Happy Tsog Day: How to Give Everything to Others

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 35 of a 44-part series.

Blessing the offerings to the spirits

At this point we can send out the left-over substances to the spirits.

HUM Impure mistaken appearances are purified in emptiness,
AH Great nectar accomplished from exalted wisdom,
OM It becomes a vast ocean of desired enjoyment.
OM AH HUM  (3x)

Next in the sadhana comes the practice of the perfection of giving. To emphasize the practice of giving, we offer the tsog offering to all the spirits. Who are the spirits? For the most part, we can say that they are the spirits of the hungry ghost realm. Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune that the only food hungry spirits are able to find is that which is dedicated to them by Dharma practitioners. Besides this, they are unable to find any food or drink. This is why it is customary for Dharma practitioners to leave one bite of food remaining on their plate at the end of every meal that they then mentally offer to all the spirits. When we do the dishes after a meal, there is often a good deal of wasted food. It is a good idea to have a special garbage can where we put all our uneaten food. We can then offer all this food to the hungry spirits. If we live in the city, we can sometimes recycle this extra food by placing it in special bins. If such bins do not exist, we can still mentally dedicate the food, and then put it in the regular trash. If we live in the countryside or in the suburbs, we can create a compost heap where we put all our unused food. This compost heap can become our offering to the hungry spirits and later become excellent fertilizer for our yard. Even when we put it down as fertilizer, we can imagine that we are creating a rich ecosystem for all the insects who live in our yard. In addition to offering food to the spirits, it is also important to offer food to the poor or the homeless. Every person we encounter is a karmic mirror of a future life we are likely to have. By giving food to these people now, we create the causes for others to give food to us when we are in similar need.

But before we can offer the tsog offering to the spirits, we first need to re-bless the offerings. A long time has passed since we blessed the offerings earlier, and we may have forgotten their purity. For this reason, we re-bless the offerings.

Actual offering to the spirits

HO This ocean of remaining tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of oath-bound guardians.
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
Please perform perfect actions to help practitioners.

We offer the tsog offering to the spirits in exactly the same way as we do all the other beings in the field of merit. We imagine that countless offering goddesses emanate from our heart, scoop up the offering, bring it to the spirits who then partake of the offering through straws of vajra light. We then imagine that they are fully nourished and experience great bliss. We then request them to help practitioners. By befriending the spirits in this way, they can become powerful allies for us in our spiritual path. They can help us arrange conditions for our practice and dispel obstacles from obstructive spirits.

In the practices of Dorje Shugden, we imagine that he enlists the help of all the spirits into countless armies of Dharma protectors who work to protect living beings and their spiritual practice. This is one of the kindest things we can do, because by virtue of “giving them a job” as Dharma protectors, they will come under the care and protection of all the Buddhas as well as create the karma for themselves to be able to find the Dharma in the future.

Send out the offering to the spirits.

O Guests of the remainder together with your retinues
Please enjoy this ocean of remaining tsog offering.
May those who spread the precious doctrine,
The holders of the doctrine, their benefactors, and others,
And especially I and other practitioners
Have good health, long life, power,
Glory, fame, fortune,
And extensive enjoyments.
Please grant me the attainments
Of pacifying, increasing, controlling, and wrathful actions.
You who are bound by oaths please protect me
And help me to accomplish all the attainments.
Eradicate all untimely death, sicknesses,
Harm from spirits, and hindrances.
Eliminate bad dreams,
Ill omens, and bad actions.
May there be happiness in the world, may the years be good,
May crops increase, and may the Dharma flourish.
May all goodness and happiness come about,
And may all wishes be accomplished.

By the force of this bountiful giving,
May I become a Buddha for the sake of migrators
And through my generosity may I liberate
All those not liberated by previous Buddhas.

These verses describe the different ways in which we request the spirits to help create favorable conditions for our own and others’ Dharma practice and for the fulfillment of all their wishes. It is very difficult for beings in the lower realms to engage in virtuous actions. Animals occasionally do when they care for their young. Beings in the hell realms almost never engage in any virtuous actions. Hungry spirits for the most part also engage only in negativity because they are constantly so deprived of resources. We can understand this by looking at areas of extreme poverty in the world today. They are often ghettoized into small areas, left with virtually no resources, and naturally a war of all against all begins to take place. But through pure dedications and prayers by Dharma practitioners, we cannot only give spirits food and nourishment, we can also provide them with opportunities to create virtue for themselves by enlisting them to become Dharma protectors in the ways described above.

How to practise the perfection of giving

I seek your blessings to complete the perfection of giving
Through the instructions on improving the mind of giving without attachment,
And Thus, to transform my body, my enjoyments, and my virtues amassed throughout the three times
Into whatever each sentient being desires.

Giving is the cause of receiving. The perfection of giving is giving with the bodhicitta motivation. There are four types of giving: giving material things, giving love, giving fearlessness, and giving Dharma. We give material things when we provide others with what they need. We give love primarily through giving our time and helping other people feel like they matter to us and we are willing to work for their well-being. We help others feel good about themselves. We give fearlessness by helping others overcome their fear or protecting them from dangers. The ultimate way to give fearlessness is to help others realize no matter what happens they can transform it into the path, and so therefore there is nothing to fear from anything. And we give Dharma anytime we give others good advice. It does not have to take the form of Dharma teachings, it can even just simply be showing a good example. Dharma advice is different than ordinary advice. Ordinary advice explains to people what they should do to change their external circumstance. Dharma advice explains to people how they can change their mind with regards to whatever is happening. It takes as is starting point that our problem is our mind; and this is distinct from our outer problem, which is whatever is happening in the world.

Venerable Tharchin explains one of the best ways of practicing giving is to abandon completely the conceptual thought “mine.” If we do not impute mine on anything and instead consider everything as belonging to others, then we are able to give away absolutely everything. When we think mine with respect to some object, we burn up our merit of having the thing. If we impute “others’” and mentally give it away to them, then we accumulate merit by having those things. A doubt may arise if we give away everything how will we take care of ourselves? The answer is we can practice the giving of keeping. Sometimes the best way to give to others is to keep something in our protection or custody until we are able to give it to others or they are ready to receive it. For example, we can view our home as something we are temporarily maintaining so that we are able to give it away to others later. Even if we later sell our home, we can do so with the intention of giving the money away, using it for the benefit of others, or maintaining our precious human life so we can attain enlightenment for others. We can keep our body so that we can offer it in service to others. We can gain Dharma wisdom with the intention of giving it away to others. Even when we attain an enlightened body, we do not have to think it is ours but rather something we are using to be able to benefit others. In banking, there is something called having a fiduciary responsibility. While they are managing others money, they are supposed to do so for the benefit and for their sake of their clients. In exactly the same way, we can view ourselves as having a fiduciary responsibility to all living beings and manage everything we own for their sake.

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