Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 1999 (Archive #1055)

This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The teachings cover many lam-rim topics, purification practices, mantras, pujas and more.

Chapter 28: February 24


The practice of offering light

I would like to explain why we are doing this light offering practice here tonight.

Shelly Wang is the chairperson of the FPMT Foundation in Taiwan, the purpose of which is to help and support the three FPMT centers—Jinsiu Farlin in Taipei, Heruka Center in Kaohsiung and Shakyamuni Center in Taichung. I requested Shelly only this year to take responsibility for the Taiwan Foundation. However, she has not been well recently, so there was a need for a method to improve her well-being, to protect her life.

Making extensive light offerings to collect great merit is one such method. Another method is throwing a dog party! Organizing a party for dogs—making charity of food to dogs. So, there are human parties and there are dog parties! Maybe there are also cat parties and mouse parties too! Actually, we should throw the mouse party before the cat party— otherwise the mice may not live long enough to enjoy it! So, first the mouse party, then the cat party! Anyway, I’m joking! After the mouse party the cats might enjoy themselves more!

There are many methods for lengthening life, of which making extensive offerings to holy objects, collecting merit in that way, is one. It becomes the cause for having a long life when you make these offerings for that particular purpose and dedicate the merit for her and her family.

The merit can also be dedicated to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha of Compassion, and all other holy beings, the sangha, and all the benefactors who serve the sangha and the teachings of the Buddha— to help the benefactors spread and preserve the teachings. Finally, the merit can also be dedicated to sentient beings.

Now we are going to follow the normal process, the usual process [see Appendix 2].

[Taking refuge: La-ma sang-gye la-ma chö.... x3] [Generating bodhicitta: Dag-dang zhän-dön.... x3] [Purifying the place: Tam-chä du-ni....]

Visualize the ground of this entire place as being made of lapis lazuli, very blissful in nature and very springy, like a rubber mattress; not at all hard; very soft—when you step on it you feel great bliss throughout your whole body. Everywhere you look, whatever you see is extremely beautiful.

There are many huge water ponds, full of gorgeous, precious, highly scented flowers with enormous petals. The entire landscape is dotted with wish-granting trees, wish-fulfilling trees—you get whatever you pray for—all success and enjoyment. Due to the power of the wish-fulfilling tree, you receive whatever you desire. The place itself is also covered with various flowers and the air is full of beautiful scented smells.

Also visualize dakinis in space, making flowers rain from the sky. There are many lovely birds, all making the sound of Dharma—talking Dharma; singing Dharma. There is no ugliness, only perfect beauty, like Amitabha’s pure land. Having visualized all this, offer it to the merit field. You have to make the place clean and beautiful before inviting your guru or before receiving a king.

Making an offering like this to the merit field creates the karma to be born in a pure land in future lives, in a place where there are many sense enjoyments and beautiful places to enjoy.

Next bless the offerings by reciting the clouds of offerings mantra.

Why is it called “clouds of offerings”? Because when you recite this mantra, numberless buddhas receive skies of offerings, clouds of offerings —which means they receive vast numbers of offerings, inconceivable offerings. By the power of this mantra, not only are the offerings blessed, but also each buddha receives numberless offerings.

[Offering prayer: Lha-dang mi-yi....]

But don’t offer only the lights that we’ve arranged here. Think that numberless buddhas in all directions receive numberless light offerings. You can also visualize the Guru Puja merit field in the sky in front of you and think that each guru receives skies of light offerings. The mantra has the power to generate numberless offerings.

Then the final prayer, expressing the words of the truth, has the power to ensure that the merit field actually receives the numberless offerings that you have visualized. The final prayer has this power.

[Multiplying mantra: OMNAMOBHAGAVATE....(x3, with music)] [Words of truth: Kön-chog sum-gyi....]

[Invocation: Ma-lu sem-chen.... (Cymbals at end of the invocation)] Then do the seven limb practice. With the prostration limb, put your palms together to the merit field and visualize your body like a mountain range...you can visualize yourself as the Thousand-arm Compassionate Buddha or another deity—not necessarily only the Compassionate Buddha, but the Compassionate Buddha is easy because he has a thousand arms, so it’s easy to visualize covering much ground, as much ground as possible. However, you can also visualize yourself as another deity or in your ordinary human body. Visualizing your body like a mountain range, lie down and cover the whole ground; visualize yourself lying down from all directions towards the merit field—from the four directions, the four corners—doing prostrations to the merit field. If you are not doing physical prostrations, visualize yourself making prostrations while physically just putting your two palms together at your heart. This is the meditation you can do when you recite the prostration limb of the seven limb practice in your normal practice. As many bodies as you can visualize, that much merit do you get. For example, if you visualize yourself doing prostrations in a billion bodies, you get the same amount of merit as if you had actually done a billion prostrations.

The amount of merit you collect depends on how many bodies you can visualize.

[Seven limb prayer, prostrations: Go-sum gu-pa’i....] [Seven limb prayer, offering: Ngo-sham yi-trul....]

Here we now make the extensive offerings.

Visualize that numberless buddhas in all directions receive numberless light offerings. Each member of the Guru Puja merit field receives skies of light offerings, numberless light offerings. Or you can think that the Ksitigarbha statue here is the guru, is all the gurus, is all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Not only that, but this statue is also all statues, stupas and scriptures. It is everything. Thinking in this way, make numberless light offerings. In this way, you make offerings to all gurus, all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, all ten directions statues, stupas and scriptures —by visualizing Ksitigarbha as the embodiment of all this and making offerings to him.

By making offerings with the guru yoga mind, you collect the most extensive merit. You meditate that each buddha is in essence your root virtuous friend and receives infinite bliss in his mind through the offerings you make.

Also, when you make offerings to the Guru Puja merit field, meditate that each guru is in essence your root virtuous friend. Generate infinite bliss in each one’s mind as you make the numberless light offerings, as each one receives them. Those are the offerings we visualized during the blessing, just before.

I left out sharing the offerings with all sentient beings at the beginning, then making offerings.

Make charity of all these offerings. Make charity of every light offering to every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every sura, every asura and every intermediate state being. Think, “I am making these light offerings on behalf of all sentient beings— Shelly and her whole family and all the rest of the sentient beings. I’m making light offerings in order to achieve enlightenment for them, for all sentient beings.”

If you do it this way, it benefits everybody, all people—people who are sick, in poverty and homeless, people who have no job, no means of living, all people who have many difficulties in their lives. Everybody gets the merit of making light offerings on behalf of all sentient beings; every human being, all people, get merit in this way, even though from their own side they don’t know it. They all get merit from our dedicating like this, our doing it for them.

Visualize that the whole sky is filled with numberless light offerings— the actual lights that we’re offering here, and also skies of numberless light offerings that you visualize—like the vast night sky filled with stars, or like when you look out of an airplane as it comes in to land in a big city and the whole ground is covered with numberless lights. Offer all these lights to all the holy objects in India—all the holy objects that are in the holy places of Buddha, such as Bodhgaya, where one thousand buddhas descend and show the holy deed of attaining enlightenment, in all the monasteries in India, in individual people’s houses—offer these lights to all the holy objects in India by meditating that the essence of each holy object is your own root virtuous friend and that because of these offerings, infinite bliss is generated within each one. At the same time, prostrate to all these holy objects with the palms of your hands pressed together at your heart.

Also, please include in your offering the more than three thousand light offerings and the more than two hundred and fifty water bowls at the Aptos house where I stay, which appear as nectar to the buddhas, as well as all the water bowls here in the LMB gompa, in the retreat room and outside, which appear as nectar to the buddhas, and all the water bowl offerings and lights in the Memorial Shrine. You can also offer all the offerings that are in our three Taiwan centers. In each of their gompas are hundreds of sets of offerings, so you can also include those together with all the others. Also, at Kopan Monastery there are many light, flower and water offerings in various rooms and you can offer all these as well.

Every time you offer all the holy objects found in different countries, offer them all together. This way, by offering each light, as there are an inconceivable number of offerings, you make an inconceivable number of offerings each time; you create many, many thousands of causes not only of enlightenment but also of liberation from samsara and good future rebirths—and by the way, you create infinite causes for success in this life as well, to receive whatever happiness you wish.

Now offer all the lights here and all the rest of the offerings that I mentioned just before, all this water that is nectar, to every single holy object in Tibet, by meditating that in essence they are your root virtuous friend, including the Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Jokhang—which was blessed by Lord Buddha himself and is the most precious statue in Tibet—and the stupa that we built in Sera Monastery. At the same time, prostrate to all these holy objects with your two palms pressed together, meditating with the guru yoga mind. Don’t make these offerings just once—make them as many times as possible.

Now make all these light offerings and all the other offerings as well to every single holy object in Nepal, including the Swayambhunath stupa—the original, most precious holy object in Nepal—and the Boudhanath stupa—which fulfills the wishes of any sentient beings who circumambulates or prays, makes offerings or prostrates to it; the stupa that encompasses all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Due to the family members who built the Boudhanath stupa, the Dharma was able to spread throughout Tibet and be preserved there, as a result of which numberless beings in Tibet became enlightened by actualizing the realizations of the path to enlightenment. Furthermore, the Buddhadharma was able to spread outside of Tibet, especially to the West, where previously it has been dark from the time Guru Shakyamuni Buddha first taught until recently. Lately, the light of Dharma has been spreading all over the world, as a result of which, every year, many tens of thousands of people have been able to find meaning and answers in their lives and have been able to follow the path to enlightenment. All that is due to the Boudhanath stupa.

Make offerings to these great stupas and all the rest of the holy objects in Nepal, and also put your palms together and prostrate to them with guru yoga mind.

By prostrating to just one holy object we immediately achieve eight or ten benefits, the last of which is enlightenment. Even putting our palms together to a painting or a statue of buddha has ten benefits. The eight benefits are that we immediately create the cause:

  1. To achieve a perfect body in our next life;
  2. To have perfect people around us in our next life, so that all our wishes get fulfilled;
  3. To be able to live in morality in this and future lives, which is the basis of all happiness, liberation and enlightenment; all realizations;
  4. To be able to have devotion, which is the foundation of all realizations;
  5. To have courage, a brave heart, to do things among people, to do difficult work for others;
  6. To be born as a deva or a human in our next life;
  7. To achieve the arya path, the right seeing path, the path of meditation, and the path of no more learning—the Lesser Vehicle arya path and the Mahayana Paramitayana and Tantrayana arya paths. The Mahayana tantra arya path is where we become free from suffering death and rebirth, including old age and sicknesses.
  8. The final benefit, as I mentioned, is enlightenment itself.

These are the eight benefits of putting our palms together to a painting or a statue of Buddha. The ten benefits contain all these. Therefore, it’s very important in our daily life that whenever we see holy objects, we take the opportunity of putting our palms together and prostrating. In everyday life, whenever you see holy objects, please take that opportunity to find happiness for yourself and to benefit all sentient beings.

Now make all these light and other offerings to all the holy objects in Nepal, meditating that the essence of each is your own root virtuous friend.

Next make all these offerings to all holy objects in all other Buddhist countries and throughout the rest of the world—Sri Lanka, Burma, mainland China, Taiwan, Thailand and so forth; then the United States, New York! In the subways! I’m joking....There are many buddhas in the subways, at the beach, maybe on the beaches in Florida! I’m joking....

Also prostrate to them.

Next make all these offerings to all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions, meditating that in essence they are your root virtuous friend, and generate great bliss each time you make the offerings. Also prostrate to them.

Now make all these offerings to all the statues, stupas and scriptures of the ten directions, meditating that in essence they are your root virtuous friend, and each time you make the offerings, generate infinite bliss within them.

Next make all these offerings to all gurus—His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Denma Lochö Rinpoche, who are in India. Then, those who have made a Dharma connection with Ribur Rinpoche, make all these offerings to him. Those who have received teachings from Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, and also if you have teachers in Nepal, you can make offerings to all these gurus as many times as possible.

Also prostrate to them.

Now there’s just one left; only one! Actually, there are three! In particular, make offerings to the Thousand-arm Compassionate Buddha, who is inseparable from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the seven Medicine Buddhas for success—by making offerings to the Thousand-arm Compassionate Buddha and the Medicine Buddhas you collect the merit of having made offerings to all buddhas. Also make offerings to Ksitigarbha, who does infinite work for all sentient beings, who fulfills the wishes of all sentient beings—by making all these offerings, you yourself can become like that. Prostrate and offer as many times as possible.

Also, Ksitigarbha is inseparable from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When you practice Ksitigarbha, when you make prayers to him, you should meditate in this way—that he is inseparable from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Now we can do the short prayer that I put together many years ago in Taiwan, when we started to make many light offerings, when I began this tradition in Taiwan.

[The light offering prayer: “These actually arranged and mentally visualized light offerings...wisdom spontaneously arise.” (x3)]


“Due to these infinite merits, may whatever sufferings sentient beings experience ripen on me.” We give all the merits, including their results, to all sentient beings.

Again, give all the merits and their results, including enlightenment, to every single hell being, every single hungry ghost, every single animal, every single human, every single asura, every single sura and every single intermediate state being.

Through this dedication, we have received numberless merits, so again we dedicate—“Due to all these infinite merits, whatever sufferings sentient beings experience, may they ripen on me. May whatever happiness, merit and virtue that I have collected be received by each hell being, preta, animal, human, sura, asura and intermediate state being.

Through this dedication, may whatever sufferings the migratory beings have ripen on me...”—oh, I’m repeating myself, aren’t I? Anyway, it’s OK—that’s more merit collected!

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings...[Jang-chub sem-chog....] “Due to the infinite merits I have collected tonight, all those collected in the past and those I will collect in the future, as well as the merits of the three times collected by all buddhas, bodhisattvas and other sentient beings, may Shelly and the rest of her family members have long and healthy lives, may all their wishes succeed immediately according to the holy Dharma, may they be able to actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta, in this very lifetime and may the rest of their lives be most meaningful.”

I don’t want to keep you here any longer, otherwise you’ll get enlightened too quickly—enlightened quickly by freezing! [It’s getting cold.] Therefore, I think we’ll do the last dedication. Usually it is good to do more extensive dedications—the ones that come after those we’ve just done—but now we’ll just finish up with Ge-wa di-yi....

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings—which are inherently existent!—may I—who is inherently existent!—achieve inherently existent enlightenment and lead all the inherently existent sentient beings to that inherently existent enlightenment by the non-inherently existent me! ...alone!”

I almost forgot the most important point—alone! Anyway, I said “inherently existent” all through that last dedication, but as long as you get the idea in your mind that it means non-existent, the purpose is fulfilled —even though I used the term “inherently existent,” it became the same as saying non-inherently existent; in the heart it became the same.

[Ge-wa di-yi....] We can do the multiplying mantras at the end of the next Vajrasattva session, otherwise we’d do them here at this time.

Thank you so much for doing the practice together. I’m sorry it’s gotten cold, but since we’ve been bearing a little hardship for the sake of Dharma practice, maybe it’s OK!

[Shelly thanks Rinpoche for the light offering.] No, no—I just wanted people to freeze!

[Some discussion about the gong used to call people to sessions...first part inaudible.]

Again, ringing the gong is to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thinking that all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and all statues, stupas and scriptures in the ten directions are in essence the guru, ring the gong as an offering. Each ring becomes the cause of enlightenment for yourself and all other sentient beings. That’s what it means.

So, just one more. [Rinpoche rings the gong loudly.]