Abiding in the Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Abiding in the Retreat: A Nyung Nä Commentary combines several teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on nyung nä, a powerful two-day practice associated with Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.

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Rinpoche offering a mandala at Buddha Amitabha Pure Land, USA, October 2016. Photo: Lobsang Sherab.
8: The Benefits of Offerings
THE POWER OF BUDDHA

It is said in Sutra of the Mudra of Developing the Power of Devotion that if every day for a hundred eons you offered hundreds of divine food, which means nectar, and hundreds of divine dresses to Solitary Realizer arhats equaling the number of atoms of the many universes, all the merit you would collect is small compared to the merit from merely seeing a statue or a painting of Buddha. By just seeing a statue or a painting of Buddha, you immediately collect numberless merits. Even though the merit from the first offering itself is great, it’s small when compared to the merit from merely seeing a statue or a painting of Buddha. Then, if you prostrate, make offerings, offer incense and so forth to a statue or a painting of Buddha, you collect far greater merit than from simply seeing the statue or painting. 

Therefore, that in this life, in this perfect human rebirth, we have met Dharma and have faith in it is unbelievably precious. It’s wish-­fulfilling, for this life and for future lives. What you can do every day is amazing! 

In the lam­rim teachings, there’s the story of somebody who, having nothing else to offer, offered a medicinal drink to four ordinary, fully ordained monks. Just from that, in his next life, that person was born as King Kaushika, the most powerful, wealthy king in India. It doesn’t say that those monks were highly attained monks; they were just four ordinary monks. 

Now, in the example I just mentioned, you’re making offerings to arhats, who are liberated from samsara, from delusion and karma, equal in number to the number of atoms of the universes every day for one hundred eons. Now, all that merit becomes small when compared to the merit you collect from simply seeing a statue or a painting of a buddha. 

Therefore, it’s good to have many holy objects in your house and, of course, to respect them. Don’t put them on the floor without anything under them. That advice comes in refuge practice. After we have taken refuge, there are three things to abandon and three things to practice, including respecting holy objects. Since we want realizations, since we want liberation and enlightenment, in order to benefit others, we must do these things. We must respect holy objects to create extensive merits, and we must not pollute our mind through disrespecting them. 

Quite a number of years ago I was returning from Australia with Thubten Yeshe, an American nun, who was acting as my attendant. (She’s not a nun now, but she still helps to lead meditation retreats and courses at Chenrezig Institute.) At that time she helped me to travel from Nepal to Australia, and then return. She knew that it was less expensive to return to India and Nepal via Sri Lanka, which meant we could visit Kandy, where there’s a temple with Buddha’s tooth. 

We flew from Australia and landed in the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, then went to Kandy. You can’t actually see Buddha’s tooth, which is inside a stupa, unless you’re a member of the government and there’s a big function. But there is still the power of the blessing. Even though you don’t actually see the tooth, you feel an amazing vibration, or power, there. 

Some Theravadin-­style stupas were lined up, with the tooth in one of the stupas. There was a long table all the way along with all the offerings lined up. In the early morning people would bring food to be blessed by Buddha, then take it back home to share the blessing. If they first think of offering to Buddha as the motivation for offering, in that moment they collect causes of enlightenment equal in number to the number of rice grains in the container. Since there must be many thousands of grains in a pot of rice, they create many thousands of causes of enlightenment and, by the way, causes of liberation from samsara and the happiness of all future lives. The family collects unbelievable merit. 

Offering just one grain of rice to Buddha’s tooth immediately creates the cause of enlightenment, even if the motivation is related only to this life, nothing more than to be wealthy or have a good reputation. This happens even if the motivation is totally black, only attachment or some other nonvirtuous thought. Usually, for an action to become the cause of happiness, the initial motivation for the action has to be Dharma; the motivation has to be pure, such as non-­ignorance, non-­anger, non-­attachment to this life. If it’s attachment to this life, it’s nonvirtue. The best, purest motivation is non-­self-­cherishing. First you have to make your mind Dharma; then your action becomes Dharma and results in happiness. 

So, you can’t imagine how much merit each family who brings a whole pot of rice, with thousands and thousands of grains of rice, and offers it there to the Buddha’s tooth collects.

There’s no doubt that offering a single grain of rice to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha immediately becomes a cause of enlightenment, a cause of the highest success, as well as a cause of liberation from samsara and all the happiness of future lives, but it’s the same even with statues, stupas and scriptures. This happens not by the power of your mind but by the power of the object. Your mind, your motivation, can be totally black, totally nonvirtuous. It comes from the power of the holy object. 

When you offer one grain of rice to statues, stupas or scriptures of Buddha, no matter how small they are, even a tiny one in a photo, the moment you offer this single rice grain, whether with a virtuous or nonvirtuous motivation, it immediately becomes a cause of full enlightenment, great liberation, and by the way, it becomes a cause of liberation from samsara and of all the happiness of future lives—not future life but future lives; there are more than one. It can result in happiness, in good rebirth, in hundreds or thousands of lives. 

It is explained in the sutra Heaps of Flowers (Metog Tsek pai Do) that from having offered one flower (but it’s the same as my example of one rice grain) to a stupa (but it’s the same with a statue or scripture), no matter how big or small, the benefit you obtain is happiness equal to all the happiness you have experienced numberless times during beginningless rebirths up to now and the happiness you will experience in the future. 

And the benefit from offering one single grain to a statue, stupa or scripture doesn’t stop there. You obtain all that temporary happiness, but the benefit doesn’t stop there. On top of that, you obtain the ultimate happiness of liberation from samsara. That means you create the causes of all the realizations involved in generating the path of merit, the path of preparation, the path of seeing, the path of meditation and the path of no more learning. The nature of that mind is free from all suffering and its cause, karma and delusion, and from the cause of delusion, the negative imprint. There is the cessation of all that. So, that is nirvana, the truth of cessation from the four noble truths. So, it causes true cessation of suffering and true path. 

And the benefits of offering one grain of rice to a holy object don’t stop there. You then achieve great liberation, full enlightenment. That means you create the cause of achieving all the realizations of the five Mahayana paths and the ten bhumis. 

The benefit still doesn’t stop there. After having achieved all that, you then liberate the numberless hell beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering; you liberate the numberless hungry ghosts from the oceans of samsaric suffering; you liberate the numberless animals from the oceans of samsaric suffering; you liberate the numberless human beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering; you liberate the numberless asuras and suras from the oceans of samsaric suffering; and you liberate the numberless intermediate state beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering. Not only that but you bring them all to full enlightenment. Everybody! So, when you have brought every single sentient being to enlightenment, it is only at that time that the benefit of your offering one grain of rice to a statue, stupa or scripture will be completed. 

Therefore, in our daily life it’s extremely important to make as many offerings as possible to guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, statues, stupas and scriptures. 

POWER OF THE OBJECT

It is very important to respect and serve your parents of this life and not show any disrespect to them with your speech or your body. Besides not getting angry with them, you shouldn’t treat them in a disrespectful manner. Because your parents are powerful objects, you can start to experience the resultant problems from disrespect to them in this life. And if you offer even a small sign of respect or a small service to your parents, because of the power of the object, you can start to experience the good results in this life. 

More powerful objects than your parents are ordinary Sangha, those who are living in ordination. Criticizing Sangha, your parents and other people can create heavy negative karma. The heaviness of the karma depends on how powerful the object is. Since both Sangha and parents are powerful objects, criticizing them or even giving them a negative nickname creates heavy negative karma. If you call somebody a pig, you will be born as a pig for five hundred lifetimes. The number of lifetimes you have to be born as a pig depends on how powerful the object is that you insult. If, out of anger, you tell somebody they are blind, you can be born blind for many lifetimes, and even in this lifetime you can become blind. Particularly with negative karma created in relation to parents, Sangha and any other powerful object, you can start to experience the karma in this life. Experience of all the karma is not finished in this life, however. If it’s a powerful object, for five hundred lifetimes or thousands of lifetimes, you will have to be born again and again like that.

More powerful than ordinary Sangha are arhats, absolute Sangha. More powerful than arhats are bodhisattvas. If you glare at one bodhisattva, the negative karma is much worse than that from having gouged out the eyes of all the beings in the three realms. Looking disrespectfully at one bodhisattva is such heavy negative karma because the object is very powerful. Why? Because of the power of the bodhicitta realization.

More powerful than a bodhisattva is a buddha. It is said in the sutra teachings that even if you look with an angry mind at a painting of a buddha on a wall, you create the karma to eventually see ten million buddhas. This is by the power of the object. Even a painting or a statue of a buddha has this power because an actual living buddha has omniscient mind, infinite compassion and perfect power. In relation to Chenrezig, even a statue or thangka of Chenrezig has power, so just looking at it brings purification. It enables you to eventually see ten million buddhas. 

The most powerful object so far is a buddha, but even more powerful than that is the guru. The guru is the most powerful object of all. 

From our parents up to our guru, if we make a small mistake or do a small negative thing, it has great shortcomings, and we can start to experience them in this life. On the other hand, if we offer a small good thing, some service or even respect, it has great benefit, becoming the cause of great success.

ALWAYS REMEMBER THE GURU

Since the greatest, most extensive merit, comes from offering to the guru, when you make offerings to the merit field, you must remember the guru. Whether you’re offering to one buddha, Chenrezig, or to numberless buddhas, you must always remember the guru, who is Chenrezig. With one buddha or with all the buddhas, remember the guru. In this way you collect the most extensive merit with each offering, so it then becomes a quick path to enlightenment. 

Every time you do a sadhana, in which there are always extensive offerings, make sure that you always remember that the deities to whom you are making requests and offerings are the guru. You will then always collect the most extensive merit. And when you do any practice with the guru always think of buddha. That’s the essential point of guru yoga practice. It makes whatever good karma you accumulate the most profitable; in this way you very quickly achieve enlightenment. If you are wise in practicing guru yoga, you accumulate the most extensive merit every time you make offerings, and that’s what makes it possible for you to achieve enlightenment quickly. 

Even offering a piece of fruit, a glass of water or a candy to a disciple of your guru by thinking of that guru accumulates much more merit than making offerings to all the buddhas of the three times. Therefore, we should remember guru yoga practice every time we do a sadhana and every time we make offerings to buddhas. 

If you leave out thinking of the guru, it’s not a complete practice. The very basic practice is missing if you leave out this when you do a sadhana. When you make offerings, such as when you do a self-­initiation where there are many offerings, if you think only of the deity, thinking that the deity is higher or more precious than the guru, you can’t receive the blessings of the guru, and you then can’t attain the realizations of the path to enlightenment; you can’t attain the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment. 

THE POWER OF THE GURU

One time when Milarepa was about to pass by, Padampa Sangye, the great Indian yogi who lived during that time, manifested as a flower to check whether Milarepa could recognize him or not. Milarepa recognized that the flower beside the road was actually Padampa Sangye. If you have read Milarepa’s biography you know this story. 

Padampa Sangye said,

In your heart, you must cherish the guru more than the Buddha; if you do that, realization will come in this life, people of Tingri.

Padampa Sangye was giving this advice to the people of Tingri in Tibet. Tingri has two parts now, Old Tingri and New Tingri. The last time we went on pilgrimage to Tibet we spent one night camping outside Old Tingri. 

I’m not going to talk about the pilgrimage, but the mountain of Tsipri, which is near Tingri, was very interesting. Tsipri is a special mountain that combines the three holy places of Heruka’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind: Mount Kailash, Tsari and Lapchi. People circumambulate Tsipri mountain, which takes about seven days. They load food and other things onto a donkey and then go round the mountain. 

The road goes around one side of the mountain, and every stone on that side has a conch shell or some other special auspicious sign. Somebody gave me some stones that have grains as part of the stone. But on the side that’s not part of the mountain, there’s nothing like that. 

The next morning after camping near Tingri, we did prostrations toward the Tsipri mountain from the road, because we didn’t have time to go there. In the near future I’d like to be able to circumambulate the mountain. There are one hundred small monasteries there. Lama Atisha lived there, and many great holy beings came there to meditate and achieved enlightenment, achieved the rainbow body. 

One monk studied the place for two years. He checked all the monasteries, all of which had been completely destroyed and hadn’t been rebuilt. He asked me if it would be possible to build a small temple with a few rooms so that monks who have completed their studies at Sera, Ganden or Drepung monasteries in south India and would like to meditate and actualize the path can go there. It’s an excellent idea. Before that, however, we need to build a two-­story Maitreya Buddha statue there. They had one there before. There was a huge rock, and any person or animal who touched that rock would die. Lama Atisha (or somebody else) then advised that a two-­story Maitreya statue be built on top of that rock, and that negative effect was then stopped. The idea is to build a two-­story Maitreya Buddha statue first and then a temple. I said I will build the statue and he should organize the building of the temple. 

Anyway, finding out the cost took a long time. The Chinese officials then heard that the leader of that area was receiving money from outside Tibet and put him in prison. I don’t know whether he actually got any money or not. I think it hadn’t yet happened, but the news went out and the Chinese officials heard about it. 

As Padampa Sangye said, if you cherish the guru more than Buddha, you will have attainment in this life. This means you can achieve enlightenment in this life if you have that kind of guru devotion. You shouldn’t think that the guru and Buddha are separate, that the guru is some ordinary person and the Buddha is something special. If you think that, you can’t achieve enlightenment in this life. You have to totally change your thinking, and it doesn’t mean that you think that Buddha is an ordinary being. You must cherish the guru more than Buddha. 

“Guru” and “Buddha” are just different names, like Tara and Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Manjushri are given different names. It is one being, but because of the different aspects they are called different names. So, “guru” and “buddha” are just different names for one being. You need to accomplish stable realization of that. Why? Because you want happiness and you don’t want suffering, and especially you want to achieve the peerless happiness of enlightenment; you want this profit. Why do you need to achieve enlightenment? Because the purpose of life is to benefit others, so you need to liberate the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering. Not only that, but you need to bring them to full enlightenment. So, if this is what you want to do, then you need to be enlightened. To accomplish that you need a pure mind, a devotional mind, seeing the guru as buddha by looking at the guru as buddha. Through analytical meditation, using reasoning, and through fixed meditation, you achieve the realization of seeing the guru as buddha. You need that, and if you have that, you are then able to protect your life. This protects you from all the heaviest negative karmas, the heaviest negative thoughts. You’re able to protect yourself from anger and heresy, or non-­devotional thoughts, toward the guru. 

If you have this stable realization, no matter what ordinary, or mistaken, aspect appears to you, it doesn’t destroy your devotion because of your realization that the guru is buddha. No matter what ordinary aspect appears, you see it all as an act on the part of the guru due to your mistaken thoughts, your hallucinated mind, your negative karma. You don’t believe in it; you see everything as an act. It’s like a play in a theater, where one person can play many different roles: a king, a minister, a beggar. Nothing causes distraction; nothing harms your devotion. 

From your devotion, you then receive the blessings of the guru. Through that blessing you then receive the realizations of the path to enlightenment, the three principles of the path and the two stages. You then achieve your goal, the two kayas, and then liberate and enlighten all sentient beings.

Dangers with the guru

There are great shortcomings if you get angry or generate heresy toward the guru for the shortest duration of time (in the Mahayana, it’s said that one finger snap has 365 of these instants). This is not talking about just any guru in the world or somebody else’s guru. It’s talking about your own guru, the person with whom you have a Dharma connection, through taking teachings, even if it’s only one verse of teaching, or receiving an oral transmission, even it’s of only a few syllables of mantra, with the determination that you are the disciple and that person is your guru. If you receive a teaching or an oral transmission with that recognition, that establishes the Dharma connection. This also applies to taking initiation, if you did the visualizations that the lama explained, and to taking vows, whether refuge, pratimoksha, bodhisattva or tantric vows, and to receiving commentaries with that determination.

If you commit the heavy negative karma of having killed your father, mother or an arhat, harmed Buddha or caused disunity among the Sangha, you can still purify it and achieve enlightenment in one life. If you commit one of these five heavy negative karmas, usually, without the break of another life, you immediately get reborn in the lowest hot hell, Inexhaustible Suffering, which has the heaviest suffering in samsara and lasts the longest time. However, it’s not that once you’re born in hell you have to remain there forever, like in Christianity. It might sometimes sound like that when it’s presented, but in Buddhism you can be liberated from defilements and from suffering; there’s nothing that you have to experience forever.

Even if you have collected such a negative karma, you can still achieve enlightenment in that life. But if you have made mistakes in correctly following the virtuous friend, you cannot achieve enlightenment in that life. If, for an instant, you generate anger or heresy toward the guru, criticize or give up the guru, as mentioned in the Kalachakra Tantra, you will be born in Inexhaustible Hell for eons equal in number to the instants of your anger or heresy. However, being born in hell and suffering there for that many eons is not the only result: you have to understand that that many eons of your merits also get destroyed. That’s the second point. Third, your realizations will also be delayed for that many eons. There are these three points. Therefore, this is the heaviest negative karma in regard to interfering with the development of your mind in the path to enlightenment.

Therefore, the way Lama Tsongkhapa guides beings to enlightenment is by first introducing the practice of guru devotion. Since success in all the realizations from the beginning of the path, perfect human rebirth, up to enlightenment depends on guru devotion, Lama Tsongkhapa presents it first. In other traditions, guru devotion comes later, usually after the introduction to samsaric suffering. But Lama Tsongkhapa taught the most important thing first. He first introduced the guru, all the advantages and disadvantages of guru devotion, so that we are aware where we should pay all our attention, where we should be most careful and protect ourselves for the benefit of sentient beings.

In conclusion, if you want to benefit others, to liberate the numberless other sentient beings from the sufferings of samsara and bring them to enlightenment, which is what they really need, then you need to achieve enlightenment. You need to achieve the whole path, which means you need to practice guru devotion. If you’re not interested in that, then you don’t need to practice guru devotion. This is the whole point of why you need to practice guru devotion. I think that even if you’re not looking for enlightenment or liberation or the happiness of future lives, but are looking only for the happiness and success of this life, you could say that if you have guru devotion, everything in this life just comes without your looking for it. So, you could still relate achieving happiness in this life to guru devotion.

Without the guru there’s no Buddha, Dharma, Sangha; there’s no statues, stupas, scriptures. Without the guru, there’s nothing. Without the guru, there’s no opportunity at all to collect merit.

The ultimate reason is related to the unified primordial savior. The transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, the dharmakaya, pervades all phenomena; it covers all existence. It’s everywhere. The moment a sentient being’s karma is ripened, it’s just there. It manifests there in ordinary or other forms to help. It’s mentioned that bodhisattvas manifest even in material forms, as mountains, bridges and so forth, if that is what sentient beings need, so there’s no doubt that buddhas do this. Whether in the aspect of a buddha or of an ordinary sentient being, without even a moment’s delay, it immediately manifests just there. The moment the karma has ripened to receive help, because it’s bound by infinite compassion for us sentient beings, it immediately manifests. It is eternal, with no beginning and no end, and is bound by infinite compassion to sentient beings, to you. That is what the guru really is. There is the ultimate guru (dön den pai lama) and the conventional guru (kün tsob kyi lama). “Conventional guru” is a simpler translation—more literally it is “guru of the all-­obscuring truth.”

Practicing with holy objects

When we see a statue or another holy object, we should first think of the guru and then make offerings and prostrations. It’s important to have as many holy objects—statues, stupas, scriptures—as possible in every suitable, respectful place in the house (but not in the toilet because of the bad smells). Every day, the moment you open your eyes you will then see holy objects in your room, outside, everywhere. That’s mind-­blowing, as you collect inconceivable merits each time you just see a holy object.

Arranging holy objects when practices are done is not something just made up by Tibetan lamas. It’s a practice that came from India, from Buddha. Buddha first explained it, and when Lama Atisha came from India to Tibet, he explained the six preparatory practices before meditation on the lamrim path, which start with cleaning (see appendix 1) and setting up an altar. Of course, in Zen or other traditions, some people might say, ”You don’t need a statue and all these things to meditate. You don’t need an altar. You don’t need anything.” Maybe this comes from not having analyzed all the different teachings of Buddha and those of Lama Atisha and many other great scholars and enlightened beings.

Before you meditate, you do the six preparatory practices to purify your mind, collect extensive merits and increase the merits. So, you need to set up an altar. Of course, it’s different if you’re living with a husband, wife or other family member who doesn’t like the idea of your setting up an altar in the house, perhaps because they belong to a different religion. In that case you would need to hide your holy objects or visualize them and then do the practice.

As mentioned in the Paramitayana and especially in the Vajrayana teachings, when you make offerings to statues or paintings of Buddha in your room or in a temple, think that you are offering to your own virtuous friend, the one with whom you have Dharma contact. The merit from any offering is then much greater than from having made offerings to all the past, present and future buddhas.

With any statues or stupas in our own house or any statues, stupas and scriptures we see in a temple when we go on pilgrimage, we should train our mind to always see them as our own guru.

We do these practices to develop our mind in the path, to achieve enlightenment. Our ultimate aim is to benefit sentient beings, to free them from suffering and bring them to enlightenment. It is for this reason that we are doing these various offering practices. The whole answer as to how long it will take us to actualize the path and achieve enlightenment depends on how quickly we’re able to finish the work of accumulating merit. Therefore, we think that every holy object, whether one or many, in a temple or in our meditation room, is our own virtuous friend and then make offerings. There is no comparison between doing this and making offerings to all the buddhas of the three times, to all the holy objects: statues, stupas and scriptures. This is the most skillful way to accumulate extensive merit.

You can then elaborate by making offerings to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, thinking that they are all your guru. You can also offer to all the statues, stupas, and scriptures of the ten directions, thinking that they are all the embodiment of your own virtuous friend.

The specific benefits of offering flowers

Offering flowers has ten benefits. One of the results of offering a beautiful flower to Buddha is that you become like a flower in the world. In other words, you make many sentient beings happy. Everybody likes to see and to have beautiful flowers. When there are beautiful flowers in a park or a garden, everybody wants to come to enjoy them. By becoming like a flower in the world, you are then able to benefit many sentient beings. Holy beings taking a perfect, beautiful, holy body is the result of these offering practices.

Also, your sense of smell never degenerates. Some people, because of a disease or some other condition, cannot smell. Such people need to make more flower offerings.

Another benefit is that your body doesn’t have a bad smell; instead, a scented smell comes from it. Also, there is the fragrance of morality in the directions and corners.57 Wherever you go you spread the scented smell of morality. There are many holy beings—high lamas and meditators—like that. I have even seen small incarnate lamas with the scent of morality. Even when very young, they have a natural scented smell coming from their holy body.

Another benefit of offering flowers is that one becomes higher than others, and one goes before others. This could be related to the physical body, but it’s possible for it to be related to the mind as well. One goes before others could mean that physically one is a leader or a holy being, and it could also refer to development of the mind.

Other benefits are that you receive beautiful objects; you have great wealth; you are born in the deva or human realm; and you quickly become enlightened. (As long as an offering is made to a buddha, it always becomes a cause of enlightenment.)

The specific benefits of offering light

Offering light to a buddha also has ten benefits.

You become like a light in the world, which means you are bright, or radiant.
You achieve clairvoyance of the eye, which means you can see very distant things.
You achieve the clairvoyance of a deva’s eye. (There are six types of clairvoyance. The sixth one is that you are able to read the minds of other sentient beings.)
You receive Dharma wisdom, understanding what is virtue and what is nonvirtue.
You are able to eliminate the darkness of ignorance.
You are able to achieve the illumination of wisdom.
While you are in samsara, you are never in a place where there’s no light.
You have great enjoyments.
You take birth in a deva or human realm.
And the last benefit is that you quickly achieve enlightenment.

How to make offerings

Before making an offering, first generate bodhicitta by thinking, “I must free all sentient beings from all their sufferings and lead them to enlightenment. Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment, and therefore, I’m going to make this offering.” Generate bodhicitta and then make the offering. 

When you make an offering, it’s also very good to recite the Offering Cloud Mantra, the mantra for blessing and multiplying offerings, three times:

OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VAJRA SARA PRAMARDANE / TATHAGATAYA / ARHATE SAMYAKSAM BUDDHAYA / TADYATHA / OM VAJRE VAJRE / MAHA VAJRE / MAHA TEJA VAJRE / MAHA VIDYA VAJRE / MAHA BODHICITTA VAJRE / MAHA BODHI MANDO PASAM KRAMANA VAJRE / SARVA KARMA AVARANA VISHO DHANA VAJRE SVAHA

If you are making light offerings in front of an altar, think in a similar way to when doing prostrations. The additional thing to think when you’re offering light is, “This light is the light of Dharma wisdom.” Relate to Dharma wisdom according to your understanding of the path to enlightenment. For example, if you understand tantra, you can relate it to the wisdom of clear light of the Highest Yoga Tantra path.

This wisdom light completely eliminates the ignorance of all sentient beings of the six realms. It eliminates all their suffering and its causes, karma and delusion, especially the ignorance not understanding emptiness and the ignorance not knowing Dharma. You can then think that all sentient beings generate the path. For example, you can think that all sentient beings achieve a buddha’s five transcendental wisdoms and become enlightened.

A food offering is done in a similar way. Think of the food as nectar and offer it to a buddha such as Chenrezig visualized in front of you or in your heart. (See also The Yoga of Eating, chapter 19.)

When you eat and drink, at that time don’t visualize yourself as an ordinary being. Purify yourself in emptiness, then generate into the guru-­deity: you, the guru and the deity, all three are one. Then take every spoonful of food and every mouthful of tea by thinking that you are offering it to the guru; you then collect the most extensive merit with each spoonful. By offering to yourself as the guru-­deity, you collect more merit than from having made offerings to the numberless buddhas, numberless Dharma, numberless Sangha, numberless statues, numberless stupas and numberless scriptures. As I mentioned before, the merit from offering one grain of rice to a statue, stupa or scripture is unbelievable. But it cannot be compared to the merit you collect by meditating on offering to yourself as the guru when you do the yoga of eating and drinking. With just the first sip of drink or spoonful of food, you collect the most extensive merit, so much more merit than from having made offerings to numberless holy objects. All those merits are small compared to the amount of merit you collect when you make offerings to the guru. And, depending on how big the mug is, there are so many sips in one mug of tea. If you practice the tantric yoga of eating and drinking every time you eat and drink, you collect merit far greater than from having made offerings to numberless buddhas, numberless Dharma, numberless Sangha and numberless statues, stupas and scriptures. All those merits are small compared to this.

Dedicating the offering

After making an offering, you should immediately dedicate the merit collected by you and by others to achieving enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Especially, you should seal the dedication with emptiness so that if you later give rise to anger or heresy, the merit you have collected by putting so much effort into making offerings and doing other practices won’t be destroyed.

If you don’t dedicate the merit immediately, especially by sealing it with emptiness, and don’t dedicate the merit to achieving enlightenment, since the merit you have accumulated doesn’t become unceasing, it is quickly exhausted. Even though it’s not destroyed, it doesn’t last long. Like rejoicing, dedicating merit is a means of increasing, or multiplying, merit. If you put a drop of water into an ocean, that drop is always there until the ocean dries up; it never finishes. Like that, if you collect even a small amount of merit and dedicate it for enlightenment, it then becomes unceasing. Even after you have achieved enlightenment, your leading every sentient being to enlightenment is a result of having dedicated that merit for enlightenment.

The other dedication you should make is to generate bodhicitta. You dedicate in the same way for all sentient beings. You also dedicate for those who have bodhicitta to increase it. This is a very important practice to do every day. There are five or six other dedications that are good to practice every day, especially when you are dedicating merits at the end of the day.58


NOTES  

57 The corners are the four sub-­directions. [Return to text]

58 See “Standard Dedication Prayers,” pp. 321–24, in FPMT Retreat Prayer Book. [Return to text]

 

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