Although some persons consider that transference is somehow a denial of the law of karma, even a quick analysis will convince us that it is both real and common. In ordinary experience, it is customary to transfer wealth through gifts of goods and services, to transfer knowledge through the educational process, and to transfer protection through granting asylum and solace to the unfortunate.
Parents transfer the fruit of their labor to their children; teachers transfer the fruit of their studies to their disciples; the strong and powerful transfer the fruit of their influence to the weak. Transference also occurs when we allow others to benefit from our actions, as when we produce riches for our employers, or allow our superiors to take credit for our ideas and efforts.
It is not only merit that can be transferred; we can also accept the results of others’ negative karma. This process is also more common than we may at first imagine. Every day, people accept the suffering of others as their own, with the intention to protect and favor them. When we perform a favor for a stranger, assume the debts of a friend or relative, or take responsibility for the errors of our colleagues at work, we are voluntarily accepting the negative karma of others.
Dharma teachers simply have taken this natural process of transference and placed it at the service of spiritual cultivation. It is neither unusual nor surprising, then, that the masters dedicate their merit and accept the suffering of others as their own.