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Lions Roar : May 2018
ILLUSTRATIONSBYCAROLEHÉNAFF ALL FORMS OF SPIRITUAL practice in the Vajrayana Buddhist path conclude with dedicating the benefit of our prac- tice to relieving the suffering of sentient beings and helping them awaken. The English word “merit” is defined as being or doing something that is worthy and creates value. It is said that when we meditate or engage in another form of spiritual practice, such as yoga, chanting, praying, or singing songs of realization, we are accumulating merit. Dedicating this value—this wholesomeness—to all LAMA PALDEN DROLMA, one of the first Western female lamas, is founder of the Sukha- siddhi Foundation, which offers Buddhist medi- tation and study in the San Francisco Bay Area. HOW TO PRACTICE Dedicating Merit When we dedicate our meditation to others, says LAMA PALDEN DROLMA, we make our practice more open and beneficial. sentient beings expands our meditation beyond ourselves. I had been studying and meditat- ing in various traditions for some years when, at age twenty-five, I met my pri- mary teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, a Tibetan Vajrayana master. When he taught me to dedicate the merit at the end of a session, I immediately noticed a big shift in my meditation. It felt like my whole practice opened up and became more effortless. It wasn’t just about me any longer. Dedicat- ing the merit to others freed my practice to include all beings, and this eased the sense of tightness and contraction in my meditation. It was a relief. When we include humans, animals, and any and all sentient beings—maybe even alien life forms—in our practice, our minds connect with trillions of beings. This expands our conscious- ness to the unbound vastness. From our normal, limited perspective, we experi- ence ourselves and others as separate. In reality, this is not the case, because we are interdependent. When we dedi- cate the merit of our meditation to all beings, we are in alignment with the truth of what is, and our self-concept expands, even if we don’t immediately notice it. In dedicating our meditation to ease the suffering of all beings, we engage in an act of radical imagination. Our radi- cal imagining is that all beings are free, at peace, and awakened. Imagining this LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 29 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE