You spent nine months in your mother’s womb and she experienced so much unbelievable pain when you were born. Then, for so many years, your parents sacrificed their lives for you and worried about you. When you weren’t obedient, they got angry and beat you and created negative karma because of you. They sent you to school to receive an education so you could have a good life. They spent so much money for so many years on your shelter, food, and expenses. Then you spent so many years learning, from kindergarten and primary school to college. You finally got a degree and found a job and then endured hardship to save money for so many years. With the money, you bought a house and other things.
All the money you raised is a dependent arising. It didn’t only come from your own effort, but was dependent on your parents and their many years of hard work and physical and mental exhaustion, on the education you received, and on your many years of hard work, bearing many hardships. Wow! If all the work for this money became Dharma, that is one thing, but usually the work is done with anger, attachment, or ignorance and becomes only negative karma.
But if you offer everything to the Sangha, you create unbelievable merit. Sangha are living in a high number of vows and are unbelievably powerful objects. I think Western people want to help others because they see that others need things, but many Tibetan lay people want to help out of interest for their own good karma, so that they have everything—happiness, wealth, a long life, etc—in future lives.
Giving to the Sangha is an incredible thing. One extremely poor person gave medicine and drink to four monks; they were not arhats, just ordinary monks. In the next life, that person was born as a very powerful and wealthy person. The karmic cause was very simple—just giving medicine and drink to four monks—but because karma expands, the result will be experienced over many lifetimes. If you offer to the powerful object of the Sangha with the motivation of bodhicitta, the result is even more powerful. You receive limitless skies of merit because you are thinking of benefiting numberless sentient beings—numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless sura beings and asura beings, and numberless intermediate state beings—and bringing them to enlightenment. You can imagine the merit you gain if you offer to the Sangha with the motivation of bodhicitta.
You can serve the Sangha with your body, or through talking to people, or with your mind. And when you die, you can offer your money, your house or your material possessions to the Sangha. Then there won’t be the problem of the family creating negative karma with each other, getting angry at each other because you didn’t give them this or that. They fight and quarrel and then there are court cases. The problems explode like a volcano.
If your family is not Buddhist, they won’t make charity to others for you; they won’t give even one dollar to charity and dedicate it for you. They will use all the money that you raised from so many years of hard work, exhausting your body and mind. Of course, as I mentioned before, if it is done with virtue, then the result is happiness, but almost everything becomes non-virtue, and then you have to experience the result, an unbelievable length of time in the lower realms. Then, even in the human realm, you have to experience the possessed result and creating the result similar to the cause and the result similar to the action. Due to past habits, you create the same actions again in the human realm. Your family does the same thing, using the money only to create non-virtue. Your family may not like to hear this, but this is the reality.
If your family is Buddhist and they understand karma and care for you with compassion, they will use the money to do something for you.
Of course, if you have children and a wife or husband, it is different. You have a responsibility to take care of them. However, it’s very nice to leave a will and offer to the Sangha. Then, the activities of the family don’t become non-virtue and you collect some virtue. You create virtue right now, when you make the decision, and later, when the offering is actually made.