The Dedication Prayer begins with a distillation of chod, a practice of cutting self-clinging and offering with consummate generosity: “Now my body, possessions and the root of my virtue all together I give without clinging to all beings, who have been my parents.”
By transcendent knowledge of the empty nature of all things, we are able to offer everything, even our own body, without any attachment whatsoever.
We first offer to the glorious Three Jewels and Three Roots and to the guests of honour, including the dharma protectors and wealth deities. It is our hope that (1) they will find our offering completely delightful, that (2) our merit will increase and, with it, (3) our ability to carry out their activities to benefit sentient beings.
We then offer to the lower guests, the guests of compassion, meaning sentient beings, and our karmic creditors whom we have wronged previously.
By (1) the blessing of wisdom beings, (2) the merit of our generosity, and (3) the power of our prayer, our offering is transformed into whatever satisfies the lower guests—into medicine for the sick, wealth for the poor, food for the famished, and so on.
With the final line of the ngondro practice, “May great benefit be accomplished without obstacle for all beings,” we dedicate the virtue of the practice itself.
When we conclude a practice session and pause on the cusp of meditation and post-meditation, we have come to a pivotal point.
We can stand up, walk away, and feel full and satisfied with our accomplishment.
Or, we can offer that accomplishment to the welfare of all, adding the virtue we have created through practice to the store of merit of sentient beings.
If we conclude without dedicating the merit, we risk everything—merit can be (1) destroyed by anger, (2) saturated with pride, (3) diminished through jealousy.
If we offer our merit through dedication, we only increase it. Like water added to the ocean, nothing limits its expansion. Like oil added to a lamp, it increases the illumination of everything within the sphere of its radiance.
Let us imagine two bodhisattvas standing on the threshold of enlightenment. For countless lifetimes they have served sentient beings selflessly. Their realization is equal, for enlightenment is absolute.
Still, at that moment, their dedication has unsurpassed relevance, for it will determine the reach of their enlightened intention, whether their benefit will be direct, like Vajrasattva’s or Amitabha’s, or whether it will be less accessible.
For this reason, even now, when enlightenment seems far in the future, we should begin perfecting our prayers of dedication. However exalted our aspirations, may they find their highest fulfillment!
Source: Tromge, Jane. Ngondro Commentary: Instructions for the Concise Preliminary Practices of the New Treasure of Dudjom. Compiled from the teachings of H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche by Jane Tromge. Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995.