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field of merit (fukuden 福田)

The recipient of any gift or offering, who is likened to a field that is cultivated. The planting of seeds is a stock metaphor in Buddhist literature for performing actions (karma), all of which will necessarily have some result in the future. The act of giving always bears positive karmic fruit or "merit" (fuku 福), but the yield of merit is said to be greater or lesser depending on the worthiness of the recipient, just as seeds planted in fertile field will yield a more bountiful crop than the same seeds planted in a field with poor soil. The two richest fields of merit are the Buddha and the sangha: offerings and donations to them are said to produce the most merit for worshippers and donors. The reasoning behind this idea is that the Buddha and the monks who follow his teachings are the primary sources of merit, which they produce by the good deeds of maintaining moral precepts, practicing meditation, and developing wisdom. Lay followers who make donations of food, clothing, or shelter in support of those activities can gain a share of the merit accumulated by the monks. →"merit."