I shall provide a story to elucidate on the delusion that impedes many who perform merit using their egos thinking that they can play tricks on the divine nature in themselves. For merit to work it has to occur as a function or as an extension of the purity of intention is founded upon the pillar of ingenuity appertaining to compassion and loving-kindness. Most are the people that get deluded by the strength of their power or position in the respective society but the funny thing is that the Spirit world doesn’t follow the same dynamics that our ever-egoic minds.
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Emperor Wu of China was a very benevolent Buddhist. He built many temples and monasteries, educated many monks, and performed countless philanthropic deeds in the name of Buddhism. He asked the great teacher Bodhidharma, “What merit is there in my good works?”
Bodhidharma replied, “None whatsoever.” The Emperor then asked, “What is the Primal meaning of Holy Reality?” Bodhidharma answered, “Emptiness, not holiness.” The Emperor then queried, “Who, then, is this confronting me?” “I do not know,” was Bodhidharma’s reply. Since the Emperor did not understand, Bodhidharma left his kingdom.
Later, the Emperor related this conversation to an adviser, Prince Shiko. Shiko reprimanded him, saying that Bodhidharma was a great teacher possessed of the highest truth. The Emperor, filled with regret, dispatched a messenger to entreat Bodhidharma to return.
But Shiko warned, “Even if all the people in the land went, that one will never return.”