I recall my first lesson about dedication of merits. It was a class on basic Buddhism. At the end of class, the monk congratulated us for earning good merits. He then taught us to dedicate that merits to all other beings.
To dedicate merits, we just have to mentally pray,
I dedicate these merits to all beings, may all beings be well and happy.
It was refreshing to me because for the first time in life, I was taught to pray and wish for the happiness of others.
All positive and good actions, speech or thoughts generate good merits. Especially deeds that leads to enlightenment.
In this perspective, deeds that relates to spiritual cultivation are believed to possess potent store of merits. Therefore, meditation and chanting scriptures have great merits. Copying or printing scriptures to be gifted have great merits. Artistic work to create Buddha images has great merit. Supporting a Buddhist cause has great merits. So on and so forth.
To multiply the benefit of merits, we share it with others. That thought of giving away our merit is a merit itself. Hence the merit is multiplied by the vastness of our thoughts.
For beginners, our thoughts of sharing may be limited to our family and friends. Beyond that, we might not really be sincere in our dedication.
As we practice more, our sincerity increases. Our willingness to share our merits with unrelated people intensify. Gradually, it may become a warmth that embraces all sentient beings.
In this manner, dedication of merits help us broaden our perspective of sharing and giving.
The scope of our wish also changes over time.
As a teenager, well and happy means no examinations and stress from studies. In my mind, having an idle happy day means well and happy.
When I started work, well and happy means having an abundance of possessions. Cars, money, houses, vacation etc.
Overtime, well and happy means different things. A happy family, good health etc. However, these are just mundane happiness. Short term goals that are marked with impermanence.
Naturally, being well and happy in Budhism means the end of sufferings. Also known as enlightenment. So the dedication is really meant to mean that may all beings be enlightened.
But who can fault my dedication? As a kid, I truly have no idea what enlightenment is. What is the end of suffering like? Is it a day of game and joy? Is is laughter with family and friends?
There is no right or wrong for a growing plant. It is just part of growing. Do you have 3 leaves or 4? Likewise for spiritual practice.
What is important for a sprout like me is that, the sense of sharing is genuine, the sense of goodwill is genuine.
As we grow, our wisdom will mature.
Our dedication will also have depth.
May all be well and happy.