Sunday, August 29, 2010
I have just returned from a weekend fundraiser for Tibetan earthquake victims slightly sleep deprived and my face warm from spending most of the last 2 days outside. We were treated to teachings by 8 generous Tibetan teachers, tasty meals of dahl and soups prepared by the Tibetan community and a local Sangha.
We were an eclectic gathering of tie dyed 10 yr olds, roly poly babies, many heads of flowing grey locks (both genders) and willowy teenaged girls with fashionably wrapped scarves. We sat meditation under an outdoor canopy at 6 in the morning as the sun rose and the chant master intoned his deep, throaty song. We ate oatmeal in the sunshine and buttered our toast with slippery questions about how to fit issues of the environment, investing and politics into a Dharma framework.
And as the ceremony opened on Saturday I dedicated the merit of the weekend to my mother who died a year ago today. I became acquainted with the concept of "dedicating merit" in the Zen Sangha I belonged to. My understanding of "merit" is undoubtedly incomplete but I will take a stab at explaining it. Perhaps you have something to add?
The idea stems from the fact that certain actions "accumulate merit"; things such as acts of kindness and compassion, sitting meditation, giving alms to monks. Many positive actions, large and small are considered to accumulate merit and often merit from meditation sessions is dedicated to all sentient beings. I can remember at Sangha, people often requested the merit of a meditation evening be dedicated to a sick or dying friend, someone undergoing surgery or someone suffering in some way. We even had a merit board where you could tack up a little dedication for a loved one or friend.
There is a wonderful generous sense in dedicating merit. And it's not one of those things that when you give it away, you have lost it. I think merit increases in volume, like an expanding, rising loaf of bread, as it is shared with those in need.
So it seemed auspicious to be in the presence of numerous lamas and a gathering of dedicated Dharma practitioners on the first anniversary of my mother's death, a meaningful way to remember her. It was through my involvement with the Dharma that I finally found a way to make peace with my mother, with the encouragement of my teacher to never give up on her. Through my mother's willingness to meet both me and the Dharma at a deep level I think she made some great discoveries about her life in her last year on earth. And the two of us learned to do a dance that allowed her to die in peace with me holding her hand. Yetta Leslie 1915-2009. If you feel so inclined, you can read the post I wrote the day after she died here.