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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Puṇya (Sanskrit; Pāli, puñña). Term meaning ‘merit’, meritorious action’, or ‘virtue’. Sometimes also used to refer to the results or potential results of good karma such as a heavenly rebirth and a future blissful existence, the enjoyment and duration of which depends of the amount of merit accumulated in a previous life. Pāli sources mention three factors known as puñña-kiriya-vatthūni (grounds of meritorious action) which produce merit: these are dāna (generosity), sīla (Sanskrit, śīla, good conduct), and bhāvanā (contemplation).

puñña: merit, meritorious, is a popular term for kammically wholesome (kusala) action. Opposite terms: apuñña, 'demerit'; pāpa, 'bad', 'evil', The value of meritorious action is often stressed, e.g., in the Treasure Store Sutta (s. Khp. Tr.), Dhp 18, 118, 122. - The Community of Holy Monks (ariya-Saṃgha), the third Refuge (s. ti-saraṇa), is said to be "the incomparable field of merit in the world" (anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassa); s. anussati 3. The Arahats, however, having transcended all life-affirming and rebirth-producing actions, are said to be "beyond merit and demerit"; see Sn. 520, 547, 636, 790. - See foll. 3 articles.

Puñña. A Pali term meaning "merit" in the sense of that which is a necessary condition for attaining a better form of rebirth (i.e., one with greater scope for spiritual advancement) in the future. Such merit can be achieved at various levels, but each is important as providing the opportunity to proceed from kindergarten to grade school is as important and may be in the long run far more important than the opportunity to enter graduate school. Rebirth is always to be considered in terms of opportunity. It carries no guarantee of success, but its value and importance can be measured only in considering the alternative: lack of opportunity.


Puñña (nt.) [cp. (late) Vedic puṇya favourable, good; etym. not clear, it may be dialectical. The word is expld by Dhammapāla as "santānaŋ punāti visodheti," i. e. cleaning the continuation (of life) VvA 19, thus taken to pu. The expln is of course fanciful] merit, meritorious action, virtue. Always represented as foundation and condition of heavenly rebirth & a future blissful state, the enjoyment (& duration) of which depends on the amount of merit accumulated in a former existence. With ref. to this life there are esp. 3 qualities contributing to merit, viz., dāna, sīla & bhāvanā or liberality, good conduct & contemplation. These are the puñña -- kiriya -- vatthūni (see below). Another set of ten consists of these 3 and apaciti, veyyāvacca, patti -- anuppadāna, abbhanumodanā, desanā, savana, diṭṭh' ujjuka -- kamma. The opp. of puñña is either apuñña (D iii.119; S i.114; ii.82; A i.154; iii.412; Sdhp 54, 75) or pāpa (Sn 520; Dh 39; Nett 96; PvA 5). The true Arahant is above both (Pv ii.615). See on term also Kvu trsl. 201. -- (a) Passages (selected): D iii.58, 120; M i.404; ii.191, 199; S i.72; ii.82; iv.190; iv.190; v.53; A i.151, 155 sq.; iii.412; Sn 427 sq., 547, 569, 790; Dh 18, 116 sq., 196, 220, 267, 331, 412; Nd1 90; Pv 1.2; i.512; Pug 55; Vism 541 (puññānaŋ paccayo duvidhā); DhAiv.34; PvA 6, 8 30, 69 sq.; Sdhp 4, 19 sq. -- (b) Var. phrases & characterisations: Merit is represented as great (uḷāra DA i.110; PvA 5; anappaka Pv i.512) orlittle (paritta DA i.110; appa S ii.229); as adj. ( -- ˚) mahā˚ S i.191, opp. appa˚ M ii.5. puñña is defined at Nd1 90 as follows: "puññaŋ vuccati yaŋ kiñci tedhātukaŋ kusal' âbhisankhāraŋ; apuññaŋ vuccati sabbaŋ akusalaŋ. " It is defined as "dāna -- sīl' -- ādi -- pabheda" & "sucaritaŋ kusala -- kammaŋ" at VvA 19; considered as leading to future happiness: Vv 13; PvA 58; consisting mainly in dāna (dānamayaŋ p.) PvA 8, 51, 60, 66, 73, but also in vandana PvA 1. To do good= puññaŋ (puññāni) karoti D i.137; S iv.331; A v.177; Pv i.119; or pasavati S i.182, 213; A i.89; ii.3 sq.; iii.244; v.249, 282; PvA 121, cp. puññaŋ pasutaŋ Pv i.512; VvA 289. Other phrases: ˚ŋ ākankhati S i.18, 20; pavaḍḍhati S i.33; corehi duharaŋ S i.36; puññānaŋ vipāko A iv.89; āgamo S iii.209 iv.349; opadhikaŋ S i.233; It 78; purāṇaŋ & navaŋ S i.92; sayaŋ katāni puññāni S i.37; puññassa dhārā S i.100; v.400.
   -- atthika desirous of merit Sn 487 sq. -- ânubhāva the majesty of merit PvA 58. -- âbhisankhāra accumulation of merit D iii.217; S ii.82; Nd1 90, 206, 442; Vism 557 sq., 571; VbhA 142 sq., 166, 184. -- âbhisanda (+kusalâbhisanda) meritorious results A ii.54 sq.; iii.51, 337; iv.245. -- assaya seat of merit DA i.67. -- iddhi the magic power of m. PvA 117. -- kata one who has done a deed of m. A ii.32. -- kamma good works, righteousness, merit S i.97, 143; DA i.10; VvA 32; PvA 54, 87; Sdhp 32. -- kāma (adj.) desirous of doing good works S v.462. -- kiriyā a good or meritorious action S i.87 (˚kriyā), 101; PvA 54; usually as˚kiriyavatthu item of m. action (of which 3 are usually enumd: see above) D iii.218; A iv.241; It 51; Nett 50, 128. -- kkhandha mass of merit (only as mahā˚) Sv.400; A iii.337. -- kkhaya decay (or waning of the effect) of merit D i.18 (cp. āyukkhaya & DA i.110). -- kkhetta field of m., Ep. of the Sangha or any holy personalities, doing good (lit. planting seeds of merit) to whom is a source of future compensation to the benefactor. Usually with adj. anuttara unsurpassed field of m. (see also sangha) D iii.5, 227; M i.446; iii.80; S i.167, 220; v.343, 363, 382; A i.244; ii.34 sq., 56, 113; iii.158, 248, 279 sq., 387; iv.10 sq., 292; It 88; Sn 486; Vv 5031 (cp. VvA 216); Pv iv.133 (of a bhikkhu); Vism 220; VvA 286; PvA 1 (ariyasangha), 5 (Moggallāna), 6 (arahanto), 132, 140, 214 and passim. Cp. BSk. puṇyakṣetra Divy 63, 395 (+udāra). -- paṭipadā the meritorious path, path of m. A i.168; Nett 96. -- pasavana creation of m. PvA 31. -- pekkha looking for merit (i. e. reward), intent upon m. S i.167; Sn 463 sq., 487 sq.; Dh 108 (cp. DhA ii.234). -- phala the fruit (or result) of m. action S i.217; Pug 51; DhA ii.4; PvA 8, 50, 52. -- bala the power of m. PvA 195. -- bhāga taking part in meritorious action S i.154. -- bhāgiya having share in m. M iii.72 sq.; Nett 48. -- maya=puñña J iv.232 (˚iddhi); cp. BSk. puñyamaya AvŚ i.183.

See also puṇya-jñāna-saṃbhāra; puṇya-kṣetra.