Special offerings are prepared, traditionally of roasted barley flour (tsampa), yogurt, butter, milk, sugar, molasses, and honey (the three whites and the three sweets), and also pure cotton fabrics. Reciting the prayers and mantra syllables in the sur text, one purifies and consecrates the offering,
sprinkles a small amount of it onto a burning coal, and sounds the tingsha (small metal cymbal-like chimes) to summon beings to partake of it. Together, the aroma and the practitioner’s motivation, visualization, and dedication of merit provide an offering that both delights enlightened beings and satisfies all ordinary beings.
In particular, sur offerings nourish those in the bardo, the intermediate state after death. These beings experience hunger and thirst but can be nourished only through their sense of smell. This practice can be done for forty-nine days after someone’s death, with emphasis on dedicating the merit of this virtuous activity for the benefit of the deceased.
Meaning of the term sur , translated here as “aroma” Here, the Tibetan word sur (gsur) refers to the smell of roasted flour that is offered to spirits. Usually this offering is made at sunset or thereafter because spirits are on the move then, and it is known as the time when spirits gather. This is also the time when dakinis (a class of tantric deities) gather.
Materials needed and practice tips Use a roasting pan that is not cracked, broken, or worn out and is clean (It may be possible to dispense with the
roasting pan and sprinkle the flour directly onto hot coals.) The fire itself should not produce much smoke, becaus smoke disturbs spirits; a smokeless bed of red hot coals will do. The fireplace should be clean. Use clean flour mixed with menchey (sman phye). Men-chey can be obtained from the Tibetan Medical
Center, Dharamsala or other Tibetan pharmacy or from a Tibetan doctor. I think it is a mixture of “sang-druk” (bsangs drug), an incense made of six different shrubs. It is also used for black tea offerings. One can also use tantric nectar pills. When His Holiness Song Rinpoche offered tea to the merit field, to protectors, or to worldly gods, he used a mixture of men-chey and black tea. See also, the “Twenty-Five Torma Substances and Their Benefits” on p.20 for additional substances that can be added to the Sur offering. In addition to men-chey, include the powder of crushed jewels, such as coral, pearls,
lapis, gold, silver, or other jewels. All this is mixed with the flour. This mixture would be a perfect substance for the offering. Mix clean, roasted flour with butter, and then add these other ingredients, if possible. Bless the sur substances with the vase water as indicated below, and then place them
Refuge and Bodhichitta Recite the prayer taking refuge and generating bodhichitta three times. Rely on Buddha with your whole heart, for the sake of all sentient beings as well as yourself. You can think of all the numberless buddhas or just think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha as the object of refuge.
Sang gyä chhö dang tshog kyi chhog nam la
Jang chhub bar du dag ni kyab su chhi
Dag gi jin sog gyi pa sö nam kyi
Then generate bodhichitta by considering each beneficiary in the six realms, such as: I must free every one of the numberless hell beings, who are the source of all my past, present, and future happiness, from all suffering and its cause, the defilements, and bring them to enlightenment. I must free all the numberless spirits, who are the source of all my past, present, and future happiness, from all suffering and its cause, the defilements, and bring them to enlightenment.
Aroma Charity for Spirits I must free all the numberless animals, who are the source of all my past, present, and future happiness, from all suffering and its cause, the defilements, and bring them to enlightenment. Likewise, I must free all humans, gods, demigods, and intermediate state beings, who are the
source of all my past, present, and future happiness, from all suffering and its cause, the defilements, and bring them to enlightenment. To do this I must achieve enlightenment myself. Therefore, I am going to practice the charity of aroma: offering aroma to the merit field and giving aroma to sentient beings.
Self-Generation and Invocation Instantaneously I appear as Khasarpani [an aspect of Chenrezig], white in color with one face and two arms. My right hand is granting sublime realizations, and my left hand is holding the stem of a white lotus and resting on a moon cushion. I am seated in the half-vajra posture
Sprinkle blessed water from the vase on the flour mixture while reciting this mantra. Visualize each drop of water transforms into hundreds of wrathful Kundali deities who dispel all interferers from the offering substances, like using the inner offering to dispel interferers.
Meditate on the emptiness of the offering substances and the emptiness of yourself (including the mind itself) such that no dualistic objects appear. Everything becomes emptiness.4 Meditate so there is no gap between the object meditated on and the meditator. This wisdom ceases the two kinds of
defilement: the obscuration of disturbing thoughts, and with the support of bodhichitta, the obscuration of knowledge. Through the cessation of these two defilements your ordinary body, speech, and mind are transformed into your deity’s vajra holy body, vajra holy speech, and vajra holy mind.
Within this state of emptiness the syllable BHRUM appears. This syllable is in actuality your non-dual wisdom experiencing emptiness with great bliss. The syllable BHRUM transforms into a precious vessel, vast and spacious. The syllables OM AH HUM5 appear above the vessel and melt into light, which transforms
Then blow on the cymbals. This empowers the cymbals to purify with their sound the negative karma of anyone who hears them, thus liberating these beings form the lower realms. Offer the sound to the merit field keeping in mind that this includes the three jewels of refuge encompassing the ten directions.
Recite the Four Tathagatas’ Names8 I prostrate to the Tathagata Many Jewels I prostrate to the Tathagata Holy Beautiful Form. I prostrate to the Tathagata Very Gentle Body. I prostrate to the Tathagata Victorious One, Free of All Fears.
DE ZHIN SHEG PA RIN CHHEN MANG LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO DE ZHIN SHEG PA ZUG DZÄ DAM PA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO DE ZHIN SHEG PA KU JAM LÄ LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO DE ZHIN SHEG PA GYÄL WA THUG JIG PA THAM CHÄ DANG DRÄL WA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
While reciting the names, think that all sentient beings receive the respective benefits of each recitation. When each name is recited with prostration,9 these benefits, according to Lama Atisha and his disciples, are as follows:
Spirits and all other sentient beings are released from their disturbing thoughts, such as miserliness, as well as their negative karma and its result, such as poverty, and they enjoy with satisfaction whatever they desire. Each of the six realms’ beings receive
whatever they need, skies of enjoyments, and they are fully satisfied. Those in the hot hells get rain; those in the cold hells get sun and warmth; animals get protection; hungry ghosts get food; humans get mountains of millions of dollars; asuras get protection from wars, etc.
Very Gentle Body (KU JAM LA): All beings are released from all physical illness, and enjoy the supreme taste. This pacifies the sufferings of body and mind; all defilements are purified, and bodhichitta is generated in the hearts of all beings of the six realms.
Victorious One Free of All Fears (GYALWA THUG JIG PA THAM CHA DANG DRAL WA): All beings are liberated from the fear of being tormented by others and enjoy peace. Think that sentient beings who have less power and are controlled by others, who have fear of danger and sufferings, are made safe; those dangers
are pacified. They are liberated from all dangers and powerlessness. This includes animals that are in danger from others. When you see an animal being attacked by others (such as insects, other animals, or humans), then recite this Buddha’s name and it has the power to affect that.11
Offering the Aroma Instructions: Offer the aroma to the merit field – that includes the lama, deity, Three Jewels of refuge, dakas and dakinis, and Dharma protectors, just as visualized in the Guru Puja. Imagine that they experience infinite bliss by smelling this aroma. Make this offering in an extensive way.12 (See verses below.)
Offer the aroma to all sentient beings in the six realms including the intermediate state. When they smell this all-pervasive aroma, they experience whatever they want and need, including the complete path of method and wisdom. This causes them to cease all defilements and to become perfectly enlightened in the aspect of the Compassionate Buddha.13
[Extensive offering verses This offering of uncontaminated aroma Endowed with the qualities of the five senses, I offer and dedicate to all gurus, deities, the Triple Gem, And to all dakas, dakinis and Dharma protectors.
I offer and dedicate it to the king of smell-eaters, Rabga, And so forth, and to the entirety of smell-eaters; To the mother sentient beings of the six realms, And to the entirety of regional deities and landlords,
Aroma Charity for Spirits And to those who strive to revenge karmic debts, Especially, to all the intermediate state beings of those who were Killed or committed suicide between yesterday and today, And who haven’t been able to find a new body yet. When all guests have attained satisfaction, Through a rain
of all wishes, work to pacify all obstacles for me to have Long life, no sicknesses, and extensive activities, To control the three realms, and to achieve my aims as I envision them. Also, may all the intermediate state beings be liberated From fear and suffering, remember the instructions of the Guru, And be
reborn in [[[Sukhavati]]], the Realm of Great Bliss. With karmic debts settled, may all migrators be endowed with joy and happiness. May all the regional deities and landlords Always offer their support unwaveringly. May I, at the time of my death, Be free from the suffering of heavy sickness; And, having
been reborn in a pure land, Work for the welfare and happiness of all migrators. Immediately upon the arising of the appearance of the intermediate state, May I be shown the unmistaken path by the eight bodhisattvas. Having been reborn in the Realm of Great Bliss [[[Sukhavati]]], May I lead all migrators living
in the impure realms. May there be uninterrupted enjoyment of wealth, Limitless like the treasury of space. May there be no disputes and no harm, And may all act independently. Immediately upon having crossed over from this life, May I be magically reborn From the center stem of a lotus In the greatest of all pure lands, Sukhavati.
Supplementary Practice Recite:
Then, after that, one may recite some verses from the Bodhisattvacharyavatara expressing the benefits of bodhichitta.(Chapter 1, verses 9-11): [The moment the mind of bodhichitta arises In those fettered and weak in the jail of cyclic existence, They will be named a “Son of the Sugatas,” And will be revered by both men and gods of the world.
Since the limitless mind of the Sole Guide of the World Has upon thorough investigation seen its preciousness, All beings wishing to be free from worldly abodes Should firmly take hold of this precious mind of bodhichitta.]16
Bidding Farewell Imagine that their minds have been liberated by hearing Dharma and send them away: Now that you have been satisfied with various gifts, including the precious gift of Dharma, which has freed your minds; you may each go to your own homes.
Aroma Charity for Spirits Dedication [In order to secure benefit for sentient beings, By the power of truth of my (pure) intention, the Tathagathas’ giving, the pure reality-field of all phenomena, and offerings (made) to the Aryan-Exalted Ones; May each and every pure wish and all (good) intentions Arise without obstruction!
By this meritorious action, May I subdue the enemies of (my) imperfections, And, having attained the level of omniscience, May I liberate transmigrators from the ocean of worldly existence: The afflicting waves of old age, sickness, and death.
Then, make extensive dedication prayers, such as the following:18 Due to the three times’ merits accumulated by myself and others, May the supreme jewel bodhichitta That has not arisen, arise and grow; And may that which has arisen not diminish But increase more and more.
Due to the three times’ merits accumulated by myself and others, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness and may all the lower realms be empty forever. Wherever there are bodhisattvas, may all their prayers be accomplished immediately. May I cause all this by myself alone. Due to the
three times’ merits accumulated by myself and others, may the glorious gurus’ lives be long and stable, may all beings equaling the extent of space have happiness, may I and others without exception accumulate merit and purify negativities, and may we be blessed to quickly attain buddhahood.
Due to the merits accumulated over the three times by myself and others, which are empty from their own side, may I, who is empty from its own side, achieve the state of enlightenment, which is empty from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are empty from their own side, to that state as quickly as possible by myself alone.
Due to the three times’ merits accumulated by myself and others, may I, my family, disciples, and all sentient beings be able to actualize completely in this very lifetime Lama Tsongkhapa’s path of unified sutra and tantra, which is pure like refined gold. May this pure teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa spread in all directions and flourish forever.
JANG CHHUB SEM PA SEM PA CHHEN PO KÜN TU ZANG PO LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
(1x or 3x)
To actualize all our prayers as well as to multiply the benefits by 100,000:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ NGO WA DANG MÖN LAM [THAM CHÄ RAB TU] DRUB PÄ GYÄL PO LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
(1x or 3x)
Aroma Charity for Spirits Due to the power of the blessings of the eminent buddhas and bodhisattvas, the power of infallible dependent arising, and the power of my pure special attitude, may all my pure prayers succeed immediately.
Endnotes: 1. The guests of nirvana refers to the merit field, namely the gurus, the Three Jewels of refuge, tantric deities, sutra buddhas (such as the Medicine Buddhas), bodhisattvas, arhats, dakas and dakinis, and Dharma protectors. The guests of samsara refers to worldly protectors, the place lords, and
the objects of compassion, i.e., all sentient beings, including those to whom you owe karmic debts. 2. The vase water can be blessed with a standard ritual and kept handy in a jar or other container for when you need it. 3. SVABHAVA means nature, SHUDDHA means pure, SARVA means all, DHARMA means
things, together they refer to the emptiness of all objectivity, i.e. whatever is apprehended by the mind, which can refer to the aggregates. SVABHAVA SHUDDHO, which also literally means pure nature, refers to the emptiness of the mind, the apprehender of objects. HAM means oneself, which can refer to the
emptiness of the person, or can indicate that oneself is the emptiness of the subject and object, experiencing great bliss, as in the practice of taking the clear light as the path of dharmakaya. 4. Emptiness refers to the non-existence of inherently existing objects of mind and an inherently existing mind
itself. There is no inherent existence, and you meditate on the total non-existence of these apparently inherently existing things. 5. OM AH HUM refers to the vajra body, speech, and mind of all the buddhas. 6. His Holiness Song Rinpoche told Lama Zopa Rinpoche that spirits who are waiting for charity
can hear your words and will view the gift in the way it is described. This is why H. H. Song Rinpoche recommended to never criticize the gift, since spirits will see it just as described. One should avoid saying “Oh, this is not very good,” or “This is bad,” while you are making the substance to be
offered. They are there, waiting for the offering, and will hear you and then will see it that way. Conversely, if it is described beautifully they will see it that way, even if made from paper. H. H. Song Rinpoche always made beautiful images for pujas with tools he carried for this purpose. 7. OM for
interpretations of their meanings. 8. These names refer to Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani respectively. 9. Fold hands in front of your heart, recite the buddha names, and regard them respectfully.
10. Perfect bodies are those with the thirty-two signs and eighty exemplifications. 11. Lama Zopa Rinpoche mentions having tried this himself when he saw beings in danger and that it did have an effect; those beings were protected.For example, in New Mexico, Rinpoche saw a rabbit getting caught by a coyote.
He chanted this Buddha’s name and the coyote suddenly stopped and disappeared. Similarly, Rinpoche also used this Buddha’s name to protect an ant at Geshe Sopa Rinpoche’s center, Deer Park Center. 12. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has an extensive form of making offerings to the merit field, which can be used here; it
includes many examples of each of the Three Jewels in the ten directions. See Essential Buddhist Prayers, Vol. 2, available from the FPMT Education Department. 13. This can be done in the same way as the giving part of the tong-len practice. 14. Verses extracted from The Aroma Offering, composed by
Panchen Losang Chögyän, translated by Ven. Tenzin Dongak (Fedor Stracke). 15. Extracted from The Exalted Mahayana Sutra on the Wisdom Gone Beyond Called, ‘The Vajra Cutter, translation by Gelong Thubten Tsultrim (George Churinoff). 16. Verses in praise of bodhichitta from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, by Master Shantideva, translation by Stephen Batchelor.Lama Zopa Rinpoche did not specify which verses to recite from this text. One may choose other verses as well. There are many to choose from! 17. Extracted from “Making Smell Offerings” from the Rinchen Trengwa, a collection of teachings from Ngulcha
Dhachal Bhadras, blockprint pages 24b-30b. Original author unknown.Translated by Gelongma Lozang Trinlae Drolma. Edited by Lama Zopa Rinpoche 21 May 1999, Kachoe Dechen Ling, Aptos, CA 18. See the FPMT dedication prayers and special FPMT dedication prayers in Essential Buddhist Prayers, Vol.1, Dedications
section. Select dedications have been included here for convenience as they were specifically indicated by Rinpoche to recite at the end of this practice. Colophon: This practice is based on a commentary to a liturgy composed by Pabongkha Rinpoche given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on May 24, 1999, in Aptos,
California, and transcribed by Ven. Thubten Pemo; it was later edited into this practice by Tubten Pende. It has been lightly edited for publication in November 2001 by Venerable Constance Miller, FPMT Education Department.
Additions were made by Kendall Magnussen, June 2006, based on further commentary received and new translations of verses which had been referenced, but not included, in earlier versions of this practice. Additional commentary was provided by Lorne Ladner, as instructed to him by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 2005.
Also, on May 21, 1999, an initial rough translation of this practice was done by Gelongma Losang Trinlae Drolma, under the editorial assistance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.This translation was used as a reference for additions made here. The latest editor takes responsibility for any errors made in this regard.
karmic debts. First, you offer to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Master Dharmabhadra gave commentary on Sur practice and said to offer to the merit field as in the Kusali Tsog in the practice of Vajrayogini. Then offer to those who have died. Then offer to the landlords of your specific area and of the whole
world. In Mundgod, India, the monastery has fields to farm for food, and many worms and insects were eating the food. One of my gurus, His Holiness Song Rinpoche – who was a former abbot of Ganden Shartse Monastery and who was learned like Arya Nagarjuna and was a great enlightened being – when he learned
of the insects and worms eating the crops, he had one lama do Sur practice and also the one hundred tormas offering practice (torma gyatsa). The lama did this puja in the field, and then all the insects left. The karmic debts were repaid and they left. You repay the karmic debts, and then they leave. In New Zealand, rabbits were coming and eating crops, so people killed them and created the karma for many, many more problems. You must purify the cause, which is the karmic debt. This solves the problem without creating more negative karma. Using killing to solve the problem even one time will lead to infinite
suffering. One must not use killing to solve problems with insects or animals. This will lead to negative karma and cause suffering over infinite time. You must stop negative actions to stop suffering. Sur practice and one hundred tormas offering practice will fix the karmic debts and solve the problem. Endnotes: 1. As dictated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to Lorne Ladner, March 2005.
This practice is a way of collecting extensive merit and pacifying obstacles to one’s Dharma practice, projects, or business. In this way, it brings success to all these endeavors. Furthermore, by making charity, it results in prosperity and wealth. It causes you to be born in a pure land. Another
benefit is that spirits are fed by the aroma and are thus freed from their terrible hunger. Also, the Dharma teaching they receive frees them from the cause of all their torment. Thus, there is the benefit that they enjoy happiness and are freed from the cause of suffering. There is testimony to this
effect: one night Ven. Lhundup Nyingje went to bed and fell into a semi-conscious state between wakefulness and sleep. At that time, she saw spirits gathered around the fireplace where the smoke was still rising from this practice. They were enjoying this aroma so much and expressed their appreciation and happiness to her.
Further Comments on this Practice1 Pretas are so incredibly hungry, searching for many years just to find a tiny bit of spit. Through this practice, their incredible suffering is pacified. Also, when insects like termites eat wood, this means you have karmic debts with them from past lives. This is why they
eat the wood of that particular house; you received things from them in the past, and now, you owe them. If animals eat your vegetables or crops, this is also due to karmic debts. If a mouse eats or destroys things in your house, this is also due to karmic debts. Therefore, doing Sur practice Aroma Charity for Spirits
Aroma Charity for Spirits: Five types of grain Wheat Barley Rice Beans Sesame seeds
These five jewels were
offered by Hanunman.
2 Do not include Akaru in Kriya Tantra pills.
Kunkyen Jamyang Shepa also explained: The benefits of the five medicines are to not have disease and to have happiness. The benefits of the five scents are to achieve pure morality and to not fall to the bad realms of transmigrators. The benefits of the five jewels are to receive all needs according to what
one wishes, to pacify war, and to not be harmed by weapons. The benefits of the five grains are to increase enjoyments and pacify famines. The benefits of the five essences are to help increase all the essences of samsara and nirvana and to fulfill all needs. If you have all twenty-five ingredients, it has great benefit.
There are two methods for bringing quick success and for the greatest purification, so that all your wishes can be achieved: Externally, in order to be most powerful, put these twenty-five substances into torma offerings to deities and protectors, as well as any torma. Also, you can put these twenty-five
eaters, those intermediate state beings who have not yet found a place to take birth. Internally, the way to make torma offerings powerful is through meditation – having good concentration, and then blessing and offering.