What is Fire Puja?
WHAT IS FIRE PUJA (JINSEK)?
– a teaching given in 2013 prior to doing Fire Puja at Kechara Forest Retreat (transcribed by Pastor David Lai)
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In general, there are many types of deities which are a manifestation of various energies, realizations and the compassion of the Buddhas. These deities specifically emanate at a particular time for an individual or a group.
If someone solicits, prays or they have a difficult situation at that time, a Buddha will manifest in a particular form – color, shape, size, stance, facial expression and holding the necessary implements to overcome, subdue and purify that particular karma or ailment of that person. So, once that’s done, when other people do that puja, a lineage of pujas begins from there. So, one deity can have hundreds of different emanations and many different types of pujas as well. Each puja in these traditions may be slightly different but the effect is the same. It depends on which tradition you belong to.
Amongst all pujas, the fire puja is considered the king of all Pujas. It is the most powerful of all pujas within Tibetan Buddhism and its purpose is basically to remove all obstacles and its stains – drima to enlightenment. It is for purifying ordinary appearances, ordinary unwholesome actions and especially for repairing broken pledges, promises and vows. Those are very strong causes for us to have negative doubts, delusions and negative ideas. The reason we have a lot of negative ideas and delusions towards something that is good for us for example, Dharma is because of the broken pledges and promises that we had in the past. Fire pujas purifies that when we do it continuously with faith and good samaya.
The fire pujas are performed with special ingredients. Special mandalas are constructed at the site and there are peaceful, increase, subjugation and forceful or wrathful fire pujas. The peaceful fire pujas are to remove inauspiciousness, problems that might be coming to our lifespan, wisdom, wealth, growth of Dharma – hearing, contemplating and meditating on the Dharma. To pacify those problems that may come or delay those problems until we purify it. While, the increase fire pujas is to increase merit, health, lifespan, wisdom and spiritual wealth especially on the hearing, contemplation and application of the Dharma. The control fire pujas is to turn negative circumstances around in our favor as long as we have a good motivation. The last one mentioned is the wrathful fire puja and is only performed when the peaceful, increase and control fire pujas are not effective due to the powerful amount of karma we have. We use wrathful methods to overcome whatever obstacles and ailments obstructing us to growth, wealth, health and practice.
For example, some students in the past have done pujas and fire pujas for prolonging their life, for their parents – mothers and fathers and after the puja was done, you can see that it made a difference. That’s very kind of the teacher to recommend that and for the student who does it as well. When the student does it for their parents, it alleviates their problems, increases their lives and even saves their lives in some cases. So we should always remember that kindness and that we should always try to increase the Dharma so that other people may receive that form of kindness as well. Therefore, fire pujas is very very effective in many ways when done accordingly with samaya.
So, in the past we can see fire pujas, long life pujas, pilgrimage pujas or recitation pujas can help our family, friends, loved ones and our children. There have been many cases where children have passed their exams because of pujas. There are cases where fathers’ and mothers’ lives have been saved or increased or their health has improved. Never forget that kindness because it is rare that someone has the ability to do that for our parents through pujas. This can only come about by having a Dharma center, organization, with the Sangha and having people together creates a receptacle or a place where these powerful methods can be taught, practiced and be of further benefit to others. So, that’s very very important to do that.
Fire pujas is also specifically for purifying ordinary appearances, unwholesome actions, broken pledges, inauspicious circumstances and removing negative karma that obstruct us from doing our Dharma practice. The fire pujas are offered to 4 main objects of offerings. The first one is to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities (yidams), dakas, dakinis, arhats, shravakas, pratyakayas and highly accomplished arhats. Second set is offered to the worldly protectors and highly powerful beings in the area and then, the third is to all sentient beings and the last offering is made to spirits and hungry ghosts because they are always hungry, wandering, lonely and thirsty. So we give them some temporary relief.
In general, there are thirteen main ingredients. In different traditions, the ingredients may vary slightly but the meaning is pretty much the same. What we do is we generate the fire, purify it and invite the fire god Agni, make offerings to him and get permission from him to use the fire. We are not praying to him but asking for permission. After that, we remove Agni and then, within the fire, we generate the deity of the Yidam or the protector. So, if the fire puja is to White Tara, we generate White Tara or Vajrayogini or Yamantaka or a Dharma Protector. So, lets say that it is to a Dharma Protector, we invite the Dharma Protector to enter the fire. It is because the Dharma Protector is indestructible, arising from the full enlightened mind, he abides within the fire and he opens his mouth and we offer the purified offerings to him, of melted butter, sesame seeds, Tsa Durva grass, rice, rice with curd, kusha grass, mustard seed, barley which is unhusked barley, normal barley which is husked, lentils, wheat, sticks and finally all the ingredients mixed.
So, these are the 13 ingredients offered step-by-step. We recite the mantra of the deity, for example our Dharma Protector Setrap. We recite Om Maha Yaksha Tsa Soha and we place the offering into the fire or into the mouth of Setrap directly. This is considered very powerful and efficacious. The first offering, we offer melted butter, which represents the increase of lifespan, merit and prosperity. So, if our parents are sick when a fire puja was done and a lot of butter was offered to the yidam or the deity in order to increase the lifespan of our parents. So, when we stick with the Dharma, we assist our parents because only Dharma can change their karma for better things. So we can offer a lot of melted butter to the deity. That’s why the offerings should be abundant as much as possible. There’s no limit to increasing one’s lifespan so if we are doing it for a loved one – our parents, our beautiful mother, our sacred father, our children or whomever it is. You can even do this for your pets and it will increase their lives when we visualize the butter as a purified substance offered into the mouth of the deity itself. So, this is very important for all of us to do fire pujas at least once or twice a year for whatever purpose stated earlier.
Number two, we offer sesame seeds. The sesame seeds removes non-virtues, negative karma, broken samaya, negative thought, negative speech and negative actions. We may think that we can do and say as we want and if anybody say we can’t, they are infringing on us, they are judging us or they are being judgemental. That’s not true! All the Dharma books in the world talk about what we need to purify. They talk about the faults of our three poisons – ignorance, hatred and desire and how they afflict us and create problems for us. That’s not criticism. That’s giving you wisdom. So, we shouldn’t say “don’t judge me” or “don’t criticize me” because that is a barrier we create so we don’t hear the truth or we don’t deal with the truth. So, by offering purified sesame seeds, we remove non-virtues that create obstructions to our mind to perceive, understand, apply and operate from wisdom. It is by the power of wisdom that purifies our mind that operates from ignorance to receive, hear and to be near wisdom or to be near a lama – Dharma. This doesn’t mean we will practice because we have karmas that obstruct it. Hence, offering the purified sesame seeds represents the purification of non-virtues that obstruct us to higher attainments, higher thoughts, higher practice and growth.
The next one is Tsa Durva – grass and by offering that, we increase one’s lifespan. We increase it not to engage in negative actions but is meant to engage in positive actions. To be in the situation where there’s positive thoughts, actions, friends and information where we would do positive work in order to benefit ourselves and others. The next one is to offer rice. Offering rice is to increase merits. The more merits we have, the more understanding blossoms. The more understanding blossoms, the less confusion we have and the less confusion we have, the more we can progress on our spiritual practice and be of benefit to others.
The next one is rice with curd is offered to increase great happiness – Gewa Chenpo. Offering of rice with curd is to increase worldly happiness, spiritual happiness and to gain the great bliss of a fully enlightened Buddha. The next one is Kusha grass, which is offered for protection. It is protection from negative influences from above, below, the 4 corners and the 4 intermediate directions – the 10 directions. The next one we offer is mustard seed. Mustard seed is offered to the deity purified in order to clear obstacles. This is obstacles of what we want to achieve, for example in KFR, we want to be of tremendous benefit to others, to get all of our permits and complete all of our construction work and have programs going and all that.
By offering unhusked barley, we create the causes for increasing wealth, material resources, necessities, food, clothing, properties, water, anything that we need to be of benefit to others. It is also anything our body needs in order to have a healthy strong life in order to be of benefit to others. So, offering unhusked barley increases wealth. The next one is the offering of husked barley. This offering is to gain rapid accomplishments. So, it is to gain rapid accomplishments of whatever practices, mantras, meditations, recitations, study, contemplation, application that we do from the Dharma. By offering barley, we create the causes and the karmic effects of gaining rapid accomplishments.
The next offering is lentils is to gain strength, which was what Kensur Rinpoche used to say “Thuk Chenpo”. To gain strength of body, mind and speech – to speak courageously about the Dharma no matter how we are criticized. It is to have a strong body and not be sick easy or not to be easily affected by negative elements. It is also to have the strength of mind – not to easily give up, not to find fault with others, situations or find others to be blamed. It is also to have the strength not to put the blame on others when we fail, give up or have doubts. This doubt comes from unethical behaviour or behaving unethically and saying it is ethical or justifying that it is ethical and thus creating the karma for us to always think negatively. Therefore, lentils is to gain great strength of body, speech and mind.
The next offering is wheat. Wheat is to overcome illness. Illness here is of the body and mind that we have to be purified and healed along with future illness. Next offering is that of sticks purified and buttered. These sticks are offered in order to gain high accomplishments – mental high states of being, thinking and status that is used in order to be of benefit to others. The last offering is mixed ingredients and offered to increase wisdom, study, understanding and strength to overcome our weaknesses. It increases the ability to practice and become a fully enlightened Buddha.
The whole purpose of Dharma is to become a fully enlightened Buddha. We can listen to all the Buddha’s teachings, our Guru’s teachings and we can consider it a scolding, criticism, judgement or we can take all the Buddha’s teachings and what the Guru tells and explains to us as wisdom. It is something for us to measure by because of everybody, whatever advice we give us contradicts our own projections and our own attachments. Whatever teachings that have been given to us, whatever wisdom or knowledge that have been given to us, we always see it as an attack on our attachments, we become defensive, we become angry, we say you are judging us but it is not the case. All the Dharma books, gurus, they are suppose to teach the Dharma. They are suppose to give us the Dharma. Our Guru cannot encourage us to go indulge, you know to create negative karma, drink, smoke, womanize and harm and lie and steal. Our Guru can’t do that. Our Guru is not suppose to do that and will not do that. So, if our Guru is teaching us the Dharma, our Guru is not our enemy but our friend. But sometimes when it comes to the face of our attachments, we see our Guru as the enemy but actually not.
So therefore, our Guru is not our enemy. If we really wanna say he’s our enemy, it’s the Dharma. The Guru is telling us the Dharma. For example, if a message has been given to us on a CD deck and we don’t like the message and we smash up the CD deck. The CD deck is not at fault. The CD deck is a vehicle for the Dharma to come through. You smash up the CD doesn’t matter also because the message is not the CD or the CD player but the message is from the person that is coming from. And that person is giving the message from knowledge or wisdom wherever it is obtained. So therefore, by smashing up the CD player all that, it will not help. Like that, if we criticize or we say negative things and we create problems for the teacher or the Dharma center because we don’t like what its told us. We feel it is judging us. That’s wrong view. Why is that wrong view? Because it is something that make us face our attachments which will create karma, which will definitely come back to us.
The Buddha cannot be wrong so therefore, it is giving us wisdom. It is giving us the measuring stick to check and to look at and to understand. Hence, when Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, when they give great teachings to thousands of monks in the monastery, they taught the same way. They told us what was wrong. They told us what was on our mind. They told us about wrong view. They told us about our attachments. They told us about our karma and its effects and what will happen and we didn’t feel it was scolding. We didn’t feel it was judgment. We saw it as wisdom. So therefore, the last one when we were offering the mixed items, it gives us the ability and blessings to realize advice and teachings that is part of the path to become a fully enlightened being.
So, fire pujas in that way is very effective and powerful if we do it continuously. Then, after all 13 ingredients have been offered, we make a final offering of the sensory items to the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and deities and especially to the deity that has been invited to abide within the wisdom fire. After that’s done, we have the deities return to the pure lands and then we make a final offering to the fire deity called Agni and thank him for using the fire. At the end, we conclude and dedicate and we leave the fire burning as long as possible. We don’t add anything to keep the fire burning and we don’t put it out either. If it rains on it, its fine. We can leave the fire burning until the next day and we can clean up. The fire pujas ashes can be used as relics. It can be placed into stupas, it can be worn, it can be scattered on the ground, it can be put on plants or it can be used to bless the land. The person that is doing the fire puja must have gotten the initiation of the deity and perform the sadhana daily without breaking and also have done the full retreat and have done the fire puja of the deity. Then, when they do the fire puja again and again. It is very effective.
So, I have requested these fire pujas to be done at our beautiful Kechara Forest Retreat to dedicate to all of our sponsors, friends, volunteers and students who have contributed a thousand dollars, a million dollars, a million hours, a million cleanups – sweeping, cooking – whatever they have done. Sponsors is not just money. It is everyone who have contributed. For all the meaning of the 13 ingredients to come true for all of them and for our existing students and future students to come. So, the fire pujas are also done to dedicate to all the hardworking students so that their Dharma, learning, meditation, practice and especially application of Dharma will increase. So, we are doing a lot of fire pujas on the Kechara Forest land so that in the future, whoever comes will be blessed, will feel peace, will have healing, will gain wisdom, will want to do Dharma and will be able to develop the inner higher attainments in order to become a fully attained being.
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