Q077: Master Lu, could you please advise us whether we, as lay Buddhists, should perform the Dharma Service for the Transferring of Merits when we perform recitations?
- When we perform Daily Recitation (Kung Ko) or recite Little Houses (Hsiao Fang Tzu), whether we perform the Dharma Service for the Transferring of Merits, it is best to respect the karmic condition and go with the karmic flow.
- The Dharma Service for the Transferring of Merits is very formal and very serious. When we perform the Dharma Service for the Transferring of Merits, and recite the verses for the Transferring of Merits for our Karmic Creditors or deceased relatives from the past and present lives, we are transferring the virtues that we have accumulated from performing recitations to all sentient beings in all realms. In addition, during the Dharma Service, we are in fact hoping to repay the four kindnesses from our parents, all sentient beings, our country, and the Triple Gems; and we are hoping to ease the suffering of the three lower realms, including the Naraka realm (known as “hell” in English), the Preta realm (known as “Hungry Ghost realm” in English), and the animal realm. This is a Grand Vow.
- Performing the Dharma Service for the Transferring of Merits is a Grand Vow with extraordinary energy. The prerequisite is that you must have enough virtues. Only if you have accumulated a tremendous amount of positive karmic support and virtues, your transferring of merits can then be perfected without flaws. If you recite the verses for the Transferring of Merits, it means that you are hoping to repay the four kindnesses and to ease the suffering of the three lower realms. However, if you have not yet accumulated enough ability to do so, it would be similar to making a large donation of virtues beyond your capacity. For example, if you work very hard and only earn 100 dollars, you can donate this money to help all the people in the world who are suffering from poverty. However, the amount of money that you can donate is very limited, and the sentient beings that you wish to save and cross over are countless. It is very likely that not only are you not able to help them, you would end up with no money at all.
- As Buddhists, we should aim to cross over ourselves and others. If you have the ability then you should help and save others. If you do not yet have enough spiritual power, then you should save yourself first before you save others.
- When we recite sutras and mantras, perform Daily Recitations, and recite Little Houses, it is best not to recite the verses for the Transferring of Merits for the time being. Master Lu is teaching us to achieve results from self-cultivation first, and then we can make the Great Vow for transferring merits, repaying the four kindnesses, and easing the suffering of the three lower realms. When we have accumulated all of our merits and virtues, then we can make the Grand Vow to cross over all sentient beings.