The Benefits of Tsok Offering
In order to gain enlightenment, it is essential to complete the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. Generally, merit is accumulated by undertaking action that benefits others, while wisdom is accrued through the practices of meditation and visualization. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, this process is characterized by a slow, but steady undermining of negative traits through positive action, while at the same time developing qualities of goodness that are rooted in wisdom gained through meditation.
In terms of philosophy, the Vajrayana tradition fully conforms to the principles of the Mahayana, but in order to speed up the process of attaining the fruit, it adopts expedient means of practice.
The mind is the source of speech and action. In this way, it is like the cockpit or controller of a vehicle, and while it is possible to regulate the direction of a vehicle by manipulating the body, it is obviously more effective to so by working the controls. Understanding this principle, the Vajrayana masters developed practices that focus directly on transforming the mind. Tsok offering is one such method. Instead of making common offerings to ordinary beings, the benefactors of a tsok offering are perceived as buddhas, gurus and deities, and the offerings are multiplied and transformed through visualization. By working directly with the mind in this way, the merit from making offerings is increased innumerably, while the visualization and dissolution aspects of the practice enable swift development of wisdom.
Some people may question the social benefits of this method. In the Mahayana, for example, practice consists of actually helping others, and so it is characterized by charity and volunteer work. The benefits to others are obvious and tangible, whereas the advantages of merely offering food to a statue may not be so readily apparent. To understand how the Vajrayana practices are of benefit, we need to remember that the motivation for practice is to help other beings on the most profound level of all – assisting them to gain freedom from suffering – and we can only do this when we have the wisdom and means to do so.
Think of it in this way: A person travels to a poor country ravaged by disease. He sees the suffering and is moved to help. Yet, his ability is limited, and after many years of effort he finds that disease and suffering are still rampant. Consequently, he decides to leave the country and train to be a doctor. He does this not so he can have a high salary and gain an important social position, however, but purely with the aim of placing himself in a stronger position to benefit others. In Buddhism, this is similar to a person who begins to realize that the fundamental root of suffering is ignorance and defilements of the mind. With this understanding, he redefines the motivation of his practice and begins to fully dedicate his efforts to the benefit of others. This is called awakening of bodhicitta.
The practices of Vajrayana are rooted in this understanding. While they may not have a practical application (though practitioners of Vajrayana should certainly not shy away from undertaking charity and volunteer work with energy and vigour), they lead one to swiftly develop qualities that can really benefit others on the most profound level.
The specific tsok offering that Rinpoche empowered us to perform is called the 'Shower of Blessings'. It was composed by the great Vajrayana master Mipham Rinpoche and is based on the Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche. The effectiveness of this practice is increased when undertaken together as a group – as Guru Rinpoche said, “While it might be difficult for one man to move a boulder, twenty pairs of hands can shift it with ease.” Therefore, it is beneficial for those who have received the initiation to meet on each 10th day of the lunar calendar to practice together. Gathering our energy in this way and directing it towards a specific objective will definitely create positive results for all beings.
Seven Line Prayer
English translation:HUNG. At the Northwest border of Uddiyana,
Upon a the pistil of a lotus flower,
The supreme and marvelous attainment has been found.
You are renowned as the "Lotus Born",
Encompassed by vast retinues of dakinis.
By following you we shall accomplish our practice.
Please be present to us in blessing and inspiration: