Levels of Making Merit
First I want to refer to a survey carried out a number of years ago where people were asked to place ten items in the correct order of what they thought would give them the most merit:
1. Becoming a monk
2. Contributing enough money for the construction of a monastery
3. Having a son ordained as a monk
4. Making excursions to Buddhist shrines throughout Thailand
5. Contributing towards the repair of a monastery
6. Giving food daily to the monks and giving food on holy days
7. Becoming a novice
8. Attending a temple on all holy days and obeying the eight precepts on these days
9. Obeying the five precepts at all times
Source: Monks and Magic by B.J. Terwiel
The Alms, the Monk and the Donor
The result of making merit depends on the qualifications of the three components. These are the receiver, the alms and the donor. The result of making merit would depend very much on how the alms-receiver is. If we offer alms to a monk, the purer and more observant the monk is, the more merit we will receive.
If we give food as an alms to animals, in terms of merit, we will receive very little. The reasons is that an animal is in a lower position than human beings. The animals cannot observe religious precepts. Buddhists believe that observing precepts is moral training or a purification process. For the same reason, if we give alms to those people who do not have the 5 precepts in mind, for example mischievious people, we will receive very little merit, but more than offering to animals.
We will gain more merit if the receiver observes the 5 precepts (refrain from killing, stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying and from taking intoxicants). We would then gain even more merit if they observed 8 or 10 precepts. And of course even more if it was a monk who observes his 227 precepts completely.
But, we also have to be aware that the alms we offer is clean. For example, if you offer something that doesn’t belong to you. If you are immoral as well and the monk doesn’t observe properly all 227 precepts, then you won’t receive merit. Only if you are morally clean and have good intentions, and so is the monk who observes his religious precepts perfectly, then this alms-giving will result in a full and perfect merit.
Main Source: How to get Good Results from Making Merit
Merits from Alms Giving
I will finish with what Thai people believe will happen to them if they offer certain kinds of things to the monks:
* If you offer rice or any stable food, you will be happy and healthy all through your life
* If you offer clothing, in your next life, you won’t have a problem with clothing and will also have beautiful skin
* If you offer candles, flashlight and incense sticks you will have beautiful and bright eyes. Also, in your next life you will not need glasses
* If you offer a Buddha image, in your following life you will be as beautiful as that image
* If you offer religious books or donate text books and learning materials for school children, you will be intelligent in your next life
* If you offer soap, skin lotion or cleansing facilities, you will have nice and beautiful skin
* If you donate money and materials for constructing buildings in the monastery, you will have a big and beautiful house in your next life
* If you build bathrooms and toilets for the monastery and help to build public hospitals, you will have a healthy and happy life
* If you offer toothpicks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, you will have beautiful and strong teeth
* If you donate blood, kidney or other part of your body, you will have a fit body and vigorous health in your future lives.
Source: How to get Good Results from Making Merit