In order to remember and mark our tsog days, holy days on the Kadampa calendar, I am sharing my understanding of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide with tsog. This is part 9 of a 44-part series.
Delightful bearers of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch –
Goddesses of outer and inner enjoyments filling all directions.
This refers to the practice of offering the five objects of desire according to Highest Yoga Tantra. There are two ways of engaging in this practice referred to here – viewing the five objects of desire as offering goddesses and offering countless knowledge women skilled in the sixty-four arts of love. These will be explained in turn, but first we need to say a few words about why we generate bliss in our tantric practices and what that exactly means.
Bliss as we normally understand it usually refers to the pleasure we enjoy from particularly good objects of attachment. But this is just changing suffering and ultimately not real bliss since it is contaminated by attachment. Bliss in a spiritual context refers to inner peace that is so pleasant, it is blissful. As explained above, the cause of happiness is inner peace. When our mind is peaceful, we are happy. Enlightenment is sometimes referred to as “supreme inner peace.” It is also called the bliss of enlightenment. This shows that “bliss” and “supreme inner peace” are synonymous. There are two different ways of generating inner peace in the Dharma – concentration on virtue and the absorption of our inner winds into our central channel. Concentration on virtue is referred to as the “bliss of suppleness,” and normally is explained in the context of the teachings on tranquil abiding. With tranquil abiding, our mind is completely free form all forms of gross and subtle mental sinking and excitement for as long as we want. This enables our mind to absorb single-pointedly on our objects of Dharma, giving rise to the bliss of suppleness of tranquil abiding. Sometimes we think of tranquil abiding as the highest form of concentration we can attain, but Geshe-la explains in Ocean of Nectar that tranquil abiding is only attaining the concentration of the lowest form realm god. Our body remains that of a human, but our mind ascends to that of a the lowest of the god realms. There are many, many layers of the god realms – form and formless realm gods – each one corresponding to an ever deeper level of concentrative bliss all the way up to the concentration of the absorption of the peak of samsara, the highest mind of a samsaric being. But these concentrations are not the inner peace of great bliss of tantric practice. These forms of bliss are all our gross mind, not our subtle or very subtle mind. The bliss of tantric practice is far superior to even the greatest bliss arising from concentration.
The bliss of tantric practice arises from our inner energy winds absorbing into our central channel. Our mind possess three levels – gross, subtle, and very subtle. When our winds begin to absorb into our central channel, we proceed into these deeper levels of our mind. The first four winds that dissolve – which correspond with the dissolution of the earth, water, fire, and wind elements – are all gross winds. The next three winds that dissolve – the wind supporting the mind of white appearance, the wind supporting the mind of red increase, and the wind supporting the mind of black near attainment – are all subtle winds. And when the wind supporting the mind of black near attainment dissolves, our very subtle level of mind of clear light becomes manifest. The wind supporting this is our very subtle wind, also known as our root wind, our continuously abiding wind, or our very subtle wind. With each dissolution, our mind becomes increasingly subtle and blissful. When we reach the clear light directly, our mind attains meaning clear light, which is the same nature as the great bliss of full enlightenment. In the beginning, we may only have this bliss for a few moments, but through further training we gain the ability to maintain this bliss for longer and longer periods of time until eventually we experience it forever. At that point, we have attained enlightenment. I believe the bliss we experience when our gross wind element wind dissolves, the bliss we experience is the same as that experienced by a god who has attained the peak of samsara, but I am not 100% sure of this. I remember reading something along these lines, but cannot find it. Perhaps somebody reading this knows for sure and can clarify in the comments. Regardless, it is something in this direction.
Why do we want to attain this great bliss? Because the supreme inner peace of great bliss is able to mediate easily on emptiness. Emptiness is a very subtle object, so to realize it fully we need a very subtle mind. Bliss, quite simply, is what a realization of emptiness feels like. The mind of great bliss is utterly free from distraction because our mind has no desire to go anywhere else. Normally our mind becomes distracted because we think we can find more happiness thinking about some other object that we do our object of Dharma. But when we are experiencing the great bliss of tantric practice, any other mind is necessarily less pleasant. It can be likened to dropping the marble of our mind into a bowl. At some point, the marble settles exactly at the very bottom of the bowl and will not move from there.
When we offer the five objects of desire in these two ways (as objects of the senses and as knowledge women), we imagine that both our Guru who we are offering these things to and ourself experience the great bliss of tantric practice. The principal function of these offerings is to create the merit to be able to experience great bliss directly. To offer the five objects of desire according to the first method, we imagine that all the objects of our senses – sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and objects of touch – all transform into different types of offering goddesses. I find it easiest to imagine that every object is made of offering goddess atoms arranged in the shape of the objects of our senses. For example, the computer screen I am looking at is comprised of offering goddess atoms in the shape of my computer screen. This enables me to engage with the world as it normally appears to me exactly as normal, while mentally seeing it all as part of the pure land. As we or others encounter these purified objects of the senses, we imagine that they experience great bliss from their every sensory experience.
To offer the five objects of desire according to the second method of the countless knowledge women will be explained below in the secret offering.