Dictionary of Key Spiritual Terms

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Buddhist: merit, good deeds, or virtuous works which must be accumulated བསོད་​ནམས་​ཀྱི་​ཚོགས། (TRC 345) to reach a better rebirth. Actions may be classified as either meritorious or non-meritorious: 1) བསོད་​ནམས་​ཀྱི་​ལས། meritorious actions which lead to rebirth as a human, demigod, or god, i.e. བདེ་​འགྲོར་​སྐྱེ་​བའི་​ལས། (TRC 287); 2) བསོད་​ནམས་​མ་​ཡིན་​པའི་​ལས། non-meritorious actions that lead to rebirth as an animal, hungry ghost, or hell being: ངན་​སོང་​དུ་​སྐྱེ་​བའི་​ལས། (TRI 297). Merit may be gained by practical acts of charity, but giving to Buddhas and the monk body is held to be more meritorious (JPG 456). Even whispering mantras into the ears of animals creates merit (JPG 460). While the laity must expend effort to make merit, the lamas and their students may do so effortlessly: བྱང་​ཆུབ་​ཀྱི་​སེམས་​སྐྱེས་​པ་​དེ་​ནས་​བཟུང་​སྟེ་​གང་​ཟག་​དེ་​གཉིད་​ལོག་​པ་​དང་​། ལྟོ་​ཆས་​ཟ་​བ་​དང་​། འགྲོ་​བ་​དང་​། སྡོད་​པ་​ལ་​སོགས་​པའི་​སྤྱོད་​ལམ་​ཐམས་​ཅད་​ཀྱི་​སྐབས་​སུའང་​བསོད་​ནམས་​རྒྱུན་​མི་​ཆད་​པར་​འཕེལ་​བ། beginning with the development of the mind to enlightenment, that person during sleeping, eating food, walking, sitting etc. increases merits without interruption (TRC 318-9). Reliance on one's spiritual teacher is said to generate the same merit in one moment as a thousand aeons of virtuous works (JPG 99). Merit can even be made unconsciously, as in the case of a fly who unknowingly flew around a stupa and in a later life became one of the Buddha's disciples (JPG 237).