Pouring Water to Share Good Karma in Buddhism
When Buddhist make good Karma ('puñña') by offering almsfood to the monastic community ('Sangha'), they traditionally invite departed relatives to join and receive a share of the merits. While the monks chant the blessing, the donors think of their relatives and simultaneously pour water from a small bronze vessel into a receptacle.
Ajahn Dhammasiha explains the symbolic meaning of the act of pouring water. The discussion is very lively, as two 10 and 11 year old kids come up with all kinds of amazing ideas what water could symbolize:
- Pouring from one vessel to the next like good karma transferred from this world to the plane where the relatives are reborn
- Pouring from one vessel to the next like consciousness connecting form one life to the next rebirth
- Water is a cleansing agent and thus a symbol for mental purification
- Water is the most important nutriment, we can't live without it.
- Water serves to cool us down - like the Dhamma cools our passions and anger, till we reach the supreme coolness of Nibbāna
- Water is used in cooking/baking/concrete mixing - As a binding agent of disparate ingredients it is a symbol for harmony
- Water symbolizes strength and energy, like the turbines in a huge dam
- Water doesn't stay in any place forever, it evaporates and changes and moves all the time. Thus it's a simile for impermanence