The Third Extraordinary Preliminary Practice:
Accumulation of Merits ~ Mandala Offering Practice
Given by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa at Palpung Sherabling, December 2004.
Transcribed by Chang Chin & Changchub Saldon
Teaching Chapter 13 and Practice Chapter 12
Now the third foundation - the Mandala Offering, it is accumulation of merit. Why it is accumulation of merit is because your offering,your whole solar system together with all the good things of the universe to Three Jewels and Three Roots, one hundred and ten thousand times. And it is true because the whole universe belong to us, because it is our karmic manifestation. And therefore we sincerely offer the whole solar system, if we are sincere, if our devotion is sincere, if our compassion is sincere, if we have the lineage of the practice, we practice sincerely, exactly, same as truly offering of the whole solar system.
If you own, I ask you a question, you don't have to answer, but I ask you a question - a formal question. If you own one hundred and ten thousand solar system and you want to offer this to Three Jewels and Three Roots, how would you do it? Would you put in on the plate, you know? Would you wrap it in a box? How would you do it? If you have money you write a check, you know? If you have food, you put in a box or in a plate; But the whole solar system, how do you offer? It has to be something like that. If you're owner of the one hundred and ten thousand solar system, writing on the paper and signing, doesn't make anything because you are the boss, there is no body above you, so there is no one to enforce behind the paper, you know? So therefore it doesn't mean anything, so something like this. So this way it is true offering of whole solar system one hundred and ten thousand times. So the greatest way to accumulate merit, greatest merit, in a most pure way and sincere way, no strings attached. And you know no strings attached? You know? What did it mean? You offer one hundred and ten thousand universe, and then you want a receipt, you want what you call Account, you know, where did the one hundred and ten thousand universe spent, and all those sort of things, you know, the strings attached, you know. No strings attached, purely offer, and you don't even think about it. You don't think -Oh I'm very, very, very, very important, how do you say? ~ Patron. I offered one hundred and ten thousand universe, you know, I'm great, I need special VVIP, so VVVVIP, so there is string attached, so none of that is there. It is very pure, very, very pure and very, very big.
So for example I have heard from masters, that Tsongkapa, Tsongkapa, Lobsang Drakpa, the great master, he made Mandala offering as one of his main practice. And he did not have a good Mandala plate, so he used stone, slate, slate. So he worn out thirteen slates by making Mandala offering, he worn out thirteen stone slates.
Preparation for Mandala Offering
The practitioner needs two Mandala plates, two mandala plates. This is mandala plate. One to put on the altar, and one to use for the offering. So if it is precious metal, precious material, then it shouldn't be smaller than this much. You hold and should be like this and not like this. And if this is not precious material, it cannot be smaller than your- this. So, whether it is precious material or not, it has to be in between, something like this to this. Too big then, you know, then you have to do lift activity before you can do it, you know. Very difficult to, too big. I saw, when I went to Tibet , some monasteries they made Mandala offering, two people have to hold it, and one person have to do it, really, so big, two people have to hold like this. So now out of two, if both of them are of the exactly same quality, same size, then it doesn't matter which one is for the altar, which one is for you to make offering. If there is differences in quality and the size, the better one is for the altar; and the lesser one is for you to make offering. OK?
So now the altar Mandala represents the same as the refuge tree, but this time there's no refuge tree, there is refuge palace. And it is very beautiful palace with four gates. And the four gates will mean five areas inside- central, front, right, left, back chambers. So the visualization is exactly same as refuge tree, but not tree, it's in the palace. Only difference is all the protectors are in between these five chambers, five areas, and in between like guards. They're all like guards in between, inside that palace ~ all the Protectors. And outside the palace, in the space, it's just like the refuge tree, filled with, filled by all the Buddhas, and Buddhisattvas, and masters of the lineage, and Arhats, and all of them fill the sky, just like stars and clouds.
And the best material to make Mandala offering is jewels. Second best is like mother of pearls from the water, and the small, small, small beautiful shells, and then the third the last is the edible grains. But barley, wheat, rice, that is what we use, and corn. Corn is very sacred, but it is, maybe true, maybe not true, but in Tibetan culture, we consider corn very scared because we don't have to plow the ground, like all the other crops. Other crops we have to plow the ground and kill so many insects, and put the water and kill so many insects, like that. And for corn you don't have to do that, you just put a little hole and drop one corn in there, and close it, then it will grow. That's what they say, I'm not sure it's true or not, but that's what Tibetans believe. Because corn does not grow in most part of Tibet , only very small place in the south eastern tip of Tibet , in Yun-nang there corn grows, other places corn doesn't grow. So we call it mamupe lotok. Lotok means crops, mamupa means- not plowed. Unplowed crops, less bad karma. So when it is grain, we will use saffron, saffron- they call it Tibetan red flower . It actually, it doesn't grow in Tibet , it grows in Kashmir but you call it Xi Tsang ( Tibet ). Tsang Hong Hwa. But it doesn't grow in Tibet , it comes from Kashmir . So nowadays they also grow in Spain , I think. But originally it grows in Spain or not, I don't know. So we believe that one of the Arhats called Nima Gongpa, Nima Gongpa. And he, through his miracle, covered the whole Kashmir with his saffron robe, and as the blessing of that, all the flower grew there. So for us is very sacred, very, very, it has blessing. So if it grows in Spain , and also another Arhat put the saffron there. So that makes it yellow and very nice smell, it also makes it precious because saffron is precious. Each flower has only three pieces inside. The best one is the powder that is on these three things, in the middle, the powder on it, that is the best, the best saffron. And the smell of the saffron resembles the smell of the Buddha.
So now this kind of the grain, if you use then from time to time, you should change it. You should use it for maybe one, two weeks, then you change and you make new ones, and you use it again, then you change it. You don't use one for all the time, use it up, when you change it, I mean you don't eat it, you know. You take it to a clean place and throw it into a clean place, so birds and other animals can eat it, and you cannot throw it into the garbage. If you're using the shells, and mother of pearls like that, so if that bread and chips and then becomes like a power and dusty, then you'll have to throw that away and have to have a clean one, not dusty one, clean one. So if you're using precious and semi-precious stones and materials, then I think it will last through out the Mandala. I don't think you would want to change every So and some people like to mix it all, then it's a little complicated, because you have to change the grains. So every three or four weeks you will work very hard. But one thing which is quite easy, if you put it in the water and then you can separate the jewels and grains very easily. If you want to do it by hand, very difficult, takes long time.
And Mandala plate should not be totally flat, it should have a little bit high, a little bit high in the middle, and a little bit low on the side; too high everything will fall down, a little bit. And it should have a central in the middle. It should have enough rim to hold on, rim. Now first you prepare the altar and then you prepare the altar Mandala. So first you say a hundred syllable mantra, and clean the altar Mandala. And then you put the saffron water on the altar Mandala, then you make five heaps on the altar Mandala: bigger one in the middle, and then one, two, three, four. And that you put on the altar, so altar has to be higher than you. Then you have another Mandala for offering. So in front of the altar Mandala, you can put offering, offering bowels and the lamp. So it is very simple, from left to right, altar's right to left, but your left to right. So when you place the bowls, water, water, grain, grain, water, grain, grain. So you say- water, water, grain, grain, water, grain, grain. Seven. So then you put the lamp, you put the lamp, it's not the same, you put the lamp separate, you know. So water, water, grain, grain, water, grain, grain. So after water, water, grain, grain, then you put the lamp there, not on top of the bowl, but the lamp by itself, on a plate or something. You get that kind of bowls only seven, you don't get eight, you only get seven, and then you get the lamp on top of it, separate. So according to different tantras, there is different arrangement, but this is most general.
Now I will go to the text- the Mandala offering text. Of course just like prostration, each one of the preliminaries we start with refuge, Boddhichitta, and then four ordinary thoughts etc. And then when you reach the Mandala practice. Then we, we first time, we prepare the altar Mandala, and during that time you clean it and say......clean it. And then altar Mandala you put five heaps, and you visualize a letter Drum. And Drum transforms into a Manda, into a palace, beautiful palace with four gates, one this way, one that way, one behind, one that way. And the beautiful palace, with beautiful roofs which is high. And then, in which, so that is for the first time, physically you prepare. But then you leave it there until you finish your Mandala offering, or until you have to move to another place. If you have to move to another place, then you have to do that all over again. But otherwise if you're in the same place, you keep that altar Mandala there, you don't have to do it everyday.
Mandala Offering Practice
Then, visualization I've already explained to you. And then in front of that, you have no self visualization, you're just yourself. So there is two ways to do it, one way is you and all sentient beings, just like the prostration, doing the Mandala offering together; Or you manifest countless times, representing countless sentient beings and doing the Mandala at the same time. But I think most of the time we practice just like prostration. You surrounded by all sentient beings, ocean of sentient beings, altogether, led by you, making the Mandala offering. That is the most of the time, so I think you stick to that. Visualizing yourself will be easy but you know we're already used to the first one, so I think that...that's done, so let's stick to that.
So you hold your offering Mandala like this, you know? without the rice. And then you hold the whatever. So you have to have a some kinds of cloth, square cloth, in which you have all the jewels and whatever you're using for the Mandala offering in there, and you also put the Mandala together with it and hold it, and put it next to the altar. Then when you sit down, you put this on your leg here, and you open it up, and then you hold the Mandala here. It should be pretty big, because if things fall down, you can collect it back easily; if it falls on the floor, then you have to throw it away, cannot re-use it.
So then you hold a handful of whatever you are offering, then you use this part to clean the Mandala. like this, one hundred syllable mantra, clockwise three times, and anti-clockwise one time. So in the small container, you keep saffron, put it in the water. So you use something, or your finger, to put that on the Mandala one time, after you clean it. So then when you say....... Yo u depends on what you are using, how far you have to go. If you are using jewels and like that, should be pretty low, otherwise, you put all over there, you know. But if you're using grains, you can go little high, and......is ground. So you just slowly let it go so it would cover the whole Mandala. So that is the base, we call golden ground. And then after that then you take another handful, and then you So the ...... is the each solar system have a wall, wall, and wall that keeps it together. It doesn't mean physical wall but there's a wall to keep it together. Otherwise all the planets will be here and there, you know. So the field that keeps together and moving together with one sun, so that wall. That you make a wall, you make some slowly let go, very close to the Mandala, that go like this, near, and this, and this the wall, and you should do anti clockwise, not clockwise.
Then next is, so you say...... So the central, the mountain view , you put a handful, like a big heap in the middle. So now then east, east, so the front is always east, it has nothing to do with where the sun come from. When you practice, when you visualize, when you say east means the front, south is right, west is behind, and then north is left. So now you are making offering to the Three Jewels and Three Roots in the palace, which is represented by altar Mandala, so you're towards that. So altar Mandala is facing you, and you're facing the altar Mandala, so you are making the offering, so east is there. Then next to that this, the small continents of the each one of the planet. So......like this. So it goes like that.
Now the rest is very easy, just going like this, going like this, going like this, going like this, and so four directions, four corners. So combination of that which is very clearly written here. So this one. Inside one have numbers, so thirty-seven heaps, so slowly build up, so it becomes like, you know Borobudur in Indonesia ? A little bit looks like that, you know? Heaps up, and heaps up, and heaps up ...then one in the middle, so like this, thirty seven. Of course Borobudur stupa is not the Mandala offering. It is square not round. Now this reader is here, and I'll read the text.
So after thirty seven finished, then you hold it with two hands, because now you are finished with thirty seven, and you hold it with two hands and say the rest of the prayer. And then again Sashi Pochu. Sashi Pochu is we call seven heaps, seven heaps. So Sashi Pochu. And then after that again you hold. And then you hold again, on top of the thirty seven you do again the seven, and then you still hold and you say......Then you take a little bit of, little bit of the offering, like the rice, or something like this, you know. Then you throw that towards the altar. You know, a few towards the altar. So now after this, so normally in retreat we do this like three times or seven times. And then we do the Sashi Pochu, the seven points like a few mala, and then again we do the long one. But in your case, you only have two hours. So at the beginning, maybe you do the long one one time or three times, depends on your capacity. And then normally we say from here until here, and then we count. But this is optional actually. You can end here and that means you can start counting the Sashi Pochu right here. But these few lines wouldn't make any difference, you know. So when it is complete. Then now you can start counting the Sashi Pochu. So when you, when you finish the whole thing, then you just slowly push this like this like this, onto your cloth, you know. Don't like that, you know. It has to be done in the utmost respect and appropriateness, and you keep everything clean. Then we take up a handful and...... That is what you are reciting. So it's seven heaps, very simple. Look carefully you know. Like this. In the middle, in the east, in the south, in the west, in the north, in the north east, in southwest, and then this. So mountain in the middle, the east continent, the south continent which is earth, and west continent, and north continent, no, planet, planet, and north planet, and then sun, and the moon, and then finished. So this you repeat.
So you hold the Mandala here, you can hold the mala here, and then you can count, that is the easiest way. Other way you can have the mala here, so like this. Then again you do it again, and like this, you know. That is other way, but here it is easiest. Mala hanging in here and you're just doing like this, easiest. This is one way, and that is another way but a little bit difficult. This one is. Or just put it here nicely, and then this like this, like this, you know. So this is the easiest way, not so big. You have to have all of this, this and this, otherwise you don't know. So this means one hundred, when finished means one thousand. That's one hundred. So one thousand I count this one, you know? Then again one thousand like this, so when this is completed, it is ten thousand, right? S o that way it is easy. And this is each ten thousand one of these goes, and so each million, each million one of this goes, so when this is completed, I completed one hundred million. So this one, two, three, four, can count one hundred million. And lots of eights, given up. Each time one eight is given up. You have one hundred and eight. So eight we don't count. So mala, all mala we count as hundred, not as one hundred and eight, no precise counting. You are the counting the seven heap one hundred and ten thousand times. But prayer chanting and Mandala offering together, like prostration, but it will be perfect. Like that. It will be pretty much exact, very short, recitation. And at the end we'll do another three long Mandala, and then we end the session. I said that because you have very limited time so that's why that way. Otherwise every one mala of Mandala we do one or three long Mandala in between, and then again we do the short Mandala. Then also we do one or three long Mandala, that's in retreat. If you are doing retreat, that' how you will do it. At least one then three, one or three, not two, and then you do again the short Mandala. But because you only have two hours, so three long Mandala at the beginning, three long Mandala at the end, in between all short Mandala. Mandala is very fast, it is out of all the practices, preliminary practices, Mandala is the fastest. finished, O.K. So you copy me. Then when you wanted to end. One thing I think I forgot to mention yesterday, because I was explaining many many things. That is one thing particular about Mandala visualization.
After you finished all the palace and all the refuge, five refuge, I mean Three Jewels and Three Roots all visualized there. And you finish everything, then all of them have Om , Ah, Hum in each one of them, O.K.? And from their Om, Ah, Hum, light radiates all directions and there actual presence of each one of the Three Jewels and Three Roots come back and dissolve in the form of light to them. There to their Om , Ah, Hum and they are consecrated, there your visualization is consecrated, so that part I think I missed yesterday. So it sounds difficult but you have already done the prostration, during which you've done all the visualization one by one. And by now you're quite familiar with the Three Jewels and Three Roots visualization. So try to visualize Om , Ah, Hum in each one of them one by one, two hours is not enough, just for that visualization. So you visualize the Om , Ah, Hum in the Guru Vajradhara, the main one, and then at the same time, you simultaneously visualize Om , Ah, Hum in all of them. But focus on Guru Vajradhara then it is easy. It goes in one time, O.K.? So I think I left that out yesterday, did I? Ya, right? I am right, O.K. Very important part but left out, so that's consecration of your visualization.
Concluding practice and Dedication
Now when you wanted to end your Mandala offering session, then you do three long Mandala, and then you say this particular text and towards the end. So that is the Seven Branch Prayer, request for the blessing and the Seven Branch Prayer. But of course, I presume that you understand that after you do the long Mandala, you throw few grains to the altar, these things you remember. Just like I taught you at the beginning, time is the same. Towards the end you say that prayer and Seven Branch prayer, and after that then the dissolution. So you say this. So when you say this, then you are in visioning that because of this offering of the Mandala, yourself, and all sentient beings accumulation of merits and accumulation of wisdom is fulfilled. And then the entire Three Roots and Three Jewels in the palace, including the palace dissolved to, dissolved into light, and that light dissolved into you, just like that, not one by one, not Om Ah Hum, not like that. Just light, dissolved into light and dissolved into you, and you and Three Roots and Three Jewels become one. And you maintain that state of blessing, that state of oneness, that state of non duality as long as you can. Now when you have, when you're maintaining this non dualistic sort of blessing presence, then when you have an ordinary thought arise, which will happen, then we dedicate all the merits for the benefit of all sentient beings, by saying short prayers. And then you can add regular dedication prayer, or you can even add the Mahamudra prayer towards the end of that. That is, whether you do the long one or not, it's always up to your time.
So I don't think I have to say too much about this but I just remind you. At the beginning of each session, and at the end of each session, you sit down and calm down a little bit is very important. It is just like everything, you know. Everything in life if you do it calmly and orderly is much more efficient than otherwise. So during our practice, if we calm down at the beginning just give few seconds and then after dedication you give few seconds before you get up and do things is very good. And if you can maintain the effect of the practice, technical, technical effect, I'm not talking about merit, but the technically effect. Practical effect of the practice for much longer, even superficially speaking, very superficially speaking, the slowly get up is much better than you just get up fast. But for practice, as a meditation session practice I think, slowly is very good, then maintain the awareness, you know? And then after some time, of course, the technical effect of the two hours of practice will fade slowly, but of course merit will not fade. But the technical effect of calmness, and harmony will fade away, depends on the environment. Now I think the teaching on Mandala offering is complete.
And I remind you again the Yogi Accumulation of Merit you do it at the end after the Guru Yoga. I don't expect anything to go wrong if you do before but after all the practice, then you can do it much better.