Offerings to Holy Objects

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #029)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Kopan Course No. 7, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov-Dec, 1974.

This is an excerpt from Day 21, Meditation Two: Part II: Refuge. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at the 7th Kopan Lamrim Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1974. Photo: Wendy Finster.

Making offerings to the holy objects doesn’t depend on them actually receiving material things. Ordinary people actually want to receive material things in their hands, but it is not like this for the holy objects; it is completely different for them. Ordinary people, such as kings, want to receive material things in their hands. If the other person is just mentally dedicating and renouncing, that is not sufficient for ordinary people —that does not make them happy.

What makes ordinary people happy is actually physically giving them material things in the hand. Ordinary beings like the king are not happy with mentally transformed offerings, because they don’t get anything. However, for the holy objects, the enlightened beings, the actual material things don’t have to be received in their hands, the offerings don’t have to be like that. It’s completely different from ordinary people.

Offering mainly means renouncing from your mind, no matter where the object is or whether it is with you, for instance, your body. Making offerings to holy objects doesn’t have to be like making offerings to ordinary people, being with them or something. Offering is also called puja by Indians, but actually offering or puja means pleasing the gurus, the enlightened beings; that is the actual meaning of puja. If it doesn’t please them, it doesn’t become puja. Anyway, there is so much to talk about.

One fundamental thing that pleases the enlightened beings is renouncing attachment. That is the fundamental thing that pleases the holy objects—renouncing attachment, anger and ignorance. So this is the fundamental thing and then, according to the person’s practice, pleasing the gurus, the enlightened beings, the holy objects, has a higher meaning, there is a higher practice. Anyway, we are talking about the fundamental thing. According to Vajrayana practice there is a higher way to understand this, to practice, to please the holy objects—there is a transcendental way, a higher way.

Usually when we have memories of past things—of friends, of what we did and things that we had—when we have memories, even though we don’t have the actual thing at the present time, even by having them mentally, we get attached. By seeing a picture of them we get attached. So, how does this become offering? How does this help to purify our own negativity and our negative karma? How do we stop and purify the negative karma that we have been collecting from previous lifetimes? How can making offerings help us to receive enlightenment?

Being attached to these pictures that come into the mind creates negative karma, it reflects again in the mind, with attachment. It is involved with craving. However, when we make mentally transformed offerings, that means renouncing the attachment and the craving for those beautiful objects of the senses. Also, the objects, such as flowers, smells, and incense, have to be visualized as beautiful as possible. If you can visualize them as best as possible then you create good karma. There are also beautiful goddesses. Another way of imagining the goddesses is to visualize female human beings carrying different offerings and playing different music. As much as you can visualize them as beautiful, that much you create good karma, because you are not visualizing with attachment to make them arise; you are renouncing attachment. You are making offerings to renounce attachment, in order for it to be the opposite of the action of using things with attachment. This is the practice of trying to become the opposite of attachment; it is the remedy to attachment.

So anyway, transform the offerings like this, instead of getting attached to these objects, thinking, “I like this,” “I want this,” with the mind completely sinking in the object, completely absorbing in the object. Instead of that, without letting attachment arise, completely dedicate that object to the holy objects you are visualizing—Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, surrounded by infinite buddhas and bodhisattvas. Dedicate to them.

While you visualize, if there is attachment arising, think, “I am making offerings to the holy objects. These offerings belong to the holy objects, so if I am attached to these things, it is nonsense. I cannot be attached to these things, as they are offered to the holy objects.” Think like this.

When we give—whether it is a physical offering or a mental offering—we should have less attachment to the offering. Perhaps if there is no wish or no thought to offer these things to Buddha, to the enlightened beings, to create good karma, then we won’t do the action. Without the wish, without the thought, we don’t try, we don’t put effort into that, so that is not greed, it is not attachment. There is a difference. Just wishing doesn’t mean we have attachment.

However, for the physically offered or mentally transformed offerings, if there is no attachment to those offerings, that much the offering is pure. So the main purpose of making offerings is to lose attachment. Mentally transforming the offerings is beneficial, because this is a method to purify or lose the attachment. Also, memories and pictures of other things come into the mind because of the attachment to the object. It is the same thing with the physical offerings, the material offerings—mainly we make offerings to lose attachment. So the actual thing, the actual offering is renouncing attachment. This is the fundamental thing that pleases the holy objects. How does this please the holy objects? Why does the renouncing mind please the holy objects? This is not their negative mind, this is my negative mind, so why are they pleased by me renouncing my negative mind?

The whole reason is this. The holy objects, the enlightened beings, even the bodhisattvas, are always concerned about other sentient beings’ suffering the whole time; they are always concerned to release sentient beings from suffering the whole time—day and night. They always have infinite compassion for each of the sentient beings. They always spontaneously wish to release sentient beings from suffering, to release them from all their negative karma and delusions, all their wrong conceptions. Their main wish is to release sentient beings from suffering and wrong conceptions and for them to receive enlightenment. Usually they wish like that, but from our side we often create the cause of suffering, we often keep ourselves away from the boundless state, by continuously creating the cause of samsara. Our work is the opposite of what they wish for all the time.

This time what we do is according to what they wish for, so it becomes harmonious, it becomes the same thing. This work that they wish for is enlightening oneself, purifying oneself. So that’s how, mainly because of their infinite compassion wanting oneself and all sentient beings to be released from all suffering and to reach enlightenment, renouncing the negative mind pleases them. So, mentally transform the offerings.