I was inspired by my personal observation to lecture and write this Dhamma Discourse on How to get Good Results from Doing Merit. When Buddhists do merit with monks in a Wat or any monastery, I have noticed that they have considerable faith in Buddhism, but a number of them do not quite understand how to do merit correctly. I gave this lecture to help all the Buddhist assembly to understand how to do merit, especially alms-giving, which is considered to be the basic way to obtain merit according to Buddhism.
The three steps in doing merit in Buddhism are called Punyakiriya-vatthu, the three bases of meritorious action. One is Dhana or alms-giving, designed to reduce stinginess and selfishness, to develop a meritorious frame of mind and to be generous to each other. Two is Sila or precepts observation, designed to refrain from doing any sins physically, verbally and mindfully so as to make ourselves pure. And three is Bhavana, meditation practice which is a method to help make us peaceful and to build up wisdom that will lead to enlightenment in Dhamma.
In addition to the above, some Westerners who are interested in Buddhism frequently went to see me and to learn about Dhamma from me. And recently, I was invited several times to present Dhamma Discource in many countries in Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand. It is delightful to see that Dhamma of our Lord Buddha is of considerable universal interest.
For the three steps in merit doing mentioned above, I see that meditation practice which is wisdom building is widely interesting among the Westerners. They take this quite seriously and do it well since wisdom seeking is something already embedded in their blood relation. Precepts observation is also easy to do among them as they live in a rather well disciplined society. In fact, precepts observation is design to discipline oneself which is quite a habit among them. But alms-giving which is basic merit doing, is deficient among westerners. This is not because of their being miserable or narrow-minded, but they are ignorant of the custom and how to do merit correctly.
Though alms-giving is the basic merit doing, we should not take it for granted, since it is the first step in doing merit, leading to precepts observation and meditation practice which are higher religious form of observation. This will help us get better results in merit doing. We can compare this to building a house; if the base is strong then the building will be durable.
This is the reason why I decided to print this book to introduce how to do merit correctly in English for whoever is interested in it. At first the Buddhists with Buddhist faith jointly printed my lecture in Thai for free distribution to those who were interested. Now this English version, Dr. Patom and Ajaan Patra Nikamanon volunteered to print with financial donation from other observing Buddhists. I would like to express my felicitation for the intentional merit doing for your jointly building these transcendent virtues in wisdom and alms-giving.
May the merit you have done, bless you all to be well, successful and to have the Eye of Wisdom to see Dhamma, and finally to be enlightened in Buddhist Dhamma as intended.
Phra Ajaan Plien Panyapatipo.
Wat Aranyawiwake (Baan Pong)
Intakhin, Maetaeng, Chiangmai,
August 4, 1991.