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 21 of a 44-part series.
The Tsog Offering
If we wish to make a tsog offering to emphasize the swift attainment of the realizations of the stages of the path, we should do so after reciting the mantras.
As explained in the first post of this series, we are encouraged as part of our Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and commitments to make a tsog offering on the two 10th days. Doing so with faith and imagination is a guaranteed method for attaining the pure land. What is a tsog offering? Essentially, it is an enlightened party in which we accumulate merit, develop close connections with the Buddhas, and create the causes to generate the qualified great bliss of completion stage.
Within the context of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we can perform the tsog offering in a variety of different places in order to emphasize different aspects of the practice. For example, we can do so before purification practice, receiving blessings, and so forth. Here, in order to emphasize the importance of Lamrim meditation, I am explaining the tsog offering just prior to the prayer of the stages of the path in the sadhana. Wherever we do the tsog offering, we can believe that it supercharges whatever comes afterwards and our mind becomes specifically blessed to gain the realizations of what comes next in the sadhana.
The Kadampa Buddhist tradition takes the Lamrim as our main practice. Everything we do, in sutra and in tantra, are all part the Kadam Lamrim. Geshe-la explains in Mirror of Dharma that there are three different prayers of state of the stages of the path. The short prayer is the one in Prayers for Meditation, the middling prayer is the one from Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land according to Highest Yoga Tantra explained in Oral Instructions of Mahamudra, and the extensive Lamrim prayer is in Offering to the Spiritual Guide. In many ways, the extensive Lamrim prayer is the most comprehensive yet synthesized explanation of the entire New Kadampa Tradition path. Just as we are encouraged to memorize the middling prayer, so too we should strive to memorize the long Lamrim prayer.
Blessing the offering substances
OM AH HUM (3x)
By nature exalted wisdom, having the aspect of the inner offering and the individual offering substances, and functioning as objects of enjoyment of the six senses to generate a special exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness, inconceivable clouds of outer, inner, and secret offerings, commitment substances, and attractive offerings, cover all the ground and fill the whole of space.
EH MA HO Great manifestation of exalted wisdom.
All realms are vajra realms
And all places are great vajra palaces
Endowed with vast clouds of Samantabhadra’s offerings,
An abundance of all desired enjoyments.
All beings are actual Heroes and Heroines.
Everything is immaculately pure,
Without even the name of mistaken impure appearance.
Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune that there is no difference between making offerings to a statue or making offerings to the living Buddha. The reason for this is twofold: first, both the statue and a living Buddha are equally empty, meaning they are equally mere karmic appearances of mind. Second, wherever we imagine a Buddha, a Buddha goes, so when we imagine a Buddha in the space in front of us, he is present and receives our offerings. In the same way, there is no difference between making actual offerings and imagined offerings, because once again both are equally empty and Buddhas are present to receive our offerings.
It is quite difficult to fill the universe with Samantabhadra’s offerings, but it is easy to do so with our faith and imagination. In this section of the tsog offering, we bless the offerings, environment, and world. We first dissolve everything into emptiness, and then from the space of emptiness generate pure offerings and a pure world as described in the sadhana. We should strongly believe that the entire world has transformed into a pure land and all space is filled with exquisite offerings that would delight the gods. We recognize all these offerings and the pure world to be the nature of indivisible bliss and emptiness appearing in the aspect of the offerings and pure world.
HUM All elaborations are completely pacified in the state of the Truth Body. The wind blows and the fire blazes. Above, on a grate of three human heads, AH within a qualified skullcup, OM the individual substances blaze. Above these stand OM AH HUM, each ablaze with its brilliant colour. Through the wind blowing and the fire blazing, the substances melt. Boiling, they swirl in a great vapour. Masses of light rays from the three letters radiate to the ten directions and invite the three vajras together with nectars. These dissolve separately into the three letters. Melting into nectar, they blend with the mixture. Purified, transformed, and increased,
EH MA HO They become a blazing ocean of magnificent delights.
OM AH HUM (3x)
Here, we are specifically blessing the tsog offering itself. Externally, we imagine that from the space of emptiness appears a large skull cup inside of which are the offerings, we then imagine that a wisdom fire burns beneath the skull cup causing all the offerings to melt, and then we imagine the seed letters OM, AH, and HUM all dissolve into the offerings blessing them and purifying them as described explicitly in the sadhana. Internally, we can engage in tummo meditation inside our central channel. We imagine that our inner tummo fire at our secret place blazes, it causes the drops within our central channel to melt, giving rise to an experience of great bliss. An extensive explanation for how to do this can be found in Guide to Dakini Land and Essence of Vajrayana. Someone who is able to train in tummo meditation while blessing offerings will make very swift progress to enlightenment.
Inviting the guests of the tsog offering
O Root and lineage Gurus, whose nature is compassion,
The assembly of Yidams and objects of refuge, the Three Precious Jewels,
And the hosts of Heroes, Dakinis, Dharma Protectors, and Dharmapalas,
I invite you, please come to this place of offerings.
With this verse we invite all the deities of Highest Yoga Tantra to join us for the tsog offering. There are three points in particular we should emphasize. First, that all the invited deities are in essence our spiritual guide, who himself is the nature of compassion. Buddhas themselves have no need for emanation bodies, rather they generate them out of compassion to be able to communicate with living beings such as ourselves. Second, we should understand the different functions of the spiritual guide emanating these different forms. Our Yidams provide us with the actual Buddha we strive to become. The three precious jewels help us by bestowing blessings, setting a good example, and revealing to us the stages of the path to enlightenment. The Heroes and Dakinis bless our subtle body – our channels, drops, and winds – enabling us to easily cause our inner winds to dissolve into our central channel, giving rise to the appearances of the eight dissolutions, resulting finally in the mind of the Clear Light of Bliss. The Dharma protectors and dharmapala’s arrange all the outer and inner conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment. Understanding the value of receiving all this benefit from our spiritual guide, we imagine all these deities come into the space in front of us. And third, we strongly believe we are in the living presence of all these deities. We should not think they are simply objects of our imagination, but rather that the holy beings themselves have entered into our mind and we are directly communing with them when we make the tsog offering.
Amidst vast clouds of outer, inner, and secret offerings,
With light radiating even from your feet,
O Supremely Accomplished One please remain firm on this beautiful throne of jewels
And bestow the attainments that we long for.
Here we recall all the offerings that we previously generated and the reason why we invited all the holy beings, namely so that they can bestow all the attainments that we long for. It is important to remember that the Buddhas want nothing more than to bestow blessings and attainments upon us. The reason why they attained enlightenment was to be able to do so, so we should feel that they are overjoyed to come into our presence to receive our offerings and to bestow their blessings.