when full must flow
and reach and fill the distant main,
So indeed what is given here will
reach and bless the spirits there.
As water poured on mountain top must
soon descend and fill the plain
So indeed what is given here will reach
and bless the spirits there.
(Nidhikanda Sutta in Khuddakapatha)
The origin and the significance of transference of merit is open to scholarly debate. Although this ancient custom still exists today in many Buddhists countries, very few Buddhists who follow this ancient custom have understood the meaning of transference of merits and the proper way to do that.
Some people are simply wasting time and money on meaningless ceremonies and performances in memory of departed ones. These people do not realize that it is impossible to help the departed ones simply by building big graveyards, tombs, paper-houses and other paraphernalia. Neither is it possible to help the departed by burning joss-sticks, joss-paper, etc.; nor is it possible to help the departed by slaughtering animals and offering them along with other kinds of food. Also one should not waste by burning things used by the departed ones on the assumption that the deceased persons would somehow benefit by the act, when such articles can in fact be distributed among the needy.
The only way to help the departed ones is to do some meritorious deeds in a religious way in memory of them. The meritorious deeds include such acts as giving alms to others, building schools, temples, orphanages, libraries, hospitals, printing religious books for free distribution and similar charitable deeds.
The followers of the Buddha should act wisely and should not follow anything blindly. While others pray to god for the departed ones, Buddhists radiate their loving-kindness directly to them. By doing meritorious deeds, they can transfer the merits to their beloved ones for their well-being. This is the best way of remembering and giving real honor to and perpetuating the names of the departed ones. In their state of happiness, the departed ones will reciprocate their blessings on their living relatives. It is, therefore, the duty of relatives to remember their departed ones by transferring merits and by radiating loving-kindness directly to them.