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How does the dedication of merit work, according to the texts?

Please explain how this dedication of merit works according to you

And it is also foreign to Theravada and they adopted it too?

Please explain how this dedication of merit works according to you

Merit isn’t “transferred” but shared. Essentially the devas or pretas are invited to share in the rejoicing. Suitable occasions for this would be after meditiation, after taking the precepts, listening to a sermon or after giving gifts.

And it is also foreign to Theravada and they adopted it too?

They aren’t foreign to Theravāda.

But Theravada Abhidhammika insists the “merit sharing” just for petas, not for others. How do you explain this?

But they are not found in the early suttas, right?

But Theravada Abhidhammika insists the “merit sharing” just for petas, not for others. How do you explain this?

Based on the suttas that sounds correct, making my previous inclusion of devas incorrect. Its been an age since I looked into the specifics of merit sharing:

“Master Gotama, you know that we brahmans give gifts, make offerings, [saying,] ‘May this gift accrue to our dead relatives. May our dead relatives partake of this gift.’ Now, Master Gotama, does that gift accrue to our dead relatives? Do our dead relatives partake of that gift?”

“In possible places, brahman, it accrues to them, but not in impossible places.”

“And which, Master Gotama, are the possible places? Which are the impossible places?”

"There is the case, brahman, where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sensual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in abusive speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in hell. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of hell-beings. This is an impossible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.

"Then there is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sensual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in abusive speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the animal womb. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of common animals. This, too, is an impossible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.

"Then there is the case where a certain person refrains from taking life, refrains from taking what is not given, refrains from sensual misconduct, refrains from false speech, refrains from divisive speech, refrains from abusive speech, refrains from idle chatter, is not covetous, bears no ill will, and has right views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of human beings. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of human beings. This, too, is an impossible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.

"Then there is the case where a certain person refrains from taking life, refrains from taking what is not given, refrains from sensual misconduct, refrains from false speech, refrains from divisive speech, refrains from abusive speech, refrains from idle chatter, is not covetous, bears no ill will, and has right views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of devas. This, too, is an impossible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.

"Then there is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sensual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in abusive speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the realms of the hungry shades. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of hungry shades. He lives there, he remains that, by means of whatever his friends or relatives give in dedication to him. This is the possible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.

“But, Master Gotama, if that dead relative does not reappear in that possible place, who partakes of that gift?”

“Other dead relatives, brahman, who have reappeared in that possible place.”

“But, Master Gotama, if that dead relative does not reappear in that possible place, and other dead relatives have not reappeared in that possible place, then who partakes of that gift?”

"It’s impossible, brahman, it cannot be, that over this long time that possible place is devoid of one’s dead relatives. [1] But at any rate, the donor does not go without reward.

Janussonin Sutta

But they are not found in the early suttas, right?

As far as I’m aware they aren’t labelled as such in the suttas, but they are in the suttas separately:

paramí = páramitá: ‘perfection’. Ten qualities leading to Buddhahood: (1) perfection in giving (or liberality; dána-páramí), (2) morality (síla-p.), (3) renunciation (nekkhamma-p.), (4) wisdom (paññá-p.), (5) energy (viriya-p.), (6) patience (or forbearance; khanti p.), (7) truthfulness (sacca-p.), (8) resolution (adhitthána-p.), (9) loving-kindness (mettá-p.) (10) equanimity (upekkhá-p.).

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This sutta doesn’t specify a merit sharing or transfer, but it refers to sraddha ceremony where foods are offered to spirits of ancestor (“pitr”, hence the word “peta”) through brahmanas who conduct the ritual.

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The Buddha was asked "Do our dead relatives partake of that gift?”. He answers that yes, they do if they are reborn as petas. He qualifies that they benefit from any gift given to them. He further qualifies that the act itself is meritorious for the giver. This is a pretty standard understanding of merit sharing in Theravāda.

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The original context was the gifts offered to ancestors can be received if the ancestors reborn as petas. This should be read with reference to ceremony for the departed one in contemporary brahmanical tradition:

According to brahmanical tradition, after cremation ceremony (antyesthi) the departed one has a subtle body made from wind (vayu) and space element (akasha) - this condition called “preta” (departed one). Then sraddha ceremony is done by relatives of the departed (usually first son, or first male grandchild, or first son in law, etc). For first ten days (commonly, more or less depend on the caste, how he/she died, time of death, etc), the rice ball (pinda) which is considered formed the body of preta is offered the death. On eleventh day, foods is offered to the preta and ancestors which is symbolically represented by special eleven brahmanas. On the twelfth day, a ritual called sapiṇḍikaraṇa was performed to mark union of the preta with ancestor (pitr) - this is a completion of sraddha ceremony.

And if there’s no ancestor reborn as peta, according the Buddha, the gifts is still benefit for the giver himself.

Applying merit sharing here is not supported by cultural situation in the Buddha’s time. There’s no tradition of merit sharing known from contemporary religions/sects of the time. Furthermore, merit sharing is rejected by the Buddha in MN 35 when Saccaka want to share merit acquired from his joined gifts with Licchavis to the Buddha.

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Indeed that was the Brahmin tradition and here, in this sutta, we have the Buddha stating that giving any gift does work for petas and also generates merit for the giver. Once again, this is standard Theravāda.

There’s no tradition of merit sharing known from contemporary religions/sects of the time.

That doesn’t falsify merit sharing being a part of the Dhamma.

Furthermore, merit sharing is rejected by the Buddha in MN 35 when Saccaka want to share merit acquired from his joined gifts with Licchavis to the Buddha.

My initial reading is that the issue was with Saccaka.

The point on previous topic (before it’s splitted here) is, outside from being part of Dhamma or not, pattidana tradition is not supported by early Buddhism…

I disagree, but it looks like we won’t agree.

Yeah, we agree to disagree…

The 10 paramitas are not found in the EBTs. I think they are the first or second time they are found was in the Buddhavamsa, a later text.

Do you think that the discourse shared by @Ceisiwr below is not an early Buddhist discourse?

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It is an EBT and you can find the parallel in Samyukta Agama, but the notion of merit sharing (pattidana) as suggested by @Ceisiwr is not supported by EBTs as I have explained in post above

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Maybe because the Licchavis are born as humans and that would be an “impossible place” to “share merit”? As opposed to rejecting any and all merit sharing at all?

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A sutta not having a parallel doesn’t mean its not an early text.

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Because the Janussonin Sutta is not about merit sharing to the petas, but about offering food to the petas, I avoid reading merit sharing to the Culasaccaka Sutta as well.

Yes, I couldn’t disagree with this

The sutta talks about sharing food or “other gifts”.

Can you explain what exactly is “merit”? How is “merit” defined? I don’t hear this word being used often in ordinary English language. I’ve heard like “merit-based scholarship” or “based on merit” or “meritocratic” - but how is merit defined in the Buddhist context?

That way, I can figure out what exactly is claimed to be “shared, etc.”

Dear @SeriousFun136,

It’s from @Ceisiwr post here::

Later he change his mind and propose food sharing:

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