Talk by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche (5/1/1993)
      The subject here today is an explanation of the significance
 of the eight offerings. We make these offerings to the enlightened
 beings in many practices - in the Vajrasattva practice, Guru Yoga,
 and a lot of other practices. We have been doing this for a long
 time, so I thought it would be useful if we studied a little about
 what that practice signifies.
      The enlightened beings do not want or need these things. We
 make offerings for our own benefit, to accumulate great merit and
 wisdom. Enlightenment, Buddhahood, is achieved through the two
 great qualities - accumulation and purification. As you know, the
 Buddha has limitless qualities, which were gained through the
 great accumulations and purifications. Our offerings are a simple
 way to accumulate both merit and wisdom.
      First is the water offering to cleanse the mouth or face. It
 signifies auspiciousness or all the positive causes and
 conditions which bring positive effects. So, make an offering of
 water which is clean, fresh, cool, smooth, light, delicious,
 comfortable to the throat and stomach - these qualities are the
 qualities of auspiciousness. When you drink that kind of water, it
 is healthy; if you take a shower with it is healthy.  While you
 make this kind of water offering to the enlightened beings,
 visualize an ocean of water. Then we dedicate this water to become
 a cause for all sentient beings to also collect positive causes
 and conditions. So this is the first water offering - to cleanse
 the mouth or face.
      Second is water to wash the feet. This is clear water mixed
 with incense or sandlewood which is made as an offering to all
 enlightened beings' feet. The symbolic meaning is purification. By
 cleansing the feet of the enlightened beings, we cleanse all our
 own negative karma and obscurations. By making offerings to clean
 the enlightened beings feet, we are really cleaning the "feet" of
 our own mind.  With respect, devotion and confidence, we offer an
 ocean of this kind of water to all enlightened beings to purify
 all the temporary obscurations of ourselves and all sentient
 beings.  Obscurations are called "temporary" because they can be
 purified.  If they were permanent, we could not purify them even
 if we make an effort. So meditate on this when you make these
 offerings.  All the different types of obscurations -- gross,
 subtle, negative karma, afflictive emotions, and obscurations to
 enlightenment -- all these different types of obscurations become
 fully purified.
      Next is offering of a flower, the flower of the beauty of
 enlightenment. It signifies the practice of generosity and opens
 the heart. A flower is very beautiful; so you naturally want to
 keep it. But when you offer it to others, there is some special
 feeling in the mind. With that connection, make the offering and
 practice freedom from stinginess. Milarepa said there is no
 special practice of generosity if one is free from stinginess.
 Meditate on that by offering flowers, which signifies the practice
 of generosity. May all sentient beings achieve the freedom and
 endowment of a precious human life.
      Flowers are offered to the head of the enlightened beings,
 for them to wear on the crown of the head. Within the practice of
 generosity, we immediately think of giving wealth, giving
 fearlessness, giving wisdom -- there are many different types of
 generosity. Usually when we say generosity, we immediately think
 of giving wealth, but it is not only that.  For example, giving
 fearlessness means giving life.  If someone is afraid for their
 life, like drowning in water, and if you give them safety from the
 water, this is called giving fearlessness, giving freedom from
 danger to life. Giving wisdom is very special generosity.  When we
 give teaching to one who has no wisdom -- does not know what
 samsara is, what enlightenment is, or what the cause of suffering
 is -- that is such a great gift. To help them understand "Oh, that
 is samsara, that is enlightenment." Such a great gift!  So,
 offering a flower symbolizes generosity.
 OFFERING INCENSE - Discipline, Moral Ethics
      The fourth offering is incense, which symbolizes moral ethics
 or discipline. Moral discipline is one of the most important
 practices. In the West, maybe discipline and morality are a little
 bit different. What I mean here is that when we have good
 discipline, there is morality. Discipline is in the teaching of
 the Dharma. For instance, it says, "do this, this, this. Sit like
 this, meditate like this." It is taught like discipline. So when
 we do that, it is good moral ethics; when we cannot do these
 things that are taught to be done, then there is no morality, no
 ethics. In Sanskrit, this is called "shila". Shila means coolness,
 freshness. When we have good discipline, it cools the mind free
 from suffering. When we stay in that position well, it relaxes the
 mind and frees it from agitation. All these disciplines are part
 of the process of progressing in our meditation practice. Unless
 these disciplines and moral ethics are there, it is not possible
 to achieve enlightenment. Therefore, Buddha gave these three
 teachings -- moral ethics, samadhi and wisdom -- called the Three
 Trainings. These Three Trainings are very important. Wisdom or
 special insight comes from samadhi, the stability and strength of
 the mind. That kind of strength in the mind is based on discipline
 and morality. So they are all related to each other, are
 connected to each other and depend on each other. Therefore, moral
 ethics is a very important aspect of path.
      Incense, which is the nature of morality, makes offerings to
 the nose of the enlightened beings. The enlightened beings are not
 attached to smell, but to our purity. All people respect those who
 have kept moral ethics well. It doesn't matter who they are, they
 get respect because they are trustworthy and dependable. That kind
 of person gives a good smell, good odor, and people are attracted
 to that. not only people, but the qualities of enlightened beings
 are also attracted by that morality. It is their foundation/basis,
 like the ground which grows all the "crops" of the enlightened
      Fifth is light or a lamp, which signifies the stability and
 clarity of patience, the beauty which dispels all ignorance. Light
 offering is made to the eyes of all the enlightened beings, who
 see clearly without mistake. Some people feel patience is showing
 weakness or pessimism. But, actually, patience shows the strength
 and clarity of mind, which are based on wisdom and compassion.
 Without proper wisdom and compassion, one cannot practice
 patience. So light shows that the strength of the mind, the clear,
 stable nature of the mind, achieved through the practice of
 patience. Because the mind is not disturbed by other forces, it
 has such great qualities: clarity knows what is to be done, which
 is necessary, which is not necessary. That dispels ignorance.
      Patience can be practiced in all different forms, different
 ways, not just when people are faced with anger. For example,
 there is patience in Dharma practice and study. First, this is
 based on wisdom, so we should have such wisdom to really know how
 Dharma is, what quality it has, the depth and vastness of Dharma,
 and how we can achieve these qualities. Seeing those great
 qualities, then we need patience to study and practice. When we
 have that, there is a mind of clarity, of stableness.
      On the other hand we should not be patient with our
 afflictive emotions. When we have anger, desire, jealousy, pride,
 don't practice patience with these! This is the wrong way to
 practice patience. Even if it is hard or painful, these are
 subjects to get rid of or purify; they don't do any good thing.
 Without sacrificing something, there is no chance that we will
 have peace and happiness. So no matter what kind of pain we face,
 what difficult circumstances we face, we have to go thru it. Even
 if we have to sacrifice this life, it is worthwhile to sacrifice.
 A lot of people commit suicide to get rid of all these afflictive
 emotions. They are overpowered by the afflictive emotions and they
 kill themselves. That is the wrong way to sacrifice this life. We
 have to sacrifice this life the other way around. Buddha said that
 if we have to lose our life to keep the moral discipline, it just
 finishes this life, but next lives will be higher and higher,
 better and better. But if we do it the other way around and
 sacrifice this life for the afflictive emotions, then we will go
 worse and worse.
      In Shantideva's text it is said that we should not commit
 suicide or give this body without much purpose. Rather, we should
 cherish this precious human life. An explanation is given. When a
 medicinal tree is very small plant, it has to be protected in
 order to grow into a huge tree. If you pick it up when it is
 small, it will benefit only a few and then it is finished. But if
 you protect it well with many fences, it will grow into a huge
 tree that will bring fruits, flowers, roots, leaves, branches for
 the benefit of many, many sentient beings. Similarly we have a
 fragile mind at this time. We must protect this precious human
 life with all these antidotes, fences, and let it grow big. Then
 we can benefit many sentient beings. By the practice of patience,
 all the 112 major and minor marks of a Buddha will come. Of
 course, we should not expect it, but the result of patience is a
 healthy, good body, to which all people are attracted, which is
 respected and admired. All this comes from the practice of
      Next is the offering of perfume or the fragrance from saffron
 or sandlewood. -- all the different types of perfume. That
 signifies perseverance or joyous effort. Through that one quality,
 one develops all the qualities of enlightenment. Without
 perseverance, without joyous effort, nothing can be achieved.
 Even in samsara, we have to work so hard to achieve anything. A
 lot of people sacrifice a lot of things just for samsaric
 achievement. You sacrifice your life for your work; if you die,
 what will you do with your wealth? So now, see the other side --
 Dharma study and practice. When we could make such a great effort
 to study, practice Dharma, we have to sacrifice some little thing.
 It is said in Shantideva's text that studying Dharma is the cause
 to freedom from suffering. To achieve ultimate enlightenment,
 ultimate happiness, why can't we do that? Others in samsara, they
 even sacrifice their life for their achievements, but that becomes
 a cause only for suffering. So see that. As flowers were offered
 to the eyes of enlightenment, perfumes are offered to the Buddha's
 mind because perseverance is the heart of enlightenment.  Perfect
 generosity, moral ethics, patience, samadhi, wisdom -these all
 depend on perseverance. Without joyous effort none of these can be
 accomplished, so it is the heart, the essence.  Meditate that by
 this offering, may all sentient beings progress in their
 attainment of the qualities of enlightenment.
      Seventh is the offering of delicious food which has a lot of
 different tastes. The delicious, excellent quality of food
 signifies samadhi, which is a nectar or ambrosia to feed the mind.
 This is an offering to the tongue of the enlightened beings, the
 Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Samadhi is also the source of all the
 siddhis like clairvoyance. There are two different types of
 clairvoyance -- ordinary clairvoyance is usually from other
 lifetimes. The other type is special insight clairvoyance, which
 we achieve this lifetime through meditation practice. Flying in
 the sky, different types of miracle power, these can all be
 achieved through samadhi, the virtuous one-pointed mind. The very
 stable mind, one-pointed, clear, calm, peaceful mind of samadhi
 becomes a basis to achieve all the enlightenment qualities. Food
 symbolizes samadhi because eating food maintains this body, and
 samadhi is a kind of food that maintains the mind as well as the
 physical body. When you achieve any kind of samadhi, it is the
 fruition of the effort you made before, and it can also become a
 path to get higher fruition. Generally, when we eat nutritious
 healthy food, it makes our health better. So if we have the
 nutritious food of samadhi, it keeps the health of the mind. It
 makes the mind healthy, clear, calm and peaceful. By making this
 offering of delicious food, may all sentient beings have the
 health which results from the samadhi food. May all sentient
 beings have the samadhi nature, quality.
      Last is the offering of musical instruments. There are
 different types of instruments -- cymbals, bells, guitars, lutes -
 - all of these are offered. Their nature is wisdom, which makes an
 offering to the ears of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and all the
 enlightened beings. Sound represents wisdom because wisdom is a
 special power of the mind which penetrates phenomena. Compassion
 is achieved through great wisdom; interdependence of all phenomena
 is realized through great wisdom. of course all phenomena have the
 nature of interdependence, causes and conditions, but sound is
 especially easy to understand. If you play a guitar, what does the
 sound depend on? it does not come just from the piece of wood, the
 string, not from the finger. So where does it come from? It comes
 from all these things, none alone is sufficient to produce the
 sound. That nature is called illusion. We can hear the Sound, but
 it has no independent existence. So we should see all sound having
 that nature.  It just comes and goes like an echo. That
 realization is wisdom, and through that realization we can attain
 supermundane quality. May the wisdom, that quality of the
 supermundane, arise within the minds of all sentient beings and
 free them from all confusion and ignorance. May they achieve
 Q & A
 Q. - Should the bowls be emptied every evening?
 A. - Yes, when you empty them, you should meditate on
    impermanence. Now all the enlightened beings are fully
    satisfied. Dedicate the merit accumulation of making these
    offerings to all sentient beings. May all those beings also
    become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, free from confusion and
 Q. - Do you have to have actual flowers, or can I use rice or
 A. - Buddha said that there are so many different levels of
    meditation practice. from 100% to 1%. So all this we can do
    depending on the individual practitioner. But even the 1%, we
    should do it - it's better than nothing. When we make offering
    by filling all the bowls with rice, it is wonderful. The Buddha
    said that even if you take one piece of flower and throw it in
    the air while focusing on the Buddha, that will become a cause
    for freedom from samsara.
 Q. - Some people make it very elaborate and elegant, expensive
    looking. others have simple white bowls with water.
 A. - No matter what, you have to have a pure motivation. This is
    very important. With pure motivation, any offering you make is
    good. Expensive is great because you sacrifice a lot of things
    for that offering. but if you do not have pure motivation, like
    doing it to show wealth, then maybe it's not so pure. We work
    this entire life, so for us these things mean so much. When we
    make an offering of them to the enlightened beings, it has
    meaning for us. We sacrifice that part of our life. In this
    way, offering becomes a special meditation practice.
 (An edited transcript of a talk given by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen
 Rinpoche on May 1, 1993 at the Tibetan Meditation Center,
 published in "The Dharma Wheel", Summer, 1993)