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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
20 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY hopeless situation. Drop by drop, the water jar is filled. Therefore, through the merit of this practice, may all beings be happy and free from suffering! NIKKI MIRGHAFORI: When I came to Bud- dhist practice, the concept of “dedicating merit” felt familiar from my Persian cul- tural upbringing in a liberal Muslim fam- ily. I grew up with regular kheyraat and savaab, meritorious acts done so that the rippling effects of their goodness would benefit deceased loved ones. I remember as a child participating in giving away food to strangers, and my grandmother’s special prayers, a kind of “merit” dedi- cated to her deceased brother, my uncle. Of course, such practices are not unique to Persian culture. Many cultures around the world have rituals to dedicate positive actions in the name of the ancestors. The Buddhist practice of dedicating merit is similar in spirit, but with two significant expansions. The primary and most important aspect is to recognize that our practice, however shoddy it might feel, is a meritorious act of goodness, not so different from other acts of generos- ity in the world. It is not how calm our mind gets or how many insights arise during a practice period, but simply our intention of having tried, having sat or walked, having aligned our actions with our highest intentions, even for a min- ute. Even one moment of attempting to Nikki Mirghafori is a teacher at Spirit Rock and at Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, as well as an Artificial Intelligence scientist settle one’s mind and heart is a moment of cultivating goodness, which in turn inclines our heart and mind toward more goodness, love, and wisdom. And let us have humility and awe about how each little moment of goodness may perco- late through the world, in the ways our thoughts and actions affect ourselves and others. So, one effect of the practice of dedicating merit is building trust that our practice is synonymous with goodness in and of itself, and the other is seeing the potential for its powerful rippling effect. It is this goodness, or merit, that we see, recognize, acknowledge, and share. The other dimension is that this dedi- cation practice—not keeping what’s good just for ourselves and our immediate cir- cle of loved ones—is a radical act of gen- erosity. Dedicating merit then becomes synonymous with the practice of metta, where we are extending our goodwill and generosity of heart in ever-expanding concentric circles, starting with ourselves, benefactors, dear friends, and extending to neutral relationships, difficult ones, and finally, all beings everywhere. Train- ing and expanding our heart in generosity and goodwill is another effect of the prac- tice of dedicating merit. At some point along the arc of our maturity as practitioners, our practice becomes indistinguishable from our life; our practice becomes our life, and our life becomes our practice. Consider what it COURTESYSPIRITROCKMEDITATIONCENTERCOURTESYOFGYOKEIYOKOYAMA