to the Pure Land tradition is the figure of the Bodhisattva
Dharmakara, the future Amitabha Buddha, who came to exemplify
the Bodhisattva ideal and the doctrine of dedication of merit.
This merit transference is the source of the vow-power, or other-power
in Pure Land Buddhism.
The Mahayana idea of the Buddha being able
to impart his power to others marks one of those epoch-making deviations
which set off the Mahayana from so-called .....original Buddhism.....The
Mahayanist accumulates stocks of merit not only for the material
of their own enlightenment but for the general cultivation of merit
which can be shared equally by their fellow-beings, animate or inanimate.
This is the true meaning of Parinamara that is turning one's merit
over to others for their spiritual interest.
The rationale for such conduct, which on
the surface appears to run counter to the laws of Cause and Effect,
may be explained in the following passage concerning one of the
three Pure Land sages, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Kuan Yin):
Some of us may ask whether the effect of
karma may be reverted by repeating the name of Kuan-yin. This question
is tie up with that rebirth in [the Pure Land] and it may be answered
by saying that invocation of Kuan-Yin's name forms another cause
which will right away offset the previous karma. We know for example
that if there is a dark, heavy cloud above, the chances are that
it will rain. But we also know that if a strong wind should blow,
the cloud will be carried away somewhere else and will not feel
the rain. Similarly, the addition of one big factor can alter the
whole cause of karma.
It is only be accepting the idea of life
as one whole that both Theravadins and Mahayanists can advocate
the practice of transference of merit to others. With the case of
Kuan-yin then, by reciting Her name we identify ourselves with Her
and as a result of this identification Her merit flow over to us.
These merits which are now ours then counterbalance our bad karma
and save us from calamity. This law of Cause and Effect still stands
good. All karma has overshadowed the weaker one...