Day 20 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Dedicating The Merit Of Our Practice
May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed.
May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed.
May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.
May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.
From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma.
It is customary in Buddhist practice as well as in many other spiritual traditions to dedicate the merit of our practice for the welfare of other beings and world. Traditionally in Metta practice, we ask to accomplish a twofold benefit – that our practice is for our own benefit and that of all sentient beings. All sentient beings can include humans, animals, plants, and beings in other realms. The practice of dedicating merit offers up our practice for the support of others, asking that the loving-kindness we generate may be beneficial to all beings. At the same time, it helps our own minds to remain firm in our dedication to cultivate compassion within ourselves.
Traditionally, merit is offered at the end of one’s practice although this intention can be set at the beginning as well. May Is For Metta is adapted from the Buddhist practice of Metta and the secular adaptation of Lovingkindness Meditation (LKM). It also incorporates heart-centered practices from other traditions. The opening words by Shantideva offer one way to work with this. Although there are a number of traditional ways to dedicate merit, I invite you to explore finding words or phrases to dedicate merit that resonate with you. This may include a prayer or blessing from your own spiritual tradition or practice.
For many years now, I have had the practice of inviting an intention of benefit for myself and all those who are in need of support as I first begin my practice. Then, at the end of my practice each day I take a few moments to dedicate the merit of my practice to any specific individuals, groups or locations in the world that I am feeling to offer it on this day and ultimately for all beings without exception. You may wish to use the Shantideva prayer, you may wish to name those people or places you wish to support, or you may wish to simply wish to say something like this Metta prayer at the end of your practice:
Particularly, in our current worldwide crisis with COVID-19, there is a need to support others that perhaps cannot be met by direct contact. Also, there are many people suffering all around the globe. We have not explored this fully here yet, however, Metta practice can offer a way to support those we think of who need support. We can do this by including them in our practice in one of the categories or we can do so by taking time to dedicate the merit of our practice, too.
I invite you to explore this as you feel to in today’s practice.
Once again, find a comfortable position. Do your foundational practices. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free of suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings. Or, if you prefer, choose a few categories to work with today. You may even want to offer Metta for more than one person in a particular category. Be open to exploring what feels good to you, but also consider exploring the full practice today or tomorrow just to see how it feels to work with all of the categories. There is a wonderful opportunity to explore how we respond to others and the world as we work with the various categories and sometimes it is helpful to flow through the full practice to see where we experience openness and spaciousness and where our resistance resides.
During your practice, if you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the switch back, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to the category where you left off. When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion.
When you feel complete with all of the categories you are practicing for today, dedicate the merit of your practice as follows or offer a prayer that resonates with your personal practice. If there are specific people or parts of the world where you would like to focus your deception of merit, you can simply envision them as you send out this blessing!
- May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
- May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
- May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
- May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.
Daily Journal Reflection:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.
- How did it feel to work with a number of the categories?
- What did you notice?
- Are you remembering to return to yourself when you need to?
- How are you feeling about your practice or exploration of Metta overall?
- Did you explore a way to dedicate the merit of your practice? How did that feel?
May your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.
Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)
This song written by American monk, Ven. Heng Sure carries the essence of dedicating merit as well as what the overall intention of our Metta practice is centered on. Hope you’ll take a few moments and listen. I’ve included the words below as well.
May every living being,
Our minds as one and radiant with light,
Share the fruits of peace
With hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.
If people hear and see,
How hands and hearts can find in giving, unity,
May their minds awake,
To Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.
May kindness find reward,
May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
May this boundless light,
Break the darkness of their endless night.
Because our hearts are one,
This world of pain turns into Paradise,
May all become compassionate and wise,
May all become compassionate and wise.