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Offering a Mandala - Six-Session Yoga

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Next, we have the making an offering of a mandala to the guru. And this again comes from the Fifty Stanzas on the Guru, where it advises us to offer our guru a mandala each day. And particularly we make a mandala offering when requesting teachings.

A mandala in this context is referring to a representation of the entire universe. And so the universe can be visualized in many ways. There’s Mount Meru and the continents. That’s the abhidharma way of visualizing it. There’s a Kalachakra way of visualizing it, which is different. So with Mount Meru, there’s two versions of it: the abhidharma version and the Kalachakra version. They’re different.

But as Serkong Rinpoche explained as well, that implies that there can be other ways of visualizing or imaging the universe, since there is more than one in the Buddhist system. So if it’s more comfortable for us to visualize it in terms of the planet Earth, or the solar system, or if we have some idea of our galaxy with the stars and so on – whatever visualization. The whole point is that it just represents giving everything to be able to help others and reach enlightenment.

It starts out:

Anything physical, verbal, or mental that I or others enjoy, and the network of my constructive acts throughout the three times,

When it says anything physical, verbal, or mental that I or others enjoy, the word “enjoy” is a difficult word (longs-spyod). It’s to enjoy, experience – it’s the same word – to enjoy, to experience, or to make use of. Because that word, in both Sanskrit and Tibetan, has three meanings. And here it incorporates all three meanings. So it’s to experience something, to make

use of it, to enjoy it. So it’s talking about everything, basically – physical, verbal, mental – that I experience, that others experience, that I enjoy, that others enjoy, that I make use of, use my speech for this, that others make use of.

And the network of my constructive acts throughout the three times is referring to the positive force – “merit,” it’s usually translated. So may that ripen in such a way that it can be of benefit to others.


A splendid jeweled mandala, with a host of Samantabhadra offerings

Host of Samantabhadra offerings. Samantabhadra offerings can be explained in several ways, but the way that Serkong Rinpoche explained it is as follows. And Serkong Rinpoche’s explanations usually were always on an extremely deep level, a very advanced level, with many very far-reaching implications behind it.

So a Samantabhadra offering: you imagine, emanating from your heart, a Samantabhadra figure – one face, two arms – holding a jewel between his two hands at his heart. And it’s fairly small, the Samantabhadra. This Samantabhadra could be at eye level, it could be at heart level, it depends. This is only the beginning of the visualization here. Eye level is usually best. Then,

from the jewel, it radiates out infinite offerings. So that can be infinite jewels that radiate out from this jewel in Samantabhadra’s hand. Sometimes people just leave it like that, as Samantabhadra offerings, but it’s actually much more full than that:

So from that one Samantabhadra with the infinite offerings from the jewels, while that stays there, then you imagine two Samantabhadras come – with exactly the same visualization from the jewels that they’re holding. And then in the next row, four

Samantabhadras, and then eight Samantabhadras, and sixteen – and as far as one can go, multiplying by two. And then you withdraw it back, stage by stage, step by step. So this is similar to what’s called the subtle generation stage practice.

Again, it’s not necessary to do it in this advanced level, but it also helps us to not get bored with our practice, thinking, “Oh my God, I have to do this every day for the rest of my life. How boring!” But to realize that it may take the rest of our life to be able to actually do it in its most advanced level. So it’s a challenge and something that could occupy us for the

rest of our lives, these practices. This I find quite helpful actually. So no need to get proud that I mastered this practice, because there is always a much more complicated level of practice that we can go to. We’ve merely done level one of it, now we can go in to level two of difficulty, and level three and level four. We might not even be aware that there are so many different levels of complexity of doing these practices, but there are.

Then this verse of the mandala offering continues:

Taking these to mind, I present them to you, my guru, my yidam, my Three Supreme Gems. Accept them, please, by the power of compassion. I humbly request you for inspiration. Idam guru ratna mandalakam niryata-yami.

Taking these to mind: It’s not only that we visualize it, but I bring them to my attention – focus on it – and give it to you.

Often this word “inspiration” is translated as “blessing” and I find that word a bit misleading because it really comes out of a Christian context, not really a Buddhist one. “Inspiration” I think is the better word. The Sanskrit word is adhishthana.“Shthana” means a stage, or a level on which we stand. And “adhi” means superior. So we request you to help us to

get stable, in a higher level. And the Tibetan is chingyilab (byin-gyis rlabs).And lab (rlabs) is a wave. And chingyi: Chin (byin) means to brighten, to make more bright. I used to sometimes translate this as inspiring strength – send me waves of inspiring strength. So it’s sort of “uplift me” like a wave. Lifts you up to a brighter state. Chin is bright. I think the

closest in our language is “inspiration,” although that has to do with breath. “Inspire” is give us breath, is literally what “inspiration” means, coming from the Latin. But we have to understand it in the Latin way. The point is that usually inspiration lifts us. So I think that’s closer than “bless.”

So that’s the mandala offering.