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 23 of a 44-part series.
HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of mother sentient beings.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
May suffering and mistaken appearance be pacified.
In this final verse, which Gen-la Dekyong said is her favorite, we make the tsog offering to the assembly of mother sentient beings. When we do so, they receive special blessings that cause all suffering and mistaken appearance to be pacified. According to Highest Yoga Tantra, the roots of samsara are ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions. Ordinary appearances are the things that we normally see, such as computers, cars, food, and so forth. All these things appear to exist from their own side, independent of our mind. Ordinary conceptions are when we mentally assent to ordinary appearances, believing that the objects exist in the way that they appear. When we free our mind from ordinary conceptions, we attain liberation from samsara. But it is only when we free our mind from ordinary appearances that we attain enlightenment. When we say, “may suffering be pacified,” we are referring to ordinary conceptions that are the root of all our samsaric suffering; and when we say, may “mistaken appearance” be pacified, we are referring to ordinary appearances that prevent our full enlightenment. In other words, after partaking of the tsog offering, we strongly believe that all living beings have now attained enlightenment. This mental action of believing that they have done so creates the karma for them to appear to do so in the future. To strongly believe something in the Dharma does not mean to strongly believe the thing we are imagining inherently exists, rather it means we engage in the mental action of believing something conventionally exists because this mental action is how we create the karma for the thing we are imagining to later appear. In this way, we can understand how engaging in the tsog offering is a method for fulfilling our bodhichitta wish to lead all beings to everlasting freedom.
Making the tsog offering to the Vajra Master
EH MA HO Great circle of tsog!
O Great Hero we understand
That, following in the path of the Sugatas of the three times,
You are the source of all attainments.
Forsaking all minds of conceptualization
Please continuously enjoy this circle of tsog.
AH LA LA HO
Here we make the tsog offering directly to our spiritual guide Buddha Vajradhara at the heart of Lama Losang Tubwang Dorjechang. In making the offering, we remember that Vajradhara is the source of all attainments. Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune that all happiness comes through the kindness of Buddha. The reason for this is all happiness comes from virtue, and virtue arises only in dependence upon receiving blessings from Buddha. If Buddha is the source of all happiness, then certainly he is the source of all spiritual attainments which depends upon both his teachings and his blessings. When we make the offering to the spiritual guide in particular, we recall non-conceptual bliss and emptiness of all phenomena. The spiritual guide himself arises non-conceptually and we view everything that appears to our mind as manifestations bliss and emptiness. When we recite AH LA LA HO, we imagine that the spiritual guide partakes of our tsog offering through a straw of wisdom light.
The Master’s reply
OM With a nature inseparable from the three vajras
I generate as the Guru-Deity.
AH This nectar of uncontaminated exalted wisdom and bliss,
HUM Without stirring from bodhichitta
I partake to delight the Deities dwelling in my body.
AH HO MAHA SUKHA
This verse is particularly blessed. After our spiritual guide has partaken of the tsog offering, we imagine that he replies directly to us with the above words. We should strongly feel that we are in his living presence and he is speaking directly to us. With the first line, we understand that the spiritual guide is inseparable from the visual body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas. With the second line, we recall his outer form as they guru deity – in this context he generates himself as Heruka. With the third line, we imagine that as a result of enjoying the tsog offering he generates a non-contaminated experience of exalted wisdom and bliss. With the fourth line, we recall that his motivation is bodhichitta. Sometimes we may wonder why a Buddha would need to generate the mind of bodhicitta. Aren’t they already a Buddha, so therefore why would they wish to become one? There are two answers to this doubt. First, the principle wish of bodhicitta is to lead all living beings to enlightenment, the wish to become a Buddha ourselves is simply a secondary wish or the assistant wish that enables us to fulfill our primary wish. When a Buddha attains enlightenment, they do not abandon there bodhichitta, but rather their bodhicitta continues to inform all their actions. Second, the spiritual guide generates within his mind all the realizations of the stages of the path as subtle emanations that we as practitioners can mix our mind with. He generates bodhichitta so that when we mix our mind with his we are also able to generate bodhichitta. The same is true for all the other realizations of the stages of the path. With the fifth line, we imagine that all the deities of the body mandala inside our spiritual guide’s body also partake of the tsog offering. As a result, we create a special karma for them to fulfill their function, which is to bless the subtle body, speech, and mind of ourselves. And with the last line, which means “oh what great bliss,” we imagine that our spiritual guide experiences not only himself but all phenomena as great bliss.
One of our refuge commitments is to offer the first portion of whatever we eat to the three jewels. In the eleven yogas of Vajrayogini explained in Guide to Dakini Land and Modern Buddhism, we are encouraged to recite this verse whenever we ourselves eat. This is a method for fulfilling our refuge commitment according to Highest Yoga Tantra. Since we eat many times every day, by memorizing and subsequently practicing this verse we will be able to recall our tantric practice day and night. The way to engage in the practice can be understood from the explanation above. More detail can be found in Guide to Dakini Land.