Every moment of every day, there is one fundamental question we need to ask ourselves: “are we adding value or are we consuming merit?” If we had even the slightest understanding of how precious our current human life is and how we have spent countless lives accumulating only negativity, we would not waste a second of this life using up our merit. We have arrived at the treasure island – now is the time to gather up riches and resources for the future, not indulge ourselves in whatever pleasures we can find.
Every moment of every day we should be seeking to add value to the world. Every situation we encounter, we should leave it better than we found it. Every person we meet, we should leave them better off than we found them. If there is something to be cleaned, clean it. If there is something that needs doing, do it. If there is someone that needs caring for, care for them. If there is something that needs saying, say it. If there is someone who needs help, help them. If there is a job nobody else wants to do, do it. If there is someone in your company, engage with them (get off the computer or your phone). If there are commitments or promises you have made, keep them. If there is work that remains to be done, do it.
When it comes to what needs to be done, I usually fall into one of two extremes. The first extreme is I leave things for other to do. One thing we all do (or at least I do) is I leave things undone in the hope that those around me will do it instead of me. For example, if the kitchen needs cleaning or a diaper needs changing, I might go do something else and leave it in the (sometimes unconscious) hope that someone else will clean it or do it. One of the commitments of training the mind is to not transfer your burdens onto others.
The other extreme I fall into is I will do what needs to be done, but I will do so with a resentful and bitter mind, like some martyr who sacrifices himself for others. Yes, I am doing what needs to be done, but I am upset or unhappy about it – bitter that I am doing all of the work while others are lazily indulging themselves. This is really stupid of me to do! Anger functions to burn up whever undedicated merit we might have. So here I am, accumulating merit onlyto burn it up immediately afterwards. Karmically speaking, it is as if I get no benefit or credit from doing the work I am doing. At the very least, if I am doing the work I shouldn’t then sabotage it with my anger!
We all know when we are actively adding value to the world versus when we are consuming our merit. We just ask ourselves: “am I making the world a better place right now?” If the answer is no, then you have your answer. We also always know when we are consuming our mierit. We just ask ourselves: “am I having somebody else do something for me that I should more appropriately be doing for myself?” If the answer is yes, then you have your answer.
We should also be careful about the passive burning up of our merit through taking the favorable conditions we have around us for granted. There are two tests we can check our mind with. First, are we imputing “mine” on anything in our possession? Do we think “my house”, “my car,” etc.? If we do, that thought functions to burn up our merit when we experience our house, car, clothes, etc. We should view everything we have as being temporarily in our keeping. It has been given to us so that we can improve it to pass on to the next person. We are like an asset manager who seeks to optimise the value of the assets of their clients for the sake of the clients. It is not my house, it is the house I am providing my kids. It is not my car, it is the car I use to drive my family around. These are not my clothes, they are for others do they don’t have to look at my ugly body. This is not my soap, it belongs to others do they don’t have to smell me.
A second test we can use is are we feeling grateful to those who provided us with what we enjoy? We did not build our house, make our car, grow our food or sew our clothes. When we enjoy these things, our focus should be on mentally generating a feeling of gratitude towards those who provided them. The fact that we paid for these things is irrelevant, others still provided them for us and if we had to make them ourselves, we couldn’t.
Now none of this means we should not rest. Of course we need to rest, but only so that we can work more. We do not rest for rest’s sake. We rest because we understand if we do not then we will burn out and be able to work even less in the long run. We rest not to waste our precious human life, but so that we can make the most out of it. Again, if we are honest with ourselves, we know when we are resting to be lazy versus resting up so that we can get back to work fresh.
This precious opportunity will end very soon. We do not know how long we have before our time on the treasure island comes to an end. Everything we do should be aimed at gather up resources and good conditions for the future, not sacrificing our future on the alter of our present needs. It does not get any better than what we currently have, so we need to stop making excuses, stop lying to ourselves, stop justifying our delusions and just joyfully get on with the task at hand of gathering up riches for our future lives. The spiritual road in front of us is long, we don’t want to run out of provisions along the way.
Your turn: Give one example of how you are adding value to the world. Give another example of how you are consuming your merit.