The Benefits of Offering to the Buddha

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1544)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained that we can collect extensive merit in our everyday life by making offerings to the Buddha. This teaching is excerpted from Lecture Four of Kopan Course No. 38, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov–Dec 2005. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessing food as an offering to lepers, Bodhgaya, 1990. Photo by Andy Melnic.

What I was going to mention before was this. If we offer one grain of rice or one tiny flower to a picture or a statue of the Buddha or a visualized Buddha, it is mentioned in the sutra, I think The Sutra of Heaped Flowers or something like that, it says the benefit we get from offering once that tiny flower or grain of rice to a stupa—it may not be a stupa; it means an “object of offering’” which could be a statue, a stupa, a scripture, a picture of an actual living buddha, whether it’s big or small, as long as it’s offered to the Buddha—the benefit is equivalent—now, you have to concentrate—to all the happiness that we have experienced in the past from beginningless samsaric rebirths up to now, as well as all the samsaric pleasure in the future. So that much is contained in offering one grain of rice or one tiny flower to a picture or statue of the Buddha or a visualized Buddha. Now, on top of that, from that we can achieve liberation from samsara, the sorrowless state.

It is commonly said in the teachings, as I mentioned at the beginning, offering, prostrations, all these actions done to a statue, stupa or scripture, besides an actual living buddha, everything immediately becomes the cause of enlightenment. That’s common. Here, it not only mentions liberation from samsara, but on top of all that I mentioned before, all the samsaric pleasure we experienced from beginningless samsara up to now and what we will experience in the future, on top of that, there is liberation from samsara, and on top of that, there is great liberation, enlightenment.

Then, I think the results of the benefits still don’t finish, because after we achieve enlightenment, we then liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering. That’s unimaginable! We liberate the sentient beings who are numberless from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment. All this comes from this offering of one grain of rice or one tiny flower to a picture or statue of the Buddha or a visualized Buddha, or to a stupa or scripture. Can you imagine the benefit? This unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable benefit is what we achieve from this tiny offering. There’s that power because the Buddha has unimaginable qualities, which I mentioned before. Therefore, it is unbelievably easy to create the cause of happiness. Due to the Buddha’s kindness and compassion for us sentient beings, he fully completed all these qualities for us sentient beings, to make it so easy for us to achieve all this unbelievable happiness. That’s one aspect of the subject of karma we must understand.

Therefore, in our everyday life we should take advantage of making offerings. We cannot see the actual Buddha but we are so lucky to be able to see statues, stupas and scriptures. Many human beings don’t have the karma to see them and it is said that animals cannot see them. We can see a statue of the Buddha but animals cannot; they don’t have the karma. Therefore, it is mentioned that even the holy objects are manifestations of the Buddha.

There was somebody who went to Lhasa from Kham, to the famous temple in Lhasa where there is a Shakyamuni Buddha statue. The common people could see that statue, but that particular person could not see it; he just saw darkness. He must have been so heavily obscured. Then, he did a lot of purification. Then what? I forgot the story a little bit. I messed it up a little bit. After that, he saw piles of meat instead of the statue or something like that. Anyway, later he saw some light. So, the example is like that. Even though there are many human beings, not everybody has the karma to see holy objects. There are human beings who never see holy objects.

So, in our everyday life, we must take the opportunity every time to make offerings. Even if we don’t have an altar at home, we should visualize the Buddha and make offerings. If we can’t set up an altar because our friends might get upset, we can still collect merit by offering to a visualized Buddha.

After we have taken the refuge vow, there are eight pieces of general advice. One of them is before we eat and drink, we first make offerings to the Buddha. Another is before we go to sleep and when we get up, we do at least three prostrations to the Buddha. The benefit is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. When we know this, we can’t wait to do the practice. By understanding these benefits, it’s something that we want to do all day and night, non-stop.

When we are outside and we see a beautiful flower in the market or on the roadside when we are travelling, we should immediately remember Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and offer it. And if we make offerings to Buddha who is in oneness with the guru, even in the aspect of the Buddha, we collect much more merit, the most extensive merit. By thinking of the guru as one with the Buddha, we collect more merit than having made offerings to the numberless Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, the numberless statues of the Buddha, the numberless stupas and scriptures. That’s amazing. Before I was just talking about offering to the Buddha. Now, even though we are offering to the Buddha, when we think of the guru, that creates much greater merit. Even if we see a beautiful flower, we immediately see the deity or the Buddha as oneness with the guru or root guru. By looking at it, we see that’s all the buddhas in the aspect of the root guru. The Buddha-Guru or the Guru-Buddha, whichever way we say it—here, the Guru-Buddha—the minute we see something, we think that’s the root guru, that’s all the buddhas. Then, we make an offering. Even if it’s somebody else’s flower, we can offer our karmic view of the flower.

I’m using this as an example in the daily life of how we should take advantage of that to collect merit, and not just merit but extensive merit. Whenever we collect merit, we should think how to collect the most extensive merit, like a businessperson, who even while travelling always thinks how to make the largest profit, in which country they can make the largest profit. This just became side talk!