Attitude When Receiving Offerings
As Buddhists, we are taught that making offerings generates tremendous merits to be dedicated towards our spiritual progress. Not only are we encouraged to make offerings to the Three Jewels – the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – but even more so, we are encouraged to make offerings to our gurus, considered the most precious of all because they connect us with the Three Jewels. Hence, our connection with our teachers ultimately provides us with the knowledge and blessings we need to liberate ourselves from samsara and lifetime after lifetime of suffering.
On 25 October 2014, Tsem Rinpoche gave us a teaching on the attitude one should have when receiving offerings. This teaching came the day after Rinpoche’s birthday, when Rinpoche received a lot of offerings from students and friends. They flooded the Ladrang, filling every available flat surface. Looking at the flowers and gifts everywhere, Rinpoche said he rejoiced in everyone’s generosity, not because he was the recipient but because it reflected on so many people’s progress in their practice of generosity. Rinpoche then set about giving us the teaching, saying that he had received it from His Eminence Denma Locho Rinpoche when Denma Locho Rinpoche was giving teachings in Drepung Monastery. Two years later on 29 May 2016, Rinpoche was kind enough to reiterate this teaching to many of us present, even giving us a visualisation we can engage in when receiving the offerings.
According to Denma Locho Rinpoche, when a devotee makes an offering, the recipient should rejoice in the person’s generosity. Making the offering took away from something else they could have spent their money or time on. Making the offering was therefore the giver’s practice of cutting their attachments to what they desire. With this in mind, it is the responsibility of the recipient to help the giver create as much merit as possible by offering it to the Three Jewels first.
Denma Locho Rinpoche said that when we rejoice in the giver’s generosity, the recipient also reinforces their own spiritual practice because rejoicing is the direct antidote for jealousy. Getting into the habit of rejoicing for good things in general trains us to rejoice when good things happen to others, instead of to ourselves. This therefore attacks the self-cherishing mind that falsely leads us to believe we are someone worthy of making offerings to.
Hence, Denma Locho Rinpoche also had a word of caution for those who are in positions of spiritual authority and respect, who may become recipients of offerings. Denma Locho Rinpoche said that these individuals must take even greater care to avoid the ‘pitfalls’ of being in such a position. The pitfalls Denma Locho Rinpoche was referring to are opportunities to reinforce ego. Denma Locho Rinpoche stressed that when one rejoices in receiving offerings, it will help the recipient to cut their attachment to the item.
This is important because if our attitude of receiving offerings is not correct, the offering can become a cause for us to generate more attachment and negative karma (instead of merit). Some people, for example, may be attached to the sight of beautiful flowers and feel proud when they receive such offerings, thinking, “Yes, I am worthy of these offerings.” Denma Locho Rinpoche questioned the wisdom of this. Cut flowers last for one or two days before they begin to rot. In those one or two short days, is it logical for us to allow the impermanent flowers to deepen our pride and self-cherishing mind, or will the flowers become a cause for us and the giver to generate merit?
With all this discussion about rejoicing, Tsem Rinpoche asked us if this means we should rejoice for bad things. In short, the answer is ‘no’ because when we rejoice in bad things, for example our rivals and competitors losing, we may be rid of them temporarily but the real consequences are more far-reaching. Although our physical competitor may be gone, we have just reinforced our real enemies – jealousy, anger and other afflictive emotions which are the true causes for our suffering.
According to Denma Locho Rinpoche therefore, when one’s duties are carried out properly and without ego, being in a position of spiritual authority can become a vehicle for benefiting others. When the position is abused however, it can be detrimental spiritually even for the teacher. So how does one rejoice when receiving offerings? What is the recommended procedure of receiving an offering to ensure the action becomes a merit-making act for both giver and receiver?
If you have not received initiation, you can generate Lama Tsongkhapa or your yidam (meditational deity) on the crown of your head. At this point, visualise the offerings being made to the deity on the crown of your head, and the merits generated being dedicated to the person who made the offering.
If you have received initiation, Denma Locho Rinpoche said one should self-generate as the yidam and make the offerings to yourself as the yidam, dedicating the merits thus collected back to the person who made the offering.
An alternative meditation is to visualise the energy of generosity being offered up to the Three Jewels. Alternatively, you may also visualise the offerings transforming into the Eight Auspicious Signs and those being offered up to the Three Jewels on behalf of the person who made the offerings to you.
The reason such a dedication is made, is for the giver to create a connection with Dharma and to meet with teachers in future lifetimes so that they may further their practice until Enlightenment. Only after this dedication is made should the offerings be enjoyed or used ‘properly’.
Since Tsem Rinpoche received this teaching from Denma Locho Rinpoche, Rinpoche has practised it whenever someone generously makes an offering. I have seen this take place countless times with my own eyes. Each time offerings are presented to Rinpoche, Rinpoche recites a short prayer for the person and has the offerings displayed on the altar for a period of time, for the giver to accumulate merit.
Although we may not be in positions of spiritual authority whereby we are frequent recipients of offerings, we can apply the same logic and teachings presented by Denma Locho Rinpoche any time someone does something nice for us. Just replace the word ‘offerings’ with ‘gifts’, and the teachings instantly become relevant to our everyday lives. Thus, although we may not be gurus or teachers, we cannot deny that we experience generosity and receive gifts from others. So when someone is generous or shows us some kindness, practising Denma Locho Rinpoche’s teachings on the correct attitude when receiving gifts will result in a merit-making interaction between giver and recipient.
For more interesting information:
- My Precious Teachers
- Dorje Shugden Gyenze to Increase Life, Merits and Wealth
- A Note on Offerings by Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche
- Yesterday I experienced true generosity…
- Bangkok Monks and why make offerings
- Chinese New Year shopping!!
- It’s not between you and the recipient
- Making Offerings to Shar Gaden Monastery
- Offerings to the Sangha in India
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