Universal Dedication of Merits
Some said that such tiny bit of merits, could hardly be enough for reducing one's own karmic debts; how could it be further distributed to countless beings for sharing? Wouldn't it then become a futile effort? When limited to such bit by bit calculation based on a deluded grasping to "self" one would not know how many great-kalpas it will take to offset one's karmic debts that is as high as mountains and as deep as oceans and had been accumulated since beginning-less time. Not to mention that, during this long period of renewing efforts, one could hardly avoid creating new karmic debts, so how much longer shall one wait for all karmic debts to completely clear? Thus it is clear that grasping to "self" would render one trapped in transmigration with little hope of escaping! The tiny bit of merits depends squarely on the great Bodhi intention to merge into the great ocean of Buddhas' boundlessly compassionate vows and activities, and hence become capable of yielding effects of genuinely benefiting sentient beings. If one fails to comprehend the necessity of dedicating merits to all beings, then the efforts will fall short of success by one huge gap, and can harvest only little bit of meritorious fortune.
Universally dedicating merits to all beings and dedicating merits to individual sentient beings within one's awareness through hearing and seeing to help relieve them from sufferings are not in conflict. But one need to recognize clearly that only by first dedicating merits to all beings for their enlightenment can the merits with superior power and effect be generated, and hence capable of blessing individual sentient beings. Furthermore, one should understand thoroughly that it is not the case that by merely mouthing "dedicating merits to all beings"—but indeed only hoping for benefiting personal relations through such merits—genuine merits will ensue. One need to do it with all sincerity for all beings, and regard personal relations as among the sentient beings and are included so as to make concrete the abstract notion of "all beings," only then will it work.
There are also those who believed and knew that dedication of merits indeed has potential of yielding results, and hence requested persons with attainment of realization to grant blessings. These people should diligently practice Dharma on their own to pay back the grace of granting blessing, or reward or assist in Dharma activities through ways such as making offerings, praising, and making it known to others, etc. If they fell into expecting harvests without contributing efforts, then it would not be in accord with Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' grace of blessing beings to help them attain ultimate emancipation. Since causes and consequences do not match, then they could not expect constant results time after time.
Written in Chinese and translated on April 17, 2009