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Holy Objects : Making Offerings

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at various locations (Last Updated Feb 7, 2014)

Offering Practices

Verses to Inspire Offerings
To be kept in the house or gompa where offerings are made for inspiration and to achieve every happiness up to enlightenment. The verses are available for download as a frameable card from the FPMT Foundation Store.

While there is the Guru who is like a wish-granting jewel and the unimaginable wish-fulfilling tree,
And the ever-undeceiving Rare Sublime Ones1 who effortlessly fulfill all wishes,
Still to be dissatisfied and spend your body and wealth on what is non-virtuous and without meaning is so very foolish.

Dear friends,
Once you have understood that wealth is like dew on the tip of a blade of grass
And that your friends, body and life are like a bubble,
Then you must engage in virtues such as making offerings to the Rare Sublime Ones while looking at them as the Guru
And extract the essence from your essenceless body and wealth.

Due to this merit may I and all others
Be able to make offerings to the Guru and the Three Jewels since they are our crown ornament.
By keeping my prayers and commitments,
And by means of listening, reflection and contemplation,
With guru devotion and supreme bodhicitta,
May my life become fortunate, something meaningful and worthy of rejoicing,
And in this way, may I fulfill all the wishes of sentient beings.

Just as flies gather around dirty things
Due to seeing samsara as pleasure
So far I have accomplished only meaningless suffering
Lacking any freedom to practice Dharma.
Now, with my body, speech and mind
I will engage in great meaningful actions for the welfare of others.
May the Guru please bless me to be able to do this.

Arranged and composed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Kopan Monastery, 11 August 2011. Corrected by Lama Zopa Rinpoche with Ven. Kunphen, Tushita Meditation Centre, 26 March 2012. Further suggested editing by Ven. Sarah, 2 July 2012.

Notes:
1 Tib. kön-chog sum, ie the Three Jewels. 

Offering to the Sangha
Rinpoche gave the following talk in Singapore in 2009, about the merit of offering our material possessions to the Sangha. 

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.

Water Bowls Practice
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a nun who asked if she should continue with her water bowls practice.

Keep doing the water bowls. Khen Rinpoche is not teasing when you ask something and he says, “Just do the water bowls,” because he knows this is what I like—this is what makes me happy. So, he wants you to stay at Kopan forever doing this.

The Six-Session Guru Yoga verse says, “Whatever supreme and mundane attainment…what only pleases you.” This is the quickest path to enlightenment, and it brings the result and the realizations quickly. There is nothing to do other than that. Whether we learn Tibetan or not, or do other things, whatever pleases the guru is the most effective and efficient thing for us to do. We should keep this in mind and remember to keep it in our thoughts.

How to Generate Merit by Offering Music, such as Bell, Gong or Conch Shell

The Benefits of Offering Music such as Bells
If one offers the sweet sound of the bell, ting-shak (very small Tibetan cymbals), conch shell, and so forth, one will have a very sweet and enchanting voice, and a big voice. One will have a long life, no sickness, be born in a high rank or class, with a perfect, beautiful body, have great wealth, and be very powerful. One should make such offerings if one wishes for these results.

With your enchanting voice you will be able to attract many sentient beings—like world-famous singers—and bring them to enlightenment. If you offer any of these musical sounds to Buddha, it also becomes the cause to achieve Buddha’s perfect holy speech. Even if you offer music to Buddha without bodhicitta, and even if your attitude of offering music doesn’t become Dharma because it is stained by attachment clinging to this life, the thought of the eight worldly Dharmas, still it immediately becomes the cause to attain enlightenment, peerless happiness, and the highest success. And it also becomes the cause to achieve liberation from the whole entire suffering of samsara and total liberation from the oceans of samsaric suffering, including their causes—delusions and karma. It becomes the cause for the happiness of future lives, including good rebirths and so forth. One collects a vast amount of merit. Even one music offering to Buddha creates very powerful good karma, affecting even this life, bringing health, a long life, success in business, and fulfilling your wishes. It brings so much happiness in this life. The benefits explained here include also offering the sound of a gong or any kind of music that produces sound.

Regarding a bell offered to a stupa, especially containing the Stainless Beam Deity’s mantra, anybody in the area who hears the sound of the bell has any negative karma completely purified, including the five uninterrupted negative karmas (the five heinous deeds: killing one’s father, mother, or an arhat, maliciously drawing blood from a buddha, and causing a schism within the Sangha), which are extremely heavy. Also, the ten non-virtuous actions that are normally created in daily life are also purified. It’s incredibly powerful.

Offering a Bell to Prayer Wheels
Each time the bell makes a sound, you are offering it.

When you ring a gong at a Dharma center, for example, you don’t have to just ring it to assemble people. With each sound you can think you are making an offering of sound to the gurus, the Triple Gem in all ten directions, and the holy objects in all ten directions. This way, with each sound, you create so many causes for enlightenment, also so many causes for liberation and the happiness of future lives. Of course, this also affects this life—all your wishes for happiness are fulfilled, as well as being able to benefit others.

How to Make the Offering: Preparation: Motivation
Think: The purpose of my life is to free all sentient beings from suffering and lead them to enlightenment, therefore I must achieve enlightenment, and I am going to make the offering of sound.

Actual Body: Making the Offering
Think: I am going to offer sound to my root guru; all the buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha, who are my guru, in the ten directions; and all statues, stupas, and scriptures, who are my guru, in the ten directions.

Then one rings the bell.

While ringing the bell, think like this: The sentient beings in the six realms have heard the sound of Dharma. The sound of the bell means: “Phenomena are empty of existing from their own side.” They have all heard this teaching on emptiness, realized emptiness, and become liberated totally from the ocean of samsaric suffering and delusion and karma. With the support of bodhicitta, they have completed the path, their body has become the rupakaya, and their mind has become the Dharmakaya. You can visualize any deity that you wish. You can practice the meditation when you are ringing the bell but also you can dedicate as follows: “May the sound of the bell affect sentient beings in this way.”

Then, recite this mantra seven times:

OM PEMA USHNIKA BIMALE HUMG PHET

Then blow on the bell. Anybody who hears the sound of the bell, not just humans, but spirits and animals in the area, has the ten non-virtuous actions purified and even the five uninterrupted negative karmas purified. You should do the same with the gong or bell when you ring it to call people to meals or to sessions, so it becomes incredible purification for oneself and all sentient beings.

Completion: Dedication
You create vast amounts of merit through the motivation of bodhicitta and offering to the gurus by thinking that each guru is countless buddhas, by offering to the buddhas in the ten directions, and by offering to the statues, stupas, and Sanghas in the ten directions.

Give all the merits of the past, present, future, and all the causes of enlightenment to all sentient beings, so they receive whatever they want, whatever they need, eliminate all the defilements, and become enlightened. Again, one has collected vast amounts of merit from this.

Then, dedicate this merit:
Due to all this merit, may whatever suffering sentient beings experience ripen upon me, and may whatever happiness I have ripen upon other sentient beings.

Due to the merits of the three times collected by me and all sentient beings, may the precious sublime thought of bodhicitta be generated in my mind and in the minds of all sentient beings, without the delay of even one second. Whatever bodhicitta has been generated may it never decline but increase more and more.

Due to all these merits, may all the father and mother sentient beings have all happiness, and may all the lower realms be empty forever. Wherever there are bodhisattvas, may all their prayers be accomplished immediately. May I cause all this by myself alone.

Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated by me and all sentient beings, which are completely empty of existing from their own side, may the “I,” which is completely empty of existing from its own side, quickly achieve the state of enlightenment, which is completely empty of existing from its own side, in order to lead all sentient beings, who are completely empty of existing from their own side, to that state, by myself alone, who is completely empty of existing from its own side.

Just as the brave Manjushri and Samantabhadra too
Realized things as they are
I too dedicate all these merits in the best way
That I may follow their perfect example

I dedicate all these roots of virtue
With the dedication praised as the best
By the victorious ones thus gone of the three times
So I might perform good works.

Multiplying Mantras to Increase the Merit 100,000 Times:

CHOM DEN DE DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PAI SANG GYE NAM PAR NANG DZE O KYI GYAL PO LA CHAG TSAL LO (3 times)

JANG CHUB SEM PA SEM PA CHEN PO KUN TU ZANG PO LA CHAG TSAL LO (3 times)

TAYATHA OM PANCHA GRIYA AVA BODHANI SOHA

OM DHURU DHURU JAYA MUKHE SOHA (7 times)

CHOM DEN DE DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PAI SANG GYE NGO WA DANG MON LAM THAM CHE RAB TU DU PE GYAL PO LA CHAG TSEL LO

Due to the power of the blessings of the eminent Buddha and bodhisattvas, the power of the infallible dependent arising, and the power of my pure special attitude, may all my pure prayers succeed immediately.

Please write this on a board by the bell:
“By the sound of the Great Dharma bell may sentient beings instantly be freed from their suffering.”

Making Offerings to the Pretas
Rinpoche gave the following advice on making offerings to pretas (hungry ghosts).

How can you make your life beneficial for your most kind, precious mother sentient beings, especially the pretas, and receive all happiness of the three times, including liberation from samsara and the great liberation—peerless, full enlightenment?

Pretas suffer heavily from hunger and thirst, not finding even a drop of water or a spoonful of food for hundreds of thousands of eons. They suffer from incredible exhaustion, disappointment, heat, and cold. In particular, pretas experience three types of obscuration: outer, inner, and food obscuration. The Yeshe Karda (Transcendental Wisdom Star-Arrow) practice enables every single preta to receive drink.

If we go to the beach, how can we make our life most beneficial? If we do this practice when we go into the water, all the stones, lakes, and swimming pools are blessed. This is one way to make our life most beneficial for all sentient beings, here, in particular, for the pretas.

Take some water from the ocean or swimming pool, put it in a container, visualize the deity Yeshe Karda above the water or container, and visualize nectar flowing from the deity into the water in the container. Then, recite the heart mantra of Yeshe Karda seven times:

OM JNANA AVALOKITE SAMANTA PARANA RAMI BAWA SAMAYA MAHA MANI DURU DURU HRIH DAYA JALANI SOHA

Then, pour the water back into the ocean or swimming pool. Again, take water from the ocean or swimming pool, visualize the deity and the nectar flowing into the water, then again recite the mantra seven times. Hold the bottom of the container with your left hand, and the top of the container with your right hand. This should be done seven times, each time reciting the mantra seven times.

Each time you pour out the water, visualize and say the following prayers:

“This ocean of water appears as nectar to all the pretas that the omniscient mind sees. All the pretas see it as an ocean of milk, they drink it and are fully satisfied. It liberates them from all sufferings, including the specific sufferings of the pretas, causes of delusion, karma, and defilements. These are all purified and they actualize the whole path to enlightenment.”

Visualize every preta becoming Chenrezig.

When you say this prayer, all the oceans appear as actual nectar to the pretas. The more detailed benefits of this practice are that all pretas will find devas’ food and drink. This is divine food in the form of nectar.

Also, all the other beings, including animals and insects living in the water or who drink the water, are purified and achieve a higher rebirth. They will go onto the path of a happy transmigrating being. Therefore, the benefits of this practice are not limited to only the pretas. The benefits are vast.

By receiving the blessing of this mantra, each preta receives as much food or drink as it needs, is fully satisfied, purified, and will be reborn in a higher realm. Whoever drinks this water has all their negative karma purified and will obtain a good rebirth in the higher realms.

*For more information on making offerings to pretas, see Appendix 4 of the book Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat.

Offerings to the Guru-Buddha
Rinpoche gave the following advice on how to make offerings to the guru and Buddha.

Whenever we think the guru is happy, that we are pleasing the guru, then any practice we do is guru yoga. Whenever we practice sadhanas, make offerings, visualize the merit field, and make offerings to the guru and Buddha as one, then every offering we make brings the most extensive merit.

For example, in daily life, there is the yoga of eating. If you see that the deity and guru are one, then with every drink and bite you take, you accumulate the most extensive merit. With one sip of tea you receive far more merit than offering to numberless buddhas, the Dharma, Sangha, statues, or scriptures. When you offer to yourself as the deity, make a determination in the future that you will become a buddha, that you will have the purest enjoyments, and no defilements. Offering to yourself as a deity determines what you will receive in the future. With this meditation on the guru/deity, with each bite and drink you are closer to enlightenment. Karma is very powerful.

For example, in India, a person made one offering to a fully ordained monk. In his next rebirth, he was a powerful king in India. This result came from offering to a powerful object and the fact that karma is expandable. Just one simple offering to a monk or nun is so powerful. Offering to numberless buddhas, the Dharma, Sangha, statues, and scriptures means you receive a lot of merit. But offering to yourself as the guru/deity gains much greater merit than offering to numberless buddhas, the Dharma, Sangha, statues, and scriptures—it is far more powerful karma.

Benefits of Offering to Buddha
Offering one tiny flower to a statue or picture of Buddha receives immeasurable, limitless, merit. All the paths to happiness result from that. With just one grain of rice or one tiny flower, you can enter the path and achieve total enlightenment—the completion of all good qualities.

After achieving enlightenment, you can liberate so many sentient beings from so much suffering and samsara and bring them to enlightenment. This is the result of offering one tiny flower. Each offering has all this benefit—like putting money in the bank. One dollar equals one billion trillion dollars in interest. This is an amazing benefit. It is important to remember this every day and offer as much as possible. If you see a beautiful flower, you visualize offering it to the guru and Buddha. The result and benefit is incredible. You can offer every single flower in a garden—the merit received is mind-blowing.

This is how you use your precious human life, which is extremely rare and hard to find. Every time you see an object, use it to become closer to liberation and enlightenment. Many times each day, use your precious human rebirth to bring you closer and closer to liberation and enlightenment and thus to enlighten all sentient beings.

Dorje Khadro Practice
Each time you offer seeds of negativity into Dorje Khadro’s mouth, his holy mouth is fully satisfied by them. Every session should be performed with the realization of impermanence and death. Think that maybe you will die before you finish this session. To cut worldly attachment and clinging to the “I,” you need to cut off the worldly dharmas. You need to make your actions Dharma. If not, you think you are practicing, but the results don’t come.

Your motivation is very important. While making offerings, see them as empty, then your practice becomes very rich and powerful. Until we are enlightened, we have negative imprints on our mind, even after we realize the emptiness of the “I.” Understand that the appearance of the “I” from its own side is not true. While dreaming, we can recognize that it is a dream. We still see hallucinations, visions of water, and mirages, but understand in your heart that they are not real. It is important to practice mindfulness, seeing things as empty even though they appear real. You must purify your negative imprints.

Recognize that the object of negation, the “I,” is totally empty. Think of it as a dream, and understand that it is not real. This helps us not to grasp it. It is extremely powerful purification, and becomes the antidote to suffering, to all delusions, and to be free of samsara.

When you practice the Dorje Khadro puja, it is good to think of all sentient beings, including your family, and then the puja becomes also for them and purifies their negative karma. This is very powerful. If someone has cancer, AIDS, is dying, or dead, you can do this puja for them.

When Nyudrung Ngawang Khädrub was young, he asked the Panchen Lama where he would be born, and was told in Amitabha Pure Land. Later, he became a teacher in Sera Je Monastery. One time, he used the offerings made to the Sangha for himself and some other monks—food and money—which was a polluted act. He asked a medium what would be the consequences, and the medium said he would be born in hell. He performed a Dorje Khadro puja, asked again, and the medium then said he would be born in Amitabha Pure Land.

So, the Dorje Khadro fire puja can purify even heavy karma to burn in the hell realms; you can liberate yourself from that, and also be born in the higher realms. You can accomplish all work for all sentient beings. This is the root of it. Whatever you do—study, meditation, etc.—becomes very effective. The mind can see its delusions and reduce them. Also, harm, obstacles, and sicknesses are all purified and all your wishes are fulfilled. You are especially able to develop the greatest wisdom.

In all your lifetimes, it is very important to benefit sentient beings, and be connected with Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Also, with the tantric path, it is easy to understand, practice, realize, and achieve enlightenment. And at death, you will go to Tushita Pure Land. It is impossible to be born in the lower realms.

There are many guru yoga practices, with different deities, but Lama Tsongkhapa guru yoga is especially good for spreading Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings and achieving wisdom realizations.

Offering Incense
Rinpoche explained the benefits of offering incense while reciting a particular mantra.

This wonderful, unbelievable practice comes from Lord Buddha’s teachings found in the Kangyur, in the section on tantra.

When we make offerings of incense (in powder or stick form), flowers, food, etc., recite the following mantra 21 times and then offer them to the Three Jewels:

NAMAH SARVA TATHAGATHA AVALOKITE OM SAMBHARA SAMBHARA HUNG

The benefits of this mantra are as follows:

1) The food offered becomes divine (of the divine substance of the Buddha) with the blessing of this mantra;
2) It becomes an offering to the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha abiding in the ten directions. We accumulate an inconceivable amount of merit;
3) The merit created is equal to having praised all the Three Jewels;
4) The merit created is equal to having made a request to the Three Jewels;
5) We create the same amount of merit as from having rejoiced at the qualities of the Three Jewels;
6) At all times, the Buddhas are always admiring, paying attention to, and thinking of us, just how parents are always thinking of their sons and daughters;
7) Many devas are always protecting and guiding us;
8) The paramita of charity is completed.

The Buddha told Ananda, “Ananda, just as I have taught this method to you, reflect on it, practice it, keep it in mind, and reveal it to all sentient beings so that they will be able to see and hear this practice. In this way, one will achieve limitless merit.”

More Teachings by Rinpoche on this topic:
How to Make Offerings and Prayers in Front of Holy Objects

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