Offerings with Special Intentions
Because of the association with great good fortune, lamp offerings are made for any individual or family life event that is celebrated, such as the birth of a child, the marriage of a couple, the graduation of a son or daughter, the birthday of a friend, and the anniversary of one's parents.
Lamp offerings may also be made in difficult times or uncertain transitions.
The gift of light and the accompanying prayers help to bring about less suffering and greater happiness in times of illness, loss, uncertainty, and death.
Lamps may be offered for a parent who is facing an operation, for a friend changing careers, for a student facing a difficult exam, and for a family member experiencing extreme stress.
At the time of someone's death, it is traditional to offer a bardo lamp for 49 days.
When concluding the story of the butter lamp offering from the beggar woman Nanda in the Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish, our precious Master advised us in all earnest: “Please do remember the importance of light offerings.
The Three Brothers of Kadampa had in their possessions images of many enlightened beings, but in their shrine room they only displayed the image of Buddha Shakyamuni, a stupa, and the scripture; and they never ceased to offer water and butter lamps.
The great Tibetan master Tsankyipa offered butter lamps to the Buddha all his life, and Thubten Choepel Rinpoche made light offerings his main offering to the Three Jewels….”
Rinpoche’s teaching struck a chord with me. In the Sutra of the Merits of Lamp Offering it says:
“By the merit of offering bright lamps to the Buddhas, one will live a secure, abundant, and fearless life, possessing easily great wealth, power, exquisite jewels, and lovely gardens.
By lighting lamps and offering them to the Buddhas, one will behold in person the Lord Buddha and instantly arouse deep faith and devotion.
Making offerings to the Buddhas with immense joy, one forsakes his kingdom to become an ascetic monk.
Buddha’s wisdom is unfathomable and limitless; with his incomparable qualities he leads beings to liberation.
To the stupa one makes light offerings; one’s body will shine as brilliantly as a lamp.
Lord Buddha’s eyes are as clear as the royal bull’s.
He has offered excellent lamps to illuminate stupas and realized the untainted supreme Truth.
His luminous body shines throughout the ten directions.
He has realized the Four Noble Truths and attained Ten Powers; he has accomplished perfectly the supreme realization and becomes the Sugata with all-pervading eyes.
All these accomplishments come from having made light offerings.”
Therefore, by making light offerings to the Buddha, a boundless store of merit, both worldly and supreme, is amassed.
These are excellent examples set by Dharma luminaries of the past for us to follow.
By making light offerings, in all our lives we will be able to dispel ignorance, illuminate beings’ minds darkened by bewilderment, remove the confusing mist on the path of liberation, and make apparent the vastness of the absolute space.
Any other attempts to find a new path—such as trying to accumulate merit or purify defilement through the eight worldly ways—will not work.
I sincerely hope all of us in our lifetimes, as long as our means allow, will make light offerings with a pure heart every day, down to just one butter lamp or a lotus-shaped electric lamp.
It will accrue vast merit.
If this is really beyond our means, then we should at least offer one lamp on auspicious days such as the 15th or 30th of the lunar months, as a gesture of our faith and devotion to the Three Jewels.
By offering these tranquil and beautiful lamps
In the presence of the perfect Buddha, the King of Illumination;
The Gyalwa Karmapa, the Lord of the World;
And all the Buddhas with their children,
May the poison of malicious enmity
Never arise in the mind of any one of us.
With loving minds, like the meeting of mother and child,
May all the world be filled with peace and happiness.