There are many ways to make merit, or positive karma. The most comprehensive are the six perfections (paramitas) that Mahayana Buddhism prescribes as the path to enlightenment. They are: giving (generosity), discipline (morality), patience (fearlessness), diligence (eagerness), tranquillity (contemplation), and wisdom.
The first five perfections, collectively referred to as “skillful means,” are especially for accumulating merit. The sixth, wisdom, involves realizing the true nature of mind, which is wisdom-emptiness.
The undervaluation of skillful-means practices to develop merit is unfortunate. Their purpose is to refine and transform our mind. Devotion opens our hearts. Compassion dissolves ego. Prayer unites us with our enlightened qualities. Pure perception transforms our awareness. Serving others, especially those who rely on us, is the purpose of dharma. There is no such thing as a buddha who doesn’t help others. So the more we open our hearts to skillful means, the more quickly and surely we reach buddhahood. We should never abandon these practices, for the path of skillful means is perfected in the goal of enlightenment, just as bricks become the finished house
Tulku Thondup Rinpoche
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