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This is a tradition I have heard in Thailand: Many men become monk for a few months in order to transfer merits to his parents and so they can go to heaven. If I'm not mistaken the Buddha said you could only transfer merits for ghosts (according to teacher Dhammavvuddho Thero), it is not possible to transfer merits from man to man. Is it? Any text to help? I may be wrong so I appreciate the explanations.

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    The old sense of transferring merit had to do with mudita, you tell other people about your success so that other people can be happy about that. Being happy about other people success is meritable, so it works like transfer. Later on esp in Mahayana, merit transfer works more like magic-- any meritous activity is done for the goal of transferring the merit to others, which to me also sounds like disclaiming it with the goal of staying humble. – MatthewMartin Apr 26 '15 at 22:20
  • Not sure about humans, but definitely beings other than peta. See basicbuddhism.org/index.cfm?GPID=65&Print=1 for example. – user698 May 9 '15 at 12:43
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According to What Buddhists Believe by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera, it is possible to transfer merit to living persons as well as deceased persons.

According to Buddhism, good deeds or 'acts of merit' bring happiness to the doer both in this world and in the hereafter. Acts of merit are also believed to lead towards the final goal of everlasting happiness. The acts of merit can be performed through body, speech or mind. Every good deed produces 'merit' which accumulates to the 'credit' of the doer. Buddhism also teaches that the acquired merit can be transferred to others' it can be shared vicariously with others. In other words, the merit is 'reversible' and so can be shared with other persons. The persons who receive the merit can be either living or departed ones.

The method for transferring merits is quite simple. First some good deeds are performed. The doer of the good deeds has merely to wish that the merit he has gained accrues to someone in particular, or to 'all beings'. This wish can be purely mental or it can accompanied by an expression of words.

This wish could be made with the beneficiary being aware of it. When the beneficiary is aware of the act or wish, then a mutual 'rejoicing in' merit takes place. Here the beneficiary becomes a participant of the original deed by associating himself with the deed done. If the beneficiary identifies himself with both the deed and the doer, he can sometimes acquire even greater merit than the original doer, either because his elation is greater or because his appreciation of the value of the deed is based on his understanding of Dhamma and, hence, more meritorious, Buddhist texts contain several stories of such instances.

The 'joy of transference of merits' can also take place with or without the knowledge of the doer of the meritorious act. All that is necessary is for the beneficiary to feel gladness in his heart when he becomes aware of the good deed. If he wishes, he can express his joy by saying 'sadhu' which means 'well done'. What he is doing is creating a kind of mental or verbal applause. In order to share the good deed done by another, what is important is that there must be actual approval of the deed and joy arising in the beneficiary's heart.

I encourage you to read the whole page devoted to this (linked above). It has some interesting supplemental information that is related to, but a little outside of, what you had asked about.

The author refers to the Tirokudda Kanda sutta which you may find interesting.

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You can dedicate merit for anyone.

Check out some articles that can help on understanding it more intuitively.

http://blog.vajrapani.org/featured/featured-authors-articles/item/407-gettin-our-merit-on.html

  • Hi vaso vookohteach and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some useful information to help you get started here. – Robin111 May 11 '15 at 23:19
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You cannot transfer merit from man to man but others can have appreciative joy at some good deed you have done and also make merit.

You can transfer merit to certain type of beings on sensing this develops appreciative joy for the deeds you have done and gain the merit.

Tiro,kudda Sutta: The Outside-the-Wall Discourse covers some interesting point on merit transfer. (In section 4)

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There is disagreement on this between schools, in the Tibetan tradition merit cannot be transferred to others, but can be offered / dedicated to achieving virtuous goals : IE dedicating all my merit to the goal of freeing all beings from suffering.

This however is borderline transferring... so it is unclear where the line is drawn.

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the 165th verse of the Dhammapada, the 9th verse of its Attavagga, says

Attanā hi kataṃ pāpaṃ,
attanā saṅkilissati;
Attanā akataṃ pāpaṃ,
attanāva visujjhati;
Suddhī asuddhi paccattaṃ,
nāñño aññaṃ visodhaye.

By oneself is evil done;
by oneself is one defiled.
By oneself is evil left undone;
by oneself is one made pure.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself;
no one can purify another.

the Kaladana sutta (AN 5.36) says

At the proper time, those wise,
charitable, and generous folk
give a timely gift to the noble ones,
who are stable and upright;
given with a clear mind,
one’s offering is vast.

Those who rejoice in such deeds
or who provide other service
do not miss out on the offering;
they too partake of the merit.

Therefore, with a non-regressing mind,
one should give a gift where it yields great fruit.
Merits are the support of living beings
when they arise in the other world.

these passages indicate impossibility of merit transfer or sharing, but recognize the possibility of taking part in other's merit making by rejoicing of their wholesome deeds or providing assistance in them.

but neither of the passages is attributed directly to the Buddha

here's what the Buddha says according to the suttas

in the Culakammavibhanga sutta (MN 135)

beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior.

in the recount of a parable in the Devaduta sutta (MN 130, AN 3.36)

that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas. That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.

these seem to indicate that kamma is only personal which in turn implies that one cannot acquire a wholesome kamma without ever performing a wholesome act and making conscious effort at spiritual development as in case of unbeknownst reception of merit from somebody. otherwise it would mean undermining the concept of the Noble Eightfold Path as a way to awakening by dint of purely personal effort.

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  1. Even some Buddhists are skeptical that merits can be “transferred” to other beings: It does not appear to be “scientific”. However, Buddha Dhamma is far ahead of science, and this is another example. Even though the vocabulary is different, mechanisms of “energy transfer” (mental energy) has been described in Dhamma.

Not only the merits of a good deed, but also many other versions of “mental energy” can be transferred, as we discuss below. The basic idea can be thought of as follows: If one has an oil lamp that is lit, and if others have oil lamps that are not lit and they do not have a way to light them, wouldn’t it be better for everyone to let others use one’s lamp’s flame to light their lamps? Thus while it is not possible to “create” many oil lamps starting with one, it is possible to make thousand other lamps to become useful by sharing the light. In the same way, the receiving person needs to have a basic ingredients to reap the benefits, as explained below. But since all those lamps will be useless without a way to light them, the person providing the light is doing a great service. 2. First of all transfer of merits is the correct phrase, but “punna anumodana” is not. Anumodana means the receiving mind becoming joyful with the merits it received (“anu” + “mödanä”). The giver is giving (“däna”) the “paccayä” or the auxiliary causes. (The common word is “pratyaya” but that is the incorrect Sanskrit word; the correct Pali word is paccaya). It is paccaya that represents “patti” in “pattidana” (pronounced, “paththidäna“).

Other than in direct giving (see below) the giver cannot make the receiving party “receive what is intended” unless the person receiving has a mindset that is attuned to receiving. It is the receiving person that is doing the “punna anumödanä”, i.e., gladly receiving the pattidana of the giver and becoming joyful with the merits received. This is also called “pattanumodana”. 3. Giving and receiving can be done in many ways:

The direct way of giving/receiving is when one gives money or something material. It is deducted from the giver’s ledger and is added to the receiver’s: it is fully transferred. When a teacher teaches a classroom full of kids, he/she is teaching the same way to all the kids. But how much a particular kid “receives” or comprehends depends on that particular kid’s ability to receive. A radio/television station is broadcasting a program. But the reception of the program by a radio/TV depends on the quality of that device and also whether it has been “tuned” to the correct station. This transfer can happen instantaneously or with a time lag, because that mental energy is in the “nama loka” and is accessible at any time; see, “Memory, Brain, Mind, Nama Loka, Kamma Bhava, Kamma Vipaka” , “What are Dhamma? – A Deeper Analysis“, and “Our Two Worlds : Material and Mental“. 4. Therefore, only in “direct giving”, the amount received is the same as given. The amount received in the other other two “indirect giving” methods depends on the receiver. A similar mechanism is at work when one does a good deed and “transfers merits” to another person who may be far away.

All intentions have kammic energy. You may remember that the Buddha said, “Cetana ham bhikkave kamman vadami”, or “Bhikkhus, I say intention is kamma”. And kamma is the fundamental potential energy for everything in this world. People very much underestimate the power of the human mind. Those who have experienced at least anariya jhanas can sense at least a little bit about the power of the mind; see, “Power of the Human Mind – Introduction” and the two follow-up posts. Direct giving is “däna“; indirect giving is “pattidäna“. These are two of the ten meritorious deeds (punna kamma); see, “Ten Moral Actions (Dasa Kusala) and Ten Meritorious Actions (Punna Kriya)“. 5. One such mechanism is the annantara-samanantara paccaya; see “Annantara and Samanantara Paccaya”. This is a universal law governing the kamma niyama. Many people pronounce “niyama” as “niyaama”, but “niyama” is the Pali or Sinhala word for “principle”. Thus kamma niyama is the universal principle of kamma (like the law of gravitation).

  1. When one is “transferring merits” by sincerely saying that “May so and so receive merits from this good deed that I have done”, or doing metta bhavana by saying, “May all beings be free from the suffering in the apayas” or some version of it, one is BROADCASTING one’s intention.

However, just because one is doing such a “giving”, the intended recipient may not receive the benefits UNLESS the receiver has a matching mindset; it is just like the case of a radio/TV, where the receiving device need to be set to the “right frequency” to receive the signal. This is explained in the post, “Annantara and Samanantara Paccaya”. Don’t be discouraged by those Pali words; sometimes, as in the case of paticca samuppada, it is best to use the Pali words, because it is not possible to find an English word that can convey the same meaning. From Puredhamma.net

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