“Of all the methods for accumulating merit through generosity, offering butter lamps is second only to the practice of tsok.” ~Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche
I think I will share abit about the benefits of offering lights. It is a very good method for cutting through obstacles. When we accumulate merit through offering lamps etc, the path becomes much easier to travel, with help coming from many quarters. Offering lights is practised by many different religions. I think universally we can understand that light is something wonderful, pure and uplifting while darkness is threatening and drags us down. When we offer light, it is representing something we aspire to, it is also in some sense connected to reawakening some already present quality in us. The practice of offering lamps/lights to the Enlightened beings is a very profound and important practice. I will describe a little of how to do it here and also share a very nice prayer for offering lights that personally i find quite powerful.
Firstly when we offer lamps/candles etc, we should do it free of any sense of miserliness, with a deep feeling of devotion, respect and gratitude to the Triple Gems. We should not just offer the light for our own sake, but should recall that just as we desire happiness, all sentient beings are in a state of suffering and need to quickly attain liberation. Then, when you offer the lamp for such a vast purpose as attaining the liberation of all beings, it contains much more force, merit and positive energy than if you offered it for your own less significant purposes in your own little world alone. The breadth of the motivation makes all the difference!
The material used (ie, the wick, oil/butter, container) should all reflect your sincerity but in accordance to your own wish, situation, financial ability. In general, the better quality substances should be used for offering to the Enlightened Beings if possible so as to generate vast merits. You can light as many candles/lamps as you wish. There is the tradition of lighting many hundreds or thousands of lamps as an offering in Tibetan Buddhism especially on the auspicious days of Lunar 15th, 30th, 10th and 25th etc to quickly accumulate merits as on these days, positive acts have a more powerful effect by manifold. Use substances that come from proper sources, ie. not stolen or obtained through improper means. If one offers even one lamp properly, then the merit is immense and as Buddha said to Shariputra in the “Sutra of the Benefits of Offering Lamps” that such a merit is beyond the reckoning of all the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, the merit received is incalculable and immeasurable, only known by the Buddha Thus Gone One.
Having placed the lamps in a neat pleasing manner in a clean place** with or without representations of the Triple Gems*** (eg, Buddha statues, scriptures and stupas, prayer wheels etc) then sprinkle clean water (you can use a plant spraying bottle or just some spoon to sprinkle just a few drops of water, if there is no such thing available then just recite the mantra) while saying OM AH HUM three times or more (while contemplating that OM cleanses the offerings of all impurities of substances and impurities of negative mindsets eg, negative motivation, stinginess, 8 worldly concerns etc. AH transforms the offerings into pristine nectar with the eight qualities and HUM increases the number of offerings to a vast infinite scale)
[** Some people think that it is not important to arrange offerings properly in a clean place. I beg to differ in opinion. I do not think that such sloppiness can create much merits. We should recall that merits occur in the mind of sentient beings and we do things with a poor attitude and pretend to have devotion with our mouth, it will simply not work. For instance, if someone just threw a pot of food in front of you and said, ‘eat,’ in a high-class restaurant, you would regard it as an affront. You would expect the food to be nicely arranged and put on a clean plate. Similarly, we should take much care in arranging our offerings. It is the heart that counts. And this heart that counts should urge us to make more efforts, not use this as some excuse to be lackadaisical. It is also very much auspicious to make offerings properly, the way you arrange and the kind of offerings you make can give rise to different dependent arisings. So please take note!]
[*** If representations of Triple Gems are not present, do not be discouraged, because the wisdom mind of Buddha is beyond a specific location, if your mind is to offer to Buddha, his omniscient mind knows of it instantly. There is no need to fret. When you recite the OM AH HUM mantra, that itself represents the BODY, SPEECH and MIND of all Buddhas. So have faith. If you can do it, you can also visualise many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the space in front of you receiving the offerings and being very pleased and blissful in their minds. ]
Method of Visualisation
Even if only offering one lamp, use OM AH HUM to transform everything to a vast scale mentally. The container of the lamp is as wide as the universe, the butter/oil is as vast as an ocean, the wick of the lamp is as high as a mountain or Mount Meru, the flame like a universal light that dispels the ignorance of all sentient beings, reveals mind-nature and brings about the realisation of emptiness and the five wisdoms in all sentient beings.
It is optional for one’s to recite the following dharani to multiply one’s offerings and present them to the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas:
NAMO RAT-NA TRA-YA-YA / NAMO BHA-GA-WA-TE / BEN-ZA SA-RA PRA-MAR-DA-NI / TA-THA-GA-TA-YA / AR-HA-TE SAM-YAK-SAM BUD–DHA-YA / TAD-YA-THA / OM BEN-ZRE BEN-ZRE / MA-HA BEN-ZRE / MA-HA TE-DZA BEN-ZRE / MA-HA BI-DYA BEN-ZRE / MA-HA BO-DHI-TSIT-TA BEN-ZRE / MA-HA BO-DHI MAN-DO PA-SAM KRA-MA-NA BEN-ZRE / SAR-WA KAR-MA A-WA-RA-NA BI-SHO–DHA-NA BEN-ZRE SOHA (1 or 3 times)
And the different levels of meaning…
Yogi Chen said this:
Lamps have no ego. They are also Sunyata in nature and have differences in conditions. They can be made of gold or silver or brass. Who can say whether the light is coming from the oil, the wick or the lamp itself? Men usually notice only the outward quality and call it “the gold lamp” or “the brass lamp.” If it has no light, could it be called a lamp at all? Should a lamp be known according to its quality only? If so, when we take the silver from the lamp and make it into a bowl using it to store rice or wheat, where is the lamp then? Different oils such as butter, vegetable oil or mustard oil should be used… Hence it is not the specific material which is the real lamp…
The lamp is the light outwardly; inwardly it is the open and bright and frank mind; enthusiastic Tummo secretly; and most secretly the full Enlightenment.
One can recite the following stanzas while reflecting on the true nature of the lamp offerings, resting in the right view of dependent origination or emptiness. If one does not possess this view, then just feel that everything is like a dream or illusion, not truly real or solid in the way it seems. It is an option for one to recite the following prayer to complement one’s meditation on emptiness:
KON CHOG SUM GYI DEN PA DANG
SANG GYE DANG JANG CHHUB SEM PA THAM CHE KYI JIN GYI LAB DANG
TSHOG NYI YONG SU DZOG PAY NGA THANG CHHEN PO DANG
CHHO KYI YING NAM PAR DAG CHING SAM GYI MI KHYAB PAI TOB KYI DE ZHIN NYI DU GYUR CHIG
By the power of truth of the Three Jewels,
Of the blessings of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas,
By the power of the great might of the completed two collections,
And of the completely pure, inconceivable sphere of reality,
May all these offerings become just so.
To recap the simplest way to make the lamp offerings: Arrange the lamps (and/or other offerings); recite OM AH HUM three times while visualizing then recite the lamp offering prayer (at the end of this post). Dedicate the merit
(One can add the other mantras and prayers as wished)
The Benefits of Offering Lamps are:
1. One obtains bright, beautiful and good eyes
2. One has proper understanding and views
3. One will easily obtain the heavenly eye, and can see distant and subtle phenomenons
4. One does not break precepts
5. One’s wisdom is perfect, and will attain to nirvana. One will obtain the wisdom that discriminates between what is to be virtuous and non-virtuous.
6. One’s performance of virtue will not be hindered by difficulties or obstacles
7. One is often able to see Buddhas and becomes the eye for all sentient beings
8. One can take rebirth as a wheel-turning lord king, king in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, or king in the Brahma Heaven
9. At the point of death, one will recall virtuous dharma without forgetting and all those positive deeds done while living will appear in the mind; one will have joy in the mind and recall the Buddha; the body and mind will be pure without any worries or suffering at point of death
10. Both eyes and four limbs will always be free from defects
11. One will be healthy and the vocal cords will be soft and flexible and one’s voice will be charming and beautiful
12. One’s mind will be clear and bright with intelligence, not affected by stupidity
13. One’s life will be stable and peaceful and all necessities will be sufficient, one’s mind will be free from fears.
14. One’s wealth will increase and body and mind will be free and liberated
15. One’s body will be healthy and strong, filled with vitality
16. One will not have verbal feuds, clashes or quarrels with others. One can travel (the world)without any worries and without creating any kleshas or disturbing emotions or give rise to ignorance.
17. One will not do anything out of a hazy and confused mind. One will not be easily misled by external factors.
18. One will not take rebirth in a dark and gloomy place.
19. One will possess great merits
20. One will not run into any mishaps while travelling or walking like stepping on unclean substances, be free from fear of dogs or wolves and their barks or howls, one will not fall and hurt oneself and not drop into pits and lose one’s life.
In Avatamsaka sutra it says, “Offering Lamps can dispel all darknesses.”
In the Treasury of Bodhisattvas Sutra, it says, “Offering 10,000 bright lamps to confess and extinguish hosts of negative karma and defilements.”
In Cakrasamvara Tantra it says, “If you wish for sublime realizations, offer hundreds of lights.”
In the Sutra of Giving, it says, “Those who offer lamps, will possess the pure heavenly eyes and clear wisdom in the future.”
“Offering butter lamps is the most powerful offering because their light symbolizes wisdom. Just as a lamp dispels darkness, offering light from a butter lamp represents removing the darkness of ignorance in order to attain Buddha’s luminous clear wisdom. The lamp offering is a sense offering to the Buddha’s eyes. Because Buddha’s eyes are wisdom eyes, they do not have the extremes of clarity or non-clarity. Our ordinary eyes, however, are obscured by the darkness of the two defilements – gross afflictive emotional defilements and subtle habitual defilements. While the Buddha does not have desire for offerings, we make offerings for the purpose of our own accumulation of merit and wisdom. Through the power of this accumulation, we can remove the cataracts of our ignorance eyes in order to gain Buddha’s supreme luminous wisdom eyes.
“When we offer light, the results are the realization of Clear Light wisdom phenomena in this life; the clarification of dualistic mind and the dispersal of confusion and realization of Clear Light in the bardo; and the increase of wisdom in each lifetime until one has reached enlightenment.
Traditionally, butter lamps are also offered as a dedication to the dead in order to guide them through the bardo by wisdom light. We can pray as well that this light guide all beings of the six realms, removing their obscurations so that they may awaken to their true wisdom nature. With genuine faith and devotion, visualize that with your offerings, countless offering goddesses offer immeasurable light to all enlightened beings.” ~ Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
I have said before that for any practitioner, it is imperative to create alot of merits which will enhance one’s practice on the path. Because the goal is complete liberation, the fuel needed to reach it is immense. Merit is this fuel. Merit helps us to have conducive circumstances to meet and receive the teachings, to practise the teachings, to overcome our obstacles, to not be affected by obstacles, to attain realisations, to have the correct motivation, to give rise to Bodhichitta, to overcome our selfishness, reservations, fears, vacillating mind; to have the devotion, determination and enthusiam to practice etc. Any positive condition, physically, psychologically, financially, you name it, merit is needed for it. Even for a non-practitioner, merit is needed to a good life, good health, long life, good relationships, wealth, mental health, mental stability, joy, happiness, etc. Offering lamps is one of the very good ways to accumulate merit and increase wisdom. In conclusion, I share with you what HH Drukpa Gyalwang Rinpoche said recently on his blog (www.drukpa.org):
“In order for us to progress smoothly and swiftly on our spiritual path, we need the help of two things – merit and wisdom – they are like the 2 wings of a bird, lacking one will cripple our progress. We need to accumulate merit and wisdom with joyful effort and enthusiasm. Merit without wisdom or wisdom without merit will not help.
Take an example of a sick person, if he wants to be cured, he has to have the merit and wisdom to be cured. A lack of a combination of merit and wisdom will result in the patient not being to find a correct remedy or the right doctor to help him, or being in the wrong hospital, meeting the wrong doctor and understanding the dosage instructions wrongly.
In the spiritual practice context, a person failing to meet the authentic gurus, to have the understanding to tell what is genuine teaching and what is not is also considered to be lack of merit and wisdom. Even having met the authentic gurus, received genuine teachings and participated in assembly of great practitioners, he fails to appreciate these positive conditions and instead engages in criticism, complaints and gossips, this is also a lack of merit and wisdom.
We can often say that our own sufferings and all the catastrophes, unwanted situations, disasters, wars, failures and sicknesses that are happening in our world these days are a combination of different results of a lack of merit and wisdom.”
Below is the lamp offering prayer. Do not, with your discriminating mind, be disappointed and think, ‘but oh, it is only for offering to Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)’, please realise that in Guru Rinpoche, all the Buddhas are present, this was said by Guru Rinpoche himself. So when you offer lights to Guru Rinpoche, you are offering to all the Gurus, Yidams and Dakinis and all enlightened refuges in the past, present and future and everywhere. Have this kind of understanding and you will not feel that this prayer is lacking in anything.
LAMP OFFERING PRAYER
RIG TSAL GAG MED NANG WAY MAR ME DI
Unceasing dynamic energy of awareness, these illuminating lamp(s)
RIG DZIN CHEN PO PAD MA JUNG NE CHOD
are offered to great Vidhydhara Padmasambhava
RIG PAY GAR KHYAB SEM CHAN MA LU PA
Awareness nature pervades all sentient beings without exception.
RIG TONG CHO KU ‘I YING SU DROL WAR SHOG
May liberation occur within the space of awareness-emptiness dharmakaya.
NAM KHAI THAR THUG ZHING KHAM RAB JAM NA
Till the limits of space, in countless pure realms,
KON CHOG RIN CHEN NAM SUM TEN DANG CHE
the wondrous Triple Gems and all refuges
SOD NAM SAG PAY ZHING CHOG ZHUG SU TSHAL
excellent fields of all accumulated merits
MA LU DE DAG KUN GYI CHAN LAM DU
actually appearing in front of your wisdom eyes without exception
NANG SAL MAR MAY CHOD PA DI BUL WAY
respectfully offering these clear radiant lamp(s)
DAG DANG THA YE SEM CHAN THAM CHAD KYI
I and sentient beings limitless as sky,
MA RIG TI MUG MUN PA KUN SAL NAY
may the darkness of our ignorance and confusion be completely dispelled.
KUN KHYEN YE SHE NANG WA THONG WAR SHOG
May the display of omniscient primordial wisdom be seen.
Optionally you can recite this mantra many times to offer the lamps:
OM SARWA TATHAGATA SAPARIWARA ALOKE PRATITSA PUDZA MEGHA SAMUDRA SAPARANA SAMAYE AH HUNG
(In conclusion, one can recite dedication prayers)
MY OWN DEDICATION :- BY THIS MERIT, MAY ALL SENTIENT BEINGS RELIGHT THEIR INNATE PURE WISDOM-LAMP AND SEE THEIR ORIGINAL FACE. MAY ALL BE AUSPICIOUS AND PERFECT!