(Sri Lanka)

Many are there who engage themselves in meritorious deeds such as generosity, virtue, meditation etc. Nevertheless, it can be said, few are there who perform meritorious deeds in the proper way. Merit (punya) would mean purity of heart. Man's heart is made impure by defilements such as greed hatred and delusion or ignorance . Any action associated with and delusion is an immoral or unwholesome action (akusala). On the other hand if any action is associated with the good roots such as greedlessness (generosity) nonhatred (compassion) and non-delusion (knowledge of or belief in kamma and its result) such a action is a moral or wholesome action. According to these bad and good roots of evil one can distinguish whether one's action is a wholesome (kusala) or unwholesome (akusala) one.

By means of the ten meritorious actions such as generosity, virtue, meditation etc. one's mental defilements can be subdued to a great extent. The mind becomes pure temporarily.

Let us now examine the definition of the term 'kusala; ku would mean 'bad' or 'evil', in other words, evil or bad thoughts connected with greed hatred and delusion; sala' Is to discard or Kusala destroy is thus the discarding of or destruction of evil thoughts.

Three-fold Mind

It Is exceedingly difficult to do meritorious deeds by purifying the threefold mind. By threefold mind are meant:-

  1. Prior mind
  2. Releasing mind
  3. Final mind
  4. The prior mind (pubba cetana) consists of those states of mind that appear before the performance of a good action. Releasing mind (muncana cetana) is the mind that dissociates itself from the object of possession. The states of mind that occur after the performance of a good action are grouped under the final mind (apara cetana).

    As an example the states of mind that arise in a man before he would give alms are called pubba cetana. When he is offering alms the muncana cetana occurs. The states of mind that occur at every time he recalls his good action or the alms-giving can be called apara cetana. Thus, all good actions performed the threefold purified mind produce tremendous good results.

    Thrice-conditioned Good Action

    The causes of good and bad action are 'twofold. Lust, hatred and delusion are causes of bad action; greedlessness, nonhatred and non-delusion- are causes of good action. While performing a good action If one could perform it with lustlessness (i.e. generous intention), non-hatred (compassion) and (non-delusion true knowledge) such an action is a valuable thrice-conditioned good action.

    Because of lustlessness (generous intention) one will be rewarded with wealth and property,: because of non-hatred (compassion) one will be endowed with handsome features of body; because of non-delusion (belief in action and re-action) one will be endowed with intelligence.

    While doing good action some give alms but do not practice compassion or kindness; do not believe in kamma result. As a result of such incomplete action one receives wealth and property but not handsome features or the blessings of intelligence.

    Others while doing good action do not give alms. But they practice compassion and kindness; they also believe in kamma. As a result of such action the doer receives the rewards of handsome disposition and, intelligence but he will be deprived of wealth and property.

    Still others do not give alms; do not practice compassion or kindness; arid do not believe in kamma-result. In consequence they are re-born in wretched lives deprived of the three rewards of handsome disposition, wealth and intelligence.

    The aim of man is to lead a happy life endowed with the threefold blessings. To achieve this purpose it is necessary to perform thrice-conditioned good action. Merit is necessary even for a god; for a man or for a monk too it is necessary. Only when society is carefully observed do we perceive the distinction between those who are endowed with merit and those deprived of it.


    The factors necessary for the successful accomplishment of a good action were illustrated by the Buddha by means of analogy. It was the analogy of a field

    Khettupama arahanta
    dayaka kassakupam
    bijupamam de yyadhammam
    ette nibbattate phalam

    Its meaning is as -follows: 'The arahats are comparable to a field (this is why In the formula praising the virtues of the Buddha, the Sangha led by arahats were described as rich fields where the seeds of good action be sown); the donors or the givers are compared to farmers; that which is given is compared to seeds. Thus is produced a rich harvest.

    Etam bijam kasi khettam Petanam dayakassa ca tam peta paribhunjanti data punnena vaddhanti

    Thus as the harvest can be reaped with the fulfilment of the three items, the seeds, the field and the farmer, so with the fulfilement of the three factors in the analogy, a good action is produced and the merit of such good action when transferred to dead relations are accepted by them. Those who transfer too grow in merit.

    To obtain a rich harvest three things must be fulfilled:

    1. A suitable field
    2. An efficient farmer
    3. Possession of good seeds

Even though a field and good seeds are in possession yet if there is no clever farmer, then a good harvest cannot be reaped. Though the farmer and the seeds are there yet if there is no field, a good harvest is not possible. The mere possession of seeds without a farmer and a field will not enable one to obtain a good harvest.

To obtain a good harvest all these three factors must be fulfilled. To accomplish a good action three things must be fulfilled:-

    1. Obtain bhikkhus
    2. Existence of donors
    3. Possession of an object of virtue.

Mere donors and objects of offering without bhikkhus will not help accomplish a good action. Mere bhikkhus and donors without an object of worship will not help accomplish a good action. The possession of objects of offering and bhikkhus without the donors will not be sufficient for the accomplishment of a good action. Hence the possession of three requisites - bhikkhus, objects of offering, and the donors, will be necessary to accomplish a good action.


Cirappavasim purisam durato sotthimagatam gnati mitta suhajja ca abhinandanti agatam Tathe va kata punnampi asmalokam param gatam punnani pati ganhanti piyam gnati va agatam

(Dhammapada: Sukhavagga)

A man who has lived long in a foreign country will be welcomed on his return, by his relations and friends.

In the same way a virtuous man after death will be welcomed by his own good deeds.