Some Buddhist once said: "If the merits of one's practices are to be dedicated to all beings, would not that become a situation of too little food for a large crowd? Rather just reserve the merits for one's own benefits or dedicate them to only a few people lest the efforts become ineffectual. Furthermore, one could help only so many but not all, hence one should be practical in this matter." There were even people who acted as Dharma teachers that forbade disciples to pray for or dedicate merits to others. The reason given being that, novices as having insufficient spiritual strength are incapable of helping others. These views stemmed from lack of proper understanding of basic Buddhist principles to such an extent that even the correct practice of dedication of merits to all beings could not be adopted.
The fundamental principle of Buddhist practices is to break up the confinement of self so as to expand view and mind to the openness of the whole Dharmadhatu in oneness. The merits accrued from all good deeds and Dharma practices, if not dedicated to Bodhi, i.e., to things related to the noble goal of enabling all sentient beings to soon reach Enlightenment, would belong only to personal karma. As such, even though they would lead to meritorious consequences, they could hardly enable one to reach Enlightenment. If all one's Dharma practices and deeds are rooted in Bodhicitta, and the resulting merits are firstly dedicated to the noble cause of all sentient beings' Enlightenment, then even though the contributions, as much as one could offer, are only drips and drops, they are still inseparable from the Enlightenment of the whole Dharmadhatu. Consequently, the merits become inconceivable. Therefore, there is no such problem as having not enough food for a large crowd. On the contrary, it is precisely due to such compassionate dedication that supernatural intervention from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas could be inspired.
Even though novice practitioners are still with karmic debts and have only little spiritual strength, as long as their motivation is pure and there is no offering or reward involved, then they could pray for and dedicate merits to others. Such deeds are unrelated to their personal karmas but rings in the endless chain of salvation activities of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Furthermore, for a practitioner to cultivate Bodhicitta, mature wisdom life, and accumulate spiritual strength, it all depends on paying attention in daily life to each and every thought, word and act so as to be in accordance with Bodhicitta. Only after days, months and years of uninterrupted endeavors in such efforts could a practitioner gradually break away from the confine of self-centeredness, and merge into the openness and clarity of the Dharmadhatu in limitless oneness.
After having dedicated merits toward Bodhi, one certainly may also include beings and matters that are in sight or in mind in the dedication. Buddhas' compassion is boundless; from minor inconveniences in daily life to ultimate liberation of all beings, all are carefully well taken care of and guided by them.
May all those who come across this article practice constantly in daily life: To pray to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for all sentient beings. (This heart-essence teaching of the great Yogi Milarepa was given to me in a dream.) May they always dedicate merits firstly to the Enlightenment of all sentient beings!
Written in Chinese: November 18, 1999
Translated: November 19, 1999
El Cerrito, California