Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Three: How to Make Offerings
The following reading is taken from the Entry Point for Children of the Victorious Buddhas (rGyal-sras ‘jug-ngogs), a commentary by Gyaltsab Je Darma Rinchen (1364-1432) on the book called Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Byang-chubsems-dpa’i spyod-pa la ‘jug-pa) by Master Shantideva (c. 700 AD).
The second major section concerns how to train oneself in the activities of a bodhisattva, once one has been able to develop the two forms of the wish for enlightenment. This section itself has two parts: how to acquire the wish for enlightenment, and how to train oneself in the perfections, which are the activities of the bodhisattva.
The first of these two parts has two divisions of its own. The first concerns purifying oneself of the hindering conditions that consist of bad deeds. This is done by applying all four of the forces of purification, once one has already performed the preliminary practices of prostration, offering, and going for refuge. The second concerns the actual practice of acquiring the wish for enlightenment, once one has already completed the actions of accumulating conducive conditions, which is done through the various practices which begin with rejoicing in virtue.
We will explain the first of these two divisions in two steps: an explanation of the actual text of the chapter, and an explanation of the chapter’s name. The former of these will proceed in four stages represented by the four practices of offering, prostration, going for refuge, and purifying oneself of bad deeds. For the first of these we will cover the need to make offerings, and then the kinds of offerings themselves.
Those oceans of high spiritual qualities:
To the sons and daughters of the Buddhas,
You should make offerings in an excellent way, meaning that you should offer the most exquisite objects with thoughts and in a manner which is filled with reverence. What should be the goal of making these offerings? You should present them in order to acquire the jewel of the wish for enlightenment, which supplies every single good thing there is to every single living being.
And to whom should you make the offerings? They should be made first of all to Those Who Have Gone That Way. And then they should be made to the holy jewel of the Dharma, so called because it is the Dharma of holy realized beings. This Dharma consists of the truth of cessation, and the truth of the path, in the greater way. The truth of cessation here includes both natural purity and also the absence of any temporary impurities.
And you should finally make offerings to those great ones who are like oceans of high spiritual qualities: to sons and daughters of the Buddhas who are realized beings such as the Lord, Loving Eyes (Avalokiteshvara), and Gentle Voice (Manjushri).
We will discuss the kinds of offerings in three parts: the offering of things which have no owner; the giving of your own body; and the offering of things which you emanate with your own thoughts. For the first we will describe what it is we offer, and then how it is we offer it, and finally the reason for giving things which have no owner.
And all the different herbs, as many as there may be.
The forests, quiet places of refuge, and lovely spots;
Give fragrances and incenses, even those which are found
Give grain that grows without ever being planted,
Lovely lakes and bathing ponds bedecked with lotus blossoms
You should first give those things in the world which have no owner. Give flowers, flowers like the lotus, and give the fruits of the trees, like the olive, as many as exist everywhere. Then give all the different herbs of the earth, camphor and the like, as many as there may be. Give each and every precious substance contained in the planet: gold, silver, and anything of the sort. Give all the pure and lovely water of every ocean, lake, and other bodies of water that exists. Give the eight precious mountains of gold and all the rest, and so too give all the forests, give all the quiet places of refuge, all the lovely spots, all the many kinds of plants, each studded with a variety of jewel flowers, each adorned in beauty. Give all the trees whose branches are bent low under the weight of fine ripe fruit. Give all the fine fragrances and incenses that exist, whether they be natural, or concocted, or transformed, and include even those which are found in the worlds of pleasure beings, serpent-beings, and the like. Give the wishing tree, which supplies your every wish, and give the tree made of precious substances. Give lovely lakes and bathing ponds, ones that grant your every desire, bedecked with lotus blossoms, and give the waterbirds who live upon them, in all their beauty, singing their splendid songs. Give every kind of grain, growing of its own accord, without ever being planted. Offer these, and offer any other lovely object which is worthy of presenting to the Jewels. Certain authors who failed to understand the commentary have explained the order of the root text in a different way.
Of those objects owned by no one
Of all living beings, to the Able Ones,
Along with their sons and daughters.
Look upon me with love, and accept all I offer.
Here next is the way in which we offer those things which have no owner. Think to yourself, “I imagine in my mind each and every one of those objects owned by no one which may exist in all the infinite expanse, upon the limitless number, of all the myriad planets there are in all of space. I offer these objects in an excellent way, with great reverence, to certain special beings; that is, to the highest of all living beings, to the Able Ones, along with their sons and daughters. May all of these beings of highest spiritual qualities, all those who possess the ultimate form of compassion, look upon me with love, and so accept all these objects which I offer.”
I am extremely poor, and I have no other kind
Of wealth that I might offer. I beg you therefore,
Here is the explanation of why we offer things which have no owner. One may begin with the following question: “What is the use of offering things which are only imagined in the mind? Would it not be better to actually offer some lovely object or another?” I am not the kind of person who has been able, in the past, to accumulate any great amount of merit, and so I am extremely poor, in the sense that I possess none of the things that I would like to. And so I have no rights at all to any other kind of wealth that I might offer. I beg you therefore, you who are the Protector who thinks exclusively of what might be of benefit to others, to use your power to accept this offering I have made, this object which has no other owner, and to do so for my own sake.
And to their sons and daughters; and I beg
These supreme warriors to accept me, totally,
For in reverence I offer myself as your subject.
Here next is the giving of your own body. The next section of the text is meant to say, “But I do have a body that I could offer you, and so I do.” I do have the rights to my own body, and I hereby give up, forever and in every way, any concept of it belonging to myself. I offer it instead to the Victors, and to their sons and daughters. I beg these supreme warriors to accept me, my body, totally. I am impelled by my faith and reverence for you to offer myself as your subject, and I will do whatever you command me to do.
Because you have taken me into your care,
I no longer need to concern myself
I can be of benefit to all living things.
I will transcend, totally, all the bad deeds
Of the past, and from this point on
I will never commit any new bad deeds.
And what will I do, once I have offered myself to you? Because you have taken me into your care, I have reached a kind of protection where I am free of all fear. And because I no longer need to concern myself with the fears of the cycle of life, because I am finally free of every fear, I can be of benefit to all living things. I will transcend, totally, all the energy of any bad deeds which I accumulated in the past; and from this point on, I will never commit any new bad deeds, even should it cost me my life.
There are two major divisions to our third point, the offering of things which you emanate with your own thoughts. The first of them has twelve parts of its own: the offering of bathing, of lovely clothing, precious adornments, ointments, flowers, incense, fine foods, lights, mansions, parasols, and music, followed by the act of blessing, so that the stream of offering can continue never-ending. The offering of bathing covers three subjects: the bathing chamber, the way in which to offer the bathing, and how to wipe dry the holy body.
I make this offering in a great bathing chamber,
Filled with fine fragrance, and with a floor
Made of crystal, perfectly clear, sparkling, gleaming.
The chamber has lovely pillars,
And a canopy stretched across it,
Here is the offering of bathing. Where does one perform this offering? In a great bathing chamber, strewn with sandalwood and other scents, so that it is filled with fine fragrance. The floor of the chamber is made of crystal: it is perfectly clear, and sparkles with light. The entire surface of the room gleams, for it has been cleaned and shined perfectly. The chamber has lovely pillars, rafters, and details; they glow with the light of precious jewels. Stretched above it all is a great canopy, studded with fine pearls that radiate light of their own.
Of Those Who Have Gone That Way, and to
Their sons and daughters. Use many great
Which is scented, and lovely; make the offering
With a great number of songs, and music.
You should make the offering of bathing to the holy bodies of Those Who Have Gone That Way, and to their sons and daughters, by using many great vases, filled with water which is scented with various fragrances, and made of gold and other precious materials. The water should also be mixed with lovely blooms, and the bathing done while singing a great number of beautiful songs, and playing wonderful music.
Using immaculate towels, beyond all compare,
Imbued with the sweetest of scents.
After this you should wipe the holy bodies of these ones to whom you have made the offering of bathing, using soft and immaculate towels beyond all compare, imbued with the sweetest of scents. Next offer them the highest of all clothing, Stained the excellent color, and wafting With the finest fragrance. Offer them a whole Variety of rich raiments, sheer and soft.
Once you have wiped the holy bodies of those to whom you are making the offering, then next offer them the highest of all clothing, stained the excellent color, and wafting with the finest fragrance. If they are ones who wear the clothes of a householder, then offer them rich raiments, sheer and soft, in a whole variety of styles and hues.
Offer too hundreds of highest ornaments,
Such as Excellent One, and the Undefeatable,
The “hundreds of highest ornaments” here refers to earrings and other such adornments. “Of every different sort” means armbands and others of the like. These too you should offer, to those realized beings such as Excellent One (Samantabadra), and the Undefeatable (Maitreya), to Gentle Voice (Manjushri), and to the Lord of the World (Avalokiteshvara).
Now take the highest of all fragrant ointments,
With scents that pervade the thousand groups
Of the Lords of the Able Ones, those who are like
Now take the highest of all fragrant ointments, with scents that pervade the thousand groups of a thousand collections of a thousand planets each, and use them to anoint the holy bodies of every one of the Lords of the Able Ones, those whose forms gleam and blaze with light, as though they were made of pure refined gold, free of every impurity, shined to a perfect polish.
To the Lords of the Able Ones; offer every
Arranged as well in lovely garlands.
With what kinds of offerings? Offer to them every different kind of flower: beautiful, fragrant blooms like the mandara, the red lotus, and the blue lotus. Offer the flowers loose, and offer them as well arranged in lovely garlands.
Offer them too supreme incense powders, exquisite,
And every sort of refreshment.
Also offer to the Victors, and to their sons and daughters, the repast of the gods: special kinds of fine food, like the sweet likara, and special kinds of drink or the like: every sort of refreshment, in a wide assortment of forms, smells, and tastes.
Offer, to those whose nature is compassion, The earth, set forth in a lovely way, Smeared with incense powder, and strewn With lovely blooms of loose flowers; And upon it great mansions, palaces, And within them those singing out lovely Songs of praise. The mansions are decked out In jewels, pearls and precious gems, Adorning the sky itself, and blazing.
Offer as well, to those whose nature is compassion, the earth, set forth in a lovely way, smeared with incense powder, and strewn with lovely blooms of loose flowers. Upon this earth offer great mansions, palaces, and within these palaces goddesses, singing out lovely songs of praise. See the mansions decked out in strings of thousands of jewels, pearls and precious gems, and see these great edifices adorning the sky itself, blazing in displays of limitless light.
Constantly offer to the Lords of the Able Ones
They have golden handles, and around the edge
They are covered with lovely adornments that look
Like jewelry. Stand them thus,
Constantly offer too to the Lords of the Able Ones lovely parasols made of a whole variety of precious substances. Imagine that they have golden handles, and that around the edge they are covered with lovely adornments that look like jewelry, studded with a great many precious gems. In your mind stand the parasols up—raise them—and think of their excellent outlines, exquisite to the eye.
Beyond those you have already offered:
Lovely music and song, and think,
“May each one of them be there,
In a separate cloud, to satisfy
Think next of a whole mass of offerings beyond those you have already offered. Think of lovely music and song, the sounds of the clay drum and others; think to yourself, “May each one of them be there, may each of them come, in a separate mass or cloud of offerings, and may each of them have the power to remove the pain of every living being, and to satisfy them—completely fill them—even if all they do is catch the sound for a moment.
And think, “May a great rain fall,
Upon each and every expression
And now think to yourself, “May a great rain of offerings fall, in a never-ending stream, for as long as the cycle of suffering itself continues to exist. May there be a rain of precious gems, and flowers, and other such offerings upon each and every expression of the Jewel of the Holy Dharma, which in itself includes all twelve divisions of the highest form of the spoken word. And may the rain fall as well upon those places where the holy minds of the enlightened ones stay: on the offering shrines which have at their hearts the relics that come from these beings. And may it finally fall upon the bodily representations of these same beings, whether they be drawn on paper, or in any other form.”
And think, “May I be like those named Gentle Voice,
And all the others, who present
Their offerings to the Victors.
May I, like them, make offerings
To all of Those Who have Gone That Way,
To the Protectors, and to their sons and daughters.
Here secondly is the unsurpassable offering. “And may I be like those named Gentle Voice (Manjushri), and Excellent One (Samantabhadra), and all the other bodhisattvas who have gained the power; those who fill the entire expanse of space with offerings emanated in their thoughts, and present them to the Victors. May I, like them, make these same offerings to all of Those Who have Gone That Way, to the Protectors of gods and men, and to their sons and daughters as well.”
The great ones make offerings to the Victors,
Strewn all over the earth itself.
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading One: Author, Structure, and History of the Text
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Two: The Benefits of the Wish for Enlightenment
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Three: How to Make Offerings
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Four: The Four Forces of Purification, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Five: The Four Forces of Purification, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Six: Taking Joy
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Seven: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Eight: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Nine: Awareness
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Ten: The Perfections of Giving and Ethical Living