Question and Answer

Q: Is the intention of sharing merit to inspire others to gain merit for themselves?

Yes. When you are glad at the meritorious deeds of other people, that gladness itself is a meritorious deed. This sharing of meritorious deeds is most effective for persons who have departed. For example, a person dies and is reborn as a hungry ghost, a peta. If other people, relatives, do meritorious deeds and share them with the ghost (by saying: "let the ghost come here and rejoice at our meritorious deeds”), then the ghost, by hearing that and rejoicing at those deeds, can get good results immediately. The peta gets results immediately but we in this life do not get results so soon,

There is a story of the relatives of the King Bimbisara of India who became a disciple of Buddha and attained the first stage of sainthood.  In his past life, he had many relatives who did an evil deed. Some people were preparing to offer some food to the sangha headed by Buddha, and Bimbisara’s relatives helped themselves dishonestly to some of it.

On account of that, they were reborn as hungry ghosts who could not get enough shelter and nourishment. Bimbisara offered food to the Buddha. and the hungry ghost expected Bimbisara to share merit with them. But Bimbisara did not know about sharing merit, and the ghost got nothing. This angered them, and they showed fearful appearances to the king during the night. He told the Buddha about this the next morning, and the Buddha advised Bimbisara to share merit with his relatives when doing meritorious deeds. Bimbisara followed the advice and specifically dedicated his share of merit to them.

They said. “Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu,” and they got good results immediately


Q: Can we escape the results of bad kamma?

There are different kammas. Some give results in the next life; some in lives after that. The ones that gives results in future lives are a store of kamma, which everyone has. We have gone through this samsara (rounds of rebirth) for many aeons, and we have done good things and bad things. Some of the kammas may have given results, but some may have not yet given results. Both good and bad kammas are, in a way, waiting for a chance to give results. Bad kammas give results when they favourable opportunities, favourable circumstances to give results.

If you do bad kamma here, then bad kamma from the past is more likely to give results by your doing new bad kamma. But if you do good kamma here and now, you can block, but not eradicate totalư the bad kamma from the past. That is why people are asked to do meritorious deeds.

Buddha once put this in the form of a simile. If you put a spoonful of salt in a cup of water that water becomes very salty. But if you put the same amount of salt in a lake, that water will not be very salty In this way, when you have a large amount of good kamma, you can counter-act or dilute the effects of bad kamma.

Only when you attain arahantship (Arahant - one who has attained the highest level of spiritual development, who is free and will not be reborn again) can you completely eradicate the effects of kamma altogether. But we can block the effects of bad kamma here by doing good deeds. By doing good deeds, we make circumstances unfavourable for the bad kamma from the past to give results.


Q: Are results and actions actually separate stages of consciousness?

They are separate mental states according to the Abhidhamma. We have four realities: consciousness, mental states, materiality, and Nibbana. The mental states appear together at the same time with consciousness and kamma is one of those mental states. Consciousness accompanies the mental state of kamma. Both disappear, but kamma is a mental state which leaves a potential to give results in the future.


Q: Do negative mental states, such as anger and ill will, always give bad results?

Yes, but the results vary in degree according to the intensity of the ill will or hatred. Sometimes the thought of ill will or anger is very small, very fleeting, and the results will not be very pronounced. But sometimes the intensity is so great that you may actually kill someone and then get very bad results. It is said in, the books that killing a cow is worse than killing a dog or a cat because to kill a cow takes more effort, since it is bigger.

When the being killed is immoral, then you get less bad results. If a person kills one who is very evil, the akusala will not be as bad as if one were to kill a virtuous person. So according to the sila of the person killed, and according to the effort required to kill, the results vary. There are different degrees of kusala and akusala kamma which give varying degrees of corresponding results.