Tag Archives: merit

No Merit

A scroll hanging in the entrance hallway at our Temple reads “No Merit”. It recalls the conversation of Bodhidharma, who brought Zen to China, with the Emperor Wu. When the Emperor asked Bodhidharma what merit he had accumulated through his support of monks and building monasteries, Bodhidharma replied: No merit.

One of my initial attractions to Buddhism was, in fact, the possibility of accumulation of merit, the idea that through diligent work in this life, I could earn merit that would propel me towards eventual release from suffering. The idea provided me concrete and tangible comfort from my fear of loss and annihilation. There was something I could do, after all.

And so Bodhidharma’s words and this idea in Zen initially came with a sense of loss. I came to the practice for the promise of comfort, because I thought (in an interesting connection to my family’s Puritanical roots that will someday make a separate topic for writing) that I could earn my way out of my fears. As the years go by, it doesn’t feel as much like a loss anymore, and more like an example of what simply is. No loss. No gain. Loss and gain. No idea.

I’ve been thinking about this tonight because two fellow bloggers have written to recognize this blog. Yesterday, hillbillyzen wrote to say she had nominated the blog for the Reality Blogger Award. And today, Linda at mayandseptember wrote to say she was giving a nomination for the Leibster Award. I know well that none of it makes me a better blogger or writer or more worthy of reading. But I think we blog because we’re interested in sharing what we think and notice and feel, but perhaps a lot of us (or, speaking for myself) don’t otherwise know exactly how. Recognition might mean that we have met our intention.

And so I will accept the kindness, badges or not, offered by hillbillyzen and mayandseptember (you should visit their blogs), and may try to recognize some fellow bloggers (perhaps in this space). As for the rest, I still don’t know how I feel about the whole process. Neither accepting, rejecting, nor ignoring the awards quite feels right. That not-knowing does feels just about familiar, though.

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