How to Offer a Mandala

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

A compilation of teachings given by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery, Tushita Meditation Centre and Bodhgaya in the 1970s and ’80s. With additional material from Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Gen Jampa Wangdu and the Sharpa Choje, Khensur Losang Nyima. Edited by Ven. Thubten Wongmo and Ven. Sangye Khadro.

See also The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun of the Mahayana Thought Training and Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book, for more advice on the mandala offering.  Note: Mandala offering sets are available for purchase from FPMT Foundation Store.

Four Ways of Offering the Mandala

1. The Outer Mandala

[As described in Chapter Two.]

2. The Inner Mandala

The inner mandala is a powerful remedy to the three poisonous minds of attachment, aversion and ignorance, that cause us to discriminate other beings as friend, enemy and stranger. It involves imagining your body transforming into the mandala and then into a pure realm, as well as offering the objects of your attachment, aversion and ignorance. The prayer " chag.dang..." is recited while visualizing this offering. This prayer is a method to counteract attachment and miserliness towards your body, possessions, merits and the environment. It loosens the grip of attachment; suddenly it makes no sense to be attached to things any more. The mind is transformed and feels very peaceful. The way to transform your body into the mandala is as follows:

  • Your skin becomes the surface of the golden ground; your blood becomes an ocean of nectar;
  • Your flesh becomes beautiful garlands of flowers floating on the ocean of nectar;
  • Your stomach becomes Mount Meru;
  • Your hands and feet become the four worlds and the upper and lower parts of your arms and legs become the eight sub-worlds; your head becomes a beautiful palace on top of Mt. Meru;
  • Your heart becomes a beautiful jewel adorning the top of this palace;
  • Your eyes become the sun and moon;
  • All your inner organs become wonderful possessions and enjoyments of gods and humans.

Sometimes regret is felt for having given something. This creates the karma of miserliness. True offering should not be like this; instead, you should completely and sincerely give from the depths of your heart. If you sincerely renounce and dedicate whatever you offer without any clinging, you'll receive the same merit as if you had actually made the material offering.

Each time you recite the six-session prayer you dedicate your body, life and wealth to your guru and then request his help. You should actually give up attachment to these things, but instead you still think of them as yours: "my body, my possessions." By verbally offering them while still thinking of them as yours, you receive many downfalls.

Visualize many objects of your attachment, aversion and ignorance in the space above Mt. Meru, and offer all this to your gurus. Don't visualize one object only: for example, if you have attachment for someone, imagine offering many numbers of that person. Think of possessions or certain types of food that you like, imagine them multiplied many times and offer them to your gurus without any sense of loss. By offering the objects of your negative mind you renounce them and thereby cut off your attachment to them. If they are offered sincerely to the guru-buddha, then they become his and no longer yours, so it is not appropriate to feel attachment or aversion for them.

Ordinary beings are pleased by material offerings, but the best offering to make to your guru is your renunciation of the three poisonous minds. Your guru is extremely pleased by this; not for himself, but because he knows that this is the only way you will achieve liberation.

The essential meaning of giving up is not giving up the object, but relinquishing your attachment to it. A renounced mind is the best offering. It's no use making offerings to your guru unless you completely offer your body, speech and mind. And once you have offered your body, speech, mind and enjoyments to your guru you should never again think of them as "mine" or try to prevent others from using or taking them.

Therefore, when making the inner offering it's very powerful to think, "As I have offered my body, speech, mind and the objects of my three poisonous minds to my guru, how can I ever again use them for myself? From now on I must use them only according to his wishes. What does he wish? That I become Buddha to enlighten all sentient beings. For that to happen I cannot use these objects to carry out the aims of my negative mind; that would be completely opposite to my guru's wishes. I would be misusing my guru's possessions."

At the end of the prayer of the inner offering, think, "By offering the objects of my three poisonous minds and those of all sentient beings, may those objects and poisons automatically disappear from our minds." Imagine that the three poisons have dissolved into emptiness. Even the names, "attachment", "aversion", and "ignorance" cease to exist.

3. The Secret Mandala

Here, you manifest as a deity and then your own dharmakaya nature manifests as the mandala. The aspect is the universe: the golden ground, Mt. Meru, etc., but its essence is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and emptiness. You can visualize yourself as the deity in your own pure land and offer that to your gurus.

4. The Suchness Mandala

Recognize that the three circles: yourself, the action of offering and the guru (or subject, action and object), are all merely labeled by mind and do not exist from their own side. So you are offering the empty nature of these three. See that the appearance of a self-existent circle of three is like a mirage or a dream. As the subject, action and object are all merely labeled by mind, it's like offering a mandala in a dream. This practice cuts the root of samsara.

These four types of mandala offering can be practiced consecutively or simultaneously. To practice them simultaneously, first meditate on emptiness. Then, from the blissful space of non-duality you manifest as the deity. The different parts of your divine body, the nature of which is the dharmakaya, transform into the various features of the mandala. Then recognize that yourself (the deity), the action of offering and the object of the offering (your guru) are unified in non-duality.


At the end of every session of offering mandalas, recite the following prayer written by Lama Tsongkhapa:

May none of these merits become the cause of taking pride in understanding, reputation or receiving things.
May these merits only become the cause of attaining enlightenment.

How to Construct a Mandala with Three Rings

First Ring
1. Mount Meru
2. Lu pag po
3. Dzam bu ling
4. Ba lang choe
5. Dra mi nyan
6. Lu
7. Lu.pag
8. Nga yab
9. Nga yab zhan
10. Yoe den
11. Lam chog dro
12. Dra mi nyen
13. Dra mi nyen gyi da
14. Precious mountain
15. Wish-granting tree
16. Wish-fulfilling cow
17. Unploughed harvest
18. Precious wheel
19. Precious jewel
20. Precious queen
21. Precious minister
22. Precious elephant
23. Precious horse
24. Precious general
25. Great treasure vase

Second Ring
26. Goddess of beauty
27. Goddess of garlands
28. Goddess of song
29. Goddess of dance
30. Goddess of flowers
31. Goddess of incense
32. Goddess of light
33. Goddess of perfume

Third Ring
34. Sun
35. Moon
36. Precious parasol
37. Banner of victory in all directions
38. In the center, the most precious possessions of gods and humans