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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 19 JETSUNMA TENZIN PALMO: In traditional Bud- dhist countries, the concept of punya has always played an important role. Usually translated as “merit” or even as “good- ness,” punya represents the positive karmic results of good intentions and actions. This belief in the power of meri- torious actions is perceived as an ethical force that can be directed toward any chosen object. So people set about “mak- ing merit” and rejoicing in it; the merit is then dedicated to others and thus shared. This serves as an encouragement to per- form acts of goodness such as generosity and kindness. We can also rejoice in and share the goodness we see others perform. At the start of formal practice, we take refuge in the three jewels and then, in the Mahayana traditions, we recite the bodhi- sattva vow and remind ourselves that we are undertaking this practice not just for our own sake but to benefit all beings. In other words, we set our spiritual GPS to the destination of enlightenment-for- the-sake-of-all. Then, at the completion of that day’s practice, we again remind ourselves of our aim by dedicating what- ever goodness has been gained to the welfare and happiness of all beings—or to the whole planet and beyond. These are trainings in bodhichitta, reminders that our practice has a meaning beyond benefitting just ourselves. Even the effort to do the practice rather than watch TV or play on the computer is a good thing, and we can Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo is a distinguished nun in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in India feel pleased and satisfied by it, wishing to share that essential goodness with others. We can dedicate that merit whether or not we understand the mechanics of how it all works. Just do it. So much is hidden from our rational mind. Let us retain a sense of mystery and not be narrow and materialistic. The dharma goes beyond our conceptual thinking. This is not just a “beautiful idea” but is also practical—the world is in dire need of goodness and positive energy. Thoughts have power. Prayers and aspira- tions have force. Almost everyone experiences a special atmosphere when visiting sacred places such as Bodhgaya or Assisi, despite the surface chaos or commercialism. Centu- ries of devotion, thoughts directed to the sacred, have created a palpable spiritual energy there. Likewise, we spontaneously feel the profound sorrow and heavi- ness of spirit when visiting Auschwitz or Dachau. We swim in an ocean of thought forms but, like fish in water, we do not recognize our own psychic environment. If only we could see it, we would know that the psychic pollution surrounding this planet is far denser than the physical pollution. There is so much anger, greed, jealousy, fear, and general negativity in society, all of which is further cultivated and celebrated in the media. In this dark- ness, we need some light. Dedicating our positive energy helps to bring balance and joyful appreciation into a seemingly DGLNUNNERY