The main aspect of “Merit” is that it is boundless and in that way an active component of Compassion (Love), which is the gathering and expanding (breathing) aspect of the whole Universe. I think of Merit as a “mass”, which is being acted upon by Compassion a “gravity”, a universal force which we can see and feel the effects of. Yes, science can describe, measure, and in a small way, manipulate the forces of “gravity”, but can’t explain the what, why and how it actually works. The same can be said of Compassion. The only thing we can say for sure is it’s a good thing that seems to help keep everything together and moving in the right direction.
”We must consider our merit when accepting it.”This speaks to our awareness of ourselves in relation to our food and to the type of life we are living; our way in the world. How are we in it? The concept of “merit” in Buddhism touches on a lot of things.
It can mean the good karma that can result when we are careful in how we treat others and ourselves.
It can mean the merit of having been born in a human body.
It can mean the merit of once having heard the teaching, to undertake to learn it and apply it.
It can mean the merit of having a comfortable life with people and other beings we love that are in it.
It can mean the merit of recognizing ourselves as humans who make mistakes, but want to do better.
Perhaps this “thought” can be a way of asking ourselves a question such as;
“All in all, as I see my life today; I’m extremely fortunate to be in this situation. My life is good and I want to be sure and live it adhering to principles that are based on kindness and compassion. Am I doing my best in this regard?”
In other words, am I worthy of consuming other living things so that I may continue to live?
Kind of harsh.
Still. A good question.
As we consider our merit we want to be alert and not judge ourselves, to look at ourselves calmly and dispassionately.
If we don’t like what we see, we may want to change some things, or at least be willing to.
Since we say these verses several times a day it is not possible
or even good, to dwell too much on the questions that arise.
For me, it’s better to have them nearer, rather than further from my awareness.
This “merit”, which is boundless and I’m the benefactor of, is something that I can also make alive by consciously offering it to others or myself; to situations, to states of mind, or just to help any confusion or misunderstanding. This offering of merit is akin to the proper use of prayer (as I understand it), in the Abrahamic traditions. We are asking for unspecified help that will be useful on a spiritual level. We often don’t sense when we are getting the help because it arrives at the heart level.