In the spiritual lives of people, especially Buddhists, the concept of “making offerings” is commonly heard. However, there are still many, particularly young people, who do not fully understand its meaning or the right way to do it. Furthermore, most people misunderstand this practice and consider it a superstitious form of religion.
In fact, many monks suggest that if you do not have time to practice other teachings, you should consider doing two things: making offerings and meditating.
This practice is not just a metaphor or symbol that Buddhist monks often preach about. Making offerings is an important foundational practice for Buddhists. In Tantric Buddhism, the basic foundation consists of offering 100,000 bowls of clear water to the Buddhas.
What does making offerings mean?
The term “offerings” refers to the act of providing and nurturing respectable individuals such as Buddhas, monks, teachers, ancestors, grandparents, and parents who have contributed to spreading humanistic ethics and doing good things for society. This practice is an expression of gratitude and serves as a crucial foundation for the development of other positive qualities.
The Buddhist offerings has a more complete name than the offering of the Three Jewels, which refer to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Therefore, the Buddhist offering is the act of respectfully offering essential necessities to the Buddha and monks as a sign of appreciation for their propagation of the Dharma. The act of offering is synonymous with giving, bestowing, or donating, depending on the context and the understanding of each individual.
These terms all represent the same act of giving material possessions, such as money, property, houses, gardens, vehicles, etc., to another person or group. However, using different words to describe the act of giving is more appropriate depending on the age, status, and title of the recipient.
For example, the term “Buddhist offerings” is appropriate when giving to monks, while “gift” is more reverent when giving to parents or friends. The term “give” or “alms” is used for those who are below one’s status, and “donation” is used in cases such as blood, body, or organ donation.
During the time of the Buddha, the term “almsgiving” was used for monks, brahmins, and nobles. Therefore, it can be inferred that giving and offering have the same meaning.
The Purpose of Three Jewels offerings
In Buddhism, practices such as “offering” and “prostration” are sometimes considered “cures”. The metaphor of a sick person / doctor is often used in Buddhist teachings: Buddha is the doctor, the Dharma is the medicine, the monks are the “support” team.
The Three main purposes of the Three Jewels Offerings:
- Maintain the throne of the Three Jewels to continue to teach the truth of the Buddha.
- Developing the Three Jewels throne to suit modern society, not being backward.
- Protect the Three Jewels from bad guys who want to destroy and cause division to remove Buddhism from the world’s religious map.
In this metaphorical parlance, offerings are the cure for “greed” and “attachment” throughout our lives, in the same way that bowing or prostrating is the cure for ” pride” and “ego”. Ego and attachment are two of the biggest obstacles to Buddhist realization.
Moreover, the purpose of the Three Jewels offering is to help the monks study, contribute to the construction of facilities, and to repair the temples and residences of the monks. Making offerings is like fulfilling the responsibility of a Buddhist to take care of the career of studying and propagating the Dharma. People at home take care of the legal protection, ie the material part. The monastic takes care of spreading the Dharma, which is the spiritual part for sentient beings.
In terms of cause and effect, making offerings helps people to let go, open their hearts, purify their selfish souls, be loved by many people, and accumulate merit for the next life.
In the Sangha Sutra, the Buddha taught the five benefits of giving: “One is being liked by many people. The second is to be close by the benevolent and true people. Three is a good rumor spread. Fourth, there is no deviation from the law of the householder. The year is when the body breaks up, dies, and is born in a good world.
And also in the Sangha, the Buddha taught that there are three parts to the giver: “One is that before giving, the mind is pleased. Second, while giving alms, the mind is purified. The third is, after giving alms, feel joyful.”
Therefore, before, during and after giving or making offerings, our mind should be joyful (mudita). In addition, if we don’t attachment the offerings, and don’t attachment the recipients, we will have immeasurable blessings.
Thus, the meaning of offerings in Buddhism is to create merit and purify the negatives in the mind. Simply put, offerings give us a precious opportunity to create merit. Even if the Buddha doesn’t need incense, fruit or water… we still need to make offerings to begin to deal with our past “selfishness”.
If the offering of flowers bothers you and conflicts with your practice, some teachers recommend giving to charity in the name of Buddhism. It is important to overcome attachment, selfishness, and greed through giving and altruism.
The Right way to make offerings and receive blessings
During the Buddha’s time, when the Buddhists wanted to make offerings, they could prepare four things: clothes, medicine, food, and costumes. Later, the offering was honored and there appeared people who offered accommodation, houses, money or valuable items such as: Bimbisāra worshiping Vihara or Ambapali offering her mango orchard.
Offerings do not need to wait for the New Year holidays, but are a form of accumulation of merit and prayer for peace every day. In the past, on early mornings, the Buddha and the monks would hold their bowls for alms, begging for food along the way, also known as mendicants.
Different from begging. Mendicants will not stand still, will only receive within a certain limit, they do not use what passersby give to spend on activities that do not keep the mind pure.
The bhikkhus are fully capable of making money, who belong to the noble class (Kassadi) and the intellectual class (Brahmin). Taking the bowl for alms is to cultivate the mendicant’s vows. And offering food when meeting a mendicant was a form of offering in early Buddhism.
The bhikkhus’s bowl is the amount of qi, so when the qi is full, it also means that he has had enough to eat a meal, the bhikkhus will leave. Even before the Buddha and the Sangha did not accept money, lived a life without mundane thoughts, observing the precepts not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to drink alcohol.
Devoted Buddhists must make offerings with wealth made from genuine labor, and should not do illegal jobs to earn money to make offerings to the Three Jewels.
In addition to offering money, if Buddhists want to offer other items, they must pay attention to what the temple needs to offer. Only then will the offering really bring benefits. Buddhists should also not be attached to the offerings, the donor or the recipient. When Buddhists make offerings, the Buddhas of the ten directions have already recognized your heart, so there is no need to write a certificate of merit.
This is also a form of Bodhisattva practice of the perfection of generosity. A spirit of generosity is more than simply giving money or items to the temple. It is a spirit that responds to the world, giving what is necessary and appropriate at the time – blessings will come naturally to you if you know how to give in the right Buddhist method.
What Items should be offered as Buddhist offerings?
When making offerings, your mind must be pure and respectful, do not calculate more or less, in accordance with your ability and family circumstances. The items used for making offerings must be fresh, suitable for the needs and traditions of the temple to which they are offering.
Recently, due to the complicated development of the epidemic, social activities have been halted, including Buddhism. To overcome difficulties, some temples have flexibly used the form of donation via Momo wallet to buy food for monks, and at the same time create conditions for Buddhists from afar to accumulate merit.
In Asia, in addition to the donation money is put in the merit box, fresh fruits are offered to the Buddha’s table… Buddhists can buy the following items to make offerings to the Three Jewels.
1. Offer a glass of clear water
This is the indispensable, the most important and the simplest of all the offerings. Water represents purity and purity in the human mind. When we offer water to the Buddha’s table, we are determined to cultivate our mind to keep our mind pure and pure like a glass of clear water. Buddhists should offer 3 glasses of water representing the Three Jewels that are Buddha – Dharma – Sangha.
2. Offering lotus flowers
If you are a longtime Buddhist, you are probably familiar with lotus flowers. This is a flower that often appears in all rituals of worshiping Buddha. Because it often grows in the middle of the mud but still gives off its fragrance, the lotus flower symbolizes purity, the willpower to rise to enlightenment.
This flower can not live on arid soil, nor on clean soil. Which can only grow in muddy places. When the flower buds are round and the flowers are open, they often have an incomparable scent.
Just like in everyday life, we can only find enlightenment and liberation when we experience challenges and adversity in life. In Buddhism, the lotus is also considered as enlightenment and liberation and always strives to rise up in the unclean world.
3. Offering incense and oil lamps
Oil lamps in Buddhist worship often mean as a lamp of wisdom illuminating others. The light of an oil lamp represents the dispelling of the darkness of ignorance from within, a testament to the clear wisdom of the Buddha.
You may not know that kerosene lamps are also the result of enlightenment. Clear the discriminating mind, eliminate confusion, and realize the clear light of life to always live in a good direction.
Incense sticks represent precepts, concentration, and wisdom. Seeing incense burning, smelling its fragrance, we immediately think of cultivating precepts, cultivating concentration, and cultivating wisdom. Offering incense is not because the Buddha wants to smell it. But incense is just a symbol, thereby awakening us. All the offerings to be made contain deep intentions and meanings. All of them are directed towards good, teach and help people cultivate their mind and character.
What is the Paramita of generosity?
In Buddhism, the Paramita of generosity, also known as non-attachment generosity, includes three aspects that mean not seeing the giver, receiver, and item with the main purpose of asking the donor to not be attached to what has been given.
- First: do not consider the recipient as the one to be indebted.
- Second: do not consider the giver as the giver bless.
- Third: no matter how valuable the gift is, it should not be important because once it is given, it is no longer yours.
The way of making offerings in Buddhism depends on the heart, taking into account the situation and economic conditions of each family. However, it is important to have the Buddha in mind and make offerings with good intentions.
We are all born with empty hands and will die with empty hands. Nonetheless, by giving alms and making offerings, Buddhists can amass merit in the karmic bank for themselves or their descendants in the next life. It is hoped that the information shared by LotusBuddhas will assist readers in comprehending the meaning of offerings in Buddhism.