The Gentle Rain of Benefit and Joy
Riwo Sangchö & Lungta | Tibetan Masters › Gyalse Shenpen Thaye | Tibetan Masters › Lhatsün Namkha Jigme
The Gentle Rain of Benefit and Joy
An Explanation of the Practice of Sang Offering
by Gyalse Shenpen Taye
Without ever straying from the absolute space of reality, beyond conceptual elaboration,
You appeared as the illusory manifestation of supreme, immaculate wisdom—like the reflection of the moon in water,
Dancing playfully in an ocean of great bliss—
Glorious heruka Lhatsün, be my guide and care for me!
I shall now offer a brief explanation—word by word—of the practice known as Riwo Sangchö, which is part of the profound Dharma-cycle of Rigdzin Sokdrup that originated as a pure vision in the treasure-like mind of the great and accomplished vidyādhara Lhatsün Namkha Jigme.
This will be divided into two sections: I) a brief explanation of the historical origins of the practice of smoke-incense (sang) offering; and II) a more elaborate discussion of the text in the form of a word-by-word commentary.
I) A Brief Explanation of Sang Offering’s Historical Origins
It has been said by some that the practice of sang offering did not originate with teachings found in the sutras or tantras.
Others point to passages in the sutras referring to the Buddha’s benefactors welcoming him with the burning of incense on their roofs, or by holding incense-burners in their hands. These, they say, describe the earliest form of the sang practice, as do the many similar references to be found in the tantras. Although we might classify these as offerings of sang incense to a supermundane deity, the type of sang offering we are concerned with here has an additional aspect, which is the focus on cleansing or purification—as indicated by the so-called purification of impurity or contamination (mnol bsang) and the purification of spiritual pollution or blockages (grib bsang)—so it is difficult to identify these definitively as examples of genuine sang offering.
Still, if we speculate concerning the origins of sang, we can say that the first aspect of the practice [i.e., the aspect of offering] does accord with the authentic sources mentioned earlier. Then, regarding the second aspect, purification, we can say that generally since the victorious ones are skilful in methods and endowed with great compassion, they train beings by whatever methods are most appropriate in any given situation. In this case, the four naturally pure universal elements—earth, water, fire and wind—provide numerous methods for purifying or cleansing the stains of both temporary and ultimate obscurations. The general principles of this approach may be illustrated by the householder Śrīgupta’s verses for purifying poisonous food. Then there are also examples which illustrate the uncommon method of purifying poison using the poison itself, such as peacocks consuming poison or the technique of pouring liquid in the ear.
Moreover, the texts of Secret Mantra teach countless methods of purification employing the individual elements, according to the particular experience and level of practitioners. The kriyā tantras, for example, teach rites of cleansing and ablution using earth and water. And the tantras, in general, teach a number of methods, such as pacifying rites that use fire, incense offerings carried on the wind and so on. The authenticity of this aspect of the practice is therefore beyond question.
We could also establish this point using logical reasoning, because there is no end to the buddhas’ enlightened activity on behalf of beings to be trained. In which case, this practice could be described as a method using the element of fire in particular in order to purify obscurations until all temporary and ultimate defilements have been cleared away.
Historical Origins in Tibet
In the past, there appeared three Dharma Kings who were emanations of the Lords of the Three Families. Amongst these, it was during the time of King Trisong Deutsen, who was Mañjuśrī in person, that the second buddha, the Great Master of Oḍḍiyāna, was invited to the Land of Snows and the glorious, spontaneously perfect, unchanging temple of Samyé was constructed. At that time, on one occasion the great Dharma King fell ill as a result of spiritual pollution. When this was reported to Guru Rinpoche, he replied that he had a method for dispelling the sickness. Clean wood was sought and then by purifying it through the element of fire, a smoke offering was made to the deities. The king recovered; and then, for the benefit of future generations, the instructions on sang offering, together with its history and a description of its benefits, were inscribed on the walls at Glorious Samyé. This is renowned even today as the ‘Sang Offering Mural of Samyé’. From that point on, texts of sang offering practices appeared increasingly.
The text to be explained on this occasion was revealed by the great Lhatsün Kunzang Namgyal, or Traktung Namkha Jigme, as he was opening up the sacred hidden land of Sikkim.
II) A More Elaborate Discussion of the Text in the Form of a Word-by-Word Commentary
The actual explanation of the meaning of the text has three sections: the beginning, the main part and the conclusion.
1. The Beginning
The beginning includes the sections of taking refuge, arousing bodhicitta, and gathering the accumulations through the seven branches.
OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ
The heart essence of all the sources of refuge of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, who are as vast as space,
Powerful and wrathful vidyādhara Pema Tötreng Tsal;
Within your body, all that appears and exists is the perfect buddha maṇḍala:
In order to liberate all beings from saṃsāra, I take refuge in you!
The syllables OṂ, ĀḤ and HŪṂ signify the three vajras—the enlightened body, speech and mind of all the buddhas. Begin by reciting these three syllables and, as you do so, recollect the qualities of what they represent.
Now, when commenting upon the meaning of this, using the words [of the root text], the first three lines may be explained in the following way:
There are two extremes which are feared by the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas of the hīnayāna, and by the bodhisattvas of the mahāyāna respectively. They are the extreme of saṃsāric existence, as vast as space, and the extreme of the peace of nirvāṇa. The supreme sources of refuge with the power to protect from these two fearful situations are the perfectly enlightened buddhas. And of all the manifestations emanating from the wisdom that is inseparable from their enlightened minds, one is like the innermost heart-essence. Who is that? It is the one who has reached the level of a spontaneously accomplished vidyādhara, who has perfected the general activity of the victorious ones, and the activity of magnetizing and wrathful subjugation in particular. It is the one with the secret name of Pema Tötreng Tsal. Here the text singles him out by the use of the second person pronoun, saying, ‘…you, in whose body, appearance (the pure realms), and existence (the beings within them), are all the maṇḍalas of the buddhas, perfect by their own nature’.
We take refuge in this precious master—Guru Rinpoche—so that all beings, infinite in number, may be liberated from the vast ocean of saṃsāric existence.
Should you wish to elaborate further on this topic, you might also refer to the sub-categories of causal and resultant refuge.
I generate the awakened mind of bodhicitta, so that
The three obscurations of all beings may be purified in the ground of the luminous tiklé of supremely secret wisdom, and
With the four visions spontaneously perfected in the tiklé of the wisdom body, speech and mind,
May they be liberated into the youthful vase body!
The general meaning of sang offering has been stated above. As a method for purifying temporary and ultimate obscurations through perfecting the two accumulations of merit and wisdom it is unlike any other. And so, it is here referred to as an extraordinary approach of the supremely secret mantra path. In terms of its view, the essence of both the illustrative and the actual luminosity is the inseparable union of bliss and emptiness. This is the great sphere, or tiklé, of the expanse of primordial wisdom, wherein the ‘edges’ or ‘corners’ of any concepts related to the eight extremes have been eliminated. By resting in the state of realization arrived at through practising this method properly, merit is accumulated based upon the apparent luminosity, and wisdom is accumulated through the empty luminosity.
We make the aspiration that on the path, the obscurations of all beings—including ourselves—will be purified in the fundamental ground of luminosity, indistinguishable from the primordial nature of all phenomena. When these three obscurations—emotional, intellectual (or cognitive) and thirdly, a particular instance of the latter, the habitual obscurations of the three appearances of transference— are purified, our own and others’ body, speech and mind will be perfected spontaneously in the tiklé that is inseparable from the vajra body, speech and mind of all the victorious ones. At that point, we will attain the fruition, the culmination of the ultimate path of Dzogpachenpo, and gain the extraordinary, uncommon experiences of the four visions:
- The vision of experiencing the nature of reality directly
- The vision of increasing experience
- The vision of awareness reaching full maturity
- The vision of the dissolution [of ordinary experience] into the nature of reality
The svābhāvikakāya may be likened to an expanse of sky. In which case, the liberation of the ordinary, gross physical body together with its ordinary experiences into the inner expanse of the youthful vase body, or into a body of clear light, is similar to the sky becoming clear of clouds. We make the aspiration to accomplish this however we can.
In this way, the relative bodhicitta, which includes the aspects of aspiration and application, and the absolute bodhicitta, are performed together. This wish to benefit ourselves and others on a vast scale incorporates all the essential points on bodhicitta.
Gathering the Accumulations through the Seven Branches
This section has seven parts. The first is the branch of prostration. The text says:
To the primordial, unaltered nature of rigpa, I pay homage! And
The innate condition of the mind is known as the wisdom of pure awareness; and its unaltered nature is the primordial luminosity. At the level of the ground, this is the original dharmakaya, whose self-radiance and power can be spoken of separately as the sambhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya. Then again at the time of the ultimate fruition, the three kāyas are nothing other than the actualization of this very [primordial luminosity]. Thus, it is a sublime object of veneration. And it is to this that we perform this prostration, the homage directed towards our own inherent wisdom. ‘And’ is a conjunction and connects this line with the next.
The second branch is offering. The text says:
The luminosity, transcending limits and dimensions, I offer!
Meditating on the meaning of the aforementioned dharmakaya luminosity, which is difficult to fathom and without centre or circumference, is the ultimate offering. From such a state, we then consider that we emanate ordinary offering substances like fresh water and so on until they pervade throughout the whole of space, just like the offering-clouds of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra. By making offerings like this, we will complete the two accumulations.
The third branch is confession of negativity. The text says:
In the expanse of the sameness of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, I confess!
In the expanse of the luminosity explained above, all the phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are equally lacking in self-nature. Since this is so, we use the four powers to confess all the negative acts and impairments of vows committed by ourselves and others throughout the past, present and future. Following this, we practise confession within the expanse of luminosity, realizing the absence of true reality. This is known as ‘Confession in the Expanse of the View’ and is the king of all confession practices.
The fourth branch is rejoicing. The text says:
In the great exhaustion of all dharmas, beyond the ordinary mind, I rejoice!
As explained above, when we arrive at the culmination of the four visions that are unique to Dzogpachenpo, we are freed from the conceptualizing of the ordinary mind and all dualistic perception fades away. At that time, all the dharmas which might perpetuate saṃsāric existence, both manifest and latent, are exhausted, and we are liberated completely in the vast expanse of the primordial ground. It is in this inconceivable occurrence that we rejoice.
The fifth branch is requesting the turning of the Dharma-wheel. The text says:
Turn the wheel of the teachings of the spontaneously perfect Dzogpachenpo!
All the points of the teachings of Dzogpachenpo—the Great Perfection—included within the three categories of ground, path and fruition, may be explained in terms of both primordial purity (kadak) and spontaneous perfection (lhundrup). Although the text here emphasizes the appearance aspect of spontaneous perfection, this does not imply the exclusion of the aspect of primordial purity. So here the expression ‘spontaneously perfect’ is used to refer to the path of Dzogpachenpo as a whole. Making this request for the vast wheel of the teachings of this two-fold path to be turned continuously, we call upon the deities of the field of merit to listen and respond.
Sixthly, there is the branch of prayer. The text says:
Stir the depths of saṃsāra, I pray!
Here we request the buddhas and bodhisattvas residing in the infinite realms throughout every direction not to pass into nirvāṇa, but to remain for as long as saṃsāra remains, and to stir saṃsāric existence from its very depths.
Seventh, there is the branch of dedicating virtue. The text says:
In the absolute state, free of subject, object or activity, I dedicate!
We dedicate all the merit accumulated by all beings throughout the three times, represented here by the merit produced through the first six branches beginning with prostration, towards ultimately passing beyond suffering. We should perform the dedication out of a state that is unspoiled by any clinging to the true reality of the three conceptual spheres, i.e., the act of dedication, the virtues that are its object, and the subject, the one performing the dedication.
These are the seven branches, which include all the methods for completing the accumulations.
2. The Main Practice
Having finished our examination of the preliminaries essential to the sang offering, we move on to the actual practice itself. This has three sections: blessing of the offering substances, identifying those to whom the offering is made, and the manner in which the offering is made.
Blessing of the Offering Substances
The text says:
In the vast lustrous vessel, made of the essence of various jewels,
The samaya substances, all the desirable objects in worldly existence, are
Transformed into the nectar of wisdom through the blessing of the three seed syllables OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ.
So that all that appears and exists becomes an offering of all that is desirable.
Out of a state in which there is no focusing upon phenomena—represented here by the offering substances—recite ‘Bhrūṃ’ (pronounced ‘droom’) the seed syllable of the Uṣnīṣa Universal Monarch Tantra. As you do so, consider that the torma container transforms into a vast and lustrous vessel made of the essence of various jewels and as large as the world itself. Inside it are all the desirable objects in worldly existence in the form of samaya substances—the five meats and the five nectars. Then visualize the three seed syllables OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ, one above the other, symbolizing the body, speech and mind of all the buddhas. Through the emanation and re-absorption of light-rays, the blessings of all the buddhas throughout the ten directions are gathered together and dissolve into the three seed syllables. They in turn become filled with light and start to melt. Mixing inseparably with the nectar they take on the essence of wisdom nectar and the form of offering goddesses in countless emanations. Through this blessing, consider that all phenomena included within the categories of all that appears—the outer environment—and all that exists—the beings within it—gather together, transformed into vast offering clouds of all that is desirable.
This was the identification of the offering substances.
Those to Whom One Offers
The text says:
This I offer to the lamas, yidams, ḍākinīs, dharmapālas and
All the mandalas of the buddhas of the ten directions,
To the local deities of this world, beings of the six realms and the guests to whom I owe karmic debts.
And especially to those who would steal my life and deplete my life force,
To the malicious jungpo demons who inflict sickness and obstacles,
Bad signs in dreams and all types of evil omens,
The eight classes of negative spirits, the masters of magical illusions,
And those to whom I owe karmic debts of food, place and wealth,
To forces that bring obscuration and madness, to the shades of men and women dead.
To all the spirits, terangs, ghouls and female ghosts!
Here all the recipients of the offering are explained according to the categories of the four types of guest.
Firstly, there are the guests invited out of respect—the Three Jewels. The glorious Lama, first of all, is the source of blessings and the embodiment of the Three Jewels. The yidam deities of the mandalas are the sources of accomplishment, and are included under the Buddha Jewel. Ḍākinīs are included in the inner Sangha of vidyādharas. Then there are also the dharmapālas. In short, this includes all the inconceivable mandalas of buddhas residing throughout the infinite buddha-fields of the ten directions.
Then there are the guests invited on account of their qualities—the protectors. This refers to the local deities of every place and continent, represented by those of our own continent of Jambudvīpa—the earth-lords, devas and nāgas, the planetary and stellar forces, guardians of the directions, terrifying ones and great kings. There are also the seventy-five glorious protectors of pure abodes together with their retinues.
Next, there are the guests of the six classes invited out of compassion. This refers to beings wandering throughout the six classes, each tormented by their own particular sufferings, i.e., the gods, demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings.
Furthermore, there are the guests to whom we owe karmic debt, and especially those who would steal our life-spirit, deplete our life-force or kill us. There are the malicious jungpo demons, beings who create obstacles such as sickness. And there are the arrogant spirits of this world who bring bad signs in dreams and all types of evil omens. There are the eight classes of negative spirits, the masters of magical illusions. And, in particular, there are those to whom we have not repaid our karmic debts, to whom we owe food, dwelling places, wealth and possessions. Furthermore there are those forces, male and female, that bring us impurity and obstructions. There are demons that cause insanity and illness. There are the ghosts of men and women who have died. There are the spirits of the dead included in the class of pretas, or hungry ghosts. There are the terangs and the ghouls who inhabit towns and other places. In short, the ‘karmic creditor’ guests include all the obstructing spirits of the various classes of ghosts and demons, male and female.
How the Offering is Made
The text says:
Now all my karmic debts are paid, burnt in the scarlet flames.
Whatever each one desires, may the objects of their desires rain down:
For as far and as long as space exists
I dedicate an inexhaustible amount of sensual stimulants!
May my negative actions and obscurations accumulated in past, present and future,
And misuse of the offerings made to the Three Jewels, in devotion and for the dead,
Be purified in the fire of this sang offering!
Let its flames fill the entire universe and every minute particle of flame
Become an inexhaustible cloud of offerings like Samantabhadra’s
Pervading throughout all the buddha realms!
May these flames, offering rays of five-coloured lights of wisdom,
Pervade throughout the six classes of beings, down to the Avīci Hells,
The three realms of saṃsāra be liberated into the rainbow body,
And all sentient beings awaken into the heart of enlightenment!
Whatever karmic debts we may have as a result, for example, of protection granted to us by our superiors, or reverence shown to us by our inferiors, they are all repaid through the offerings made to the scarlet flames: burnt away and purified. Through this act, all the different guests are satisfied, and they receive a great downpour of all that their minds desire. We dedicate this by saying:
‘For as far and as long as space exists, may this great shower of desirable objects rain down and become an inexhaustible supply of the five sensual stimulants!
‘Through the power of this dedication, may all our negative actions and obscurations of the past, present and future, particularly our misuse of offerings made to the Three Jewels, in devotion and for the dead—whatever obscures us on the paths and bhūmis—be purified completely in the fire of this sang offering!
‘And similarly, let the flames of the sang offering fill the entire universe—the whole of appearance and existence—and may every minute particle of flame become a limitless and inexhaustible cloud of offerings like Samantabhadra’s, pervading throughout all the Buddha realms of the ten directions!
‘At the same time, from the tips of these flames—visualized as the five-coloured light of wisdom—may multi-coloured rays of light appear emanating clouds of offering! May these rays pervade throughout the six classes of beings, but especially in the Avīci Hell of ultimate torment, and there may they bring cooling bliss and relief!
‘May all the negative karma, harmful actions and obscurations accumulated throughout saṃsāra without beginning be purified! May the three realms of saṃsāra—the desire, form and formless realms—be liberated into the rainbow body! And may all sentient beings awaken into the heart of complete and unsurpassable enlightenment!’
Actualizing the visualizations that correspond to the recited text, recite OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand or one hundred thousand times or more.
3. The Conclusion
This has three sections: dedication, aspiration and requesting activity.
The text says:
All is purified into the three kāyas: the environment, a heavenly place where
Dharmakaya, sambhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya—appearance and the form aggregates of existence
Melt into nectar, flooding the whole expanse of the sky with rainbow light.
saṃsāra is liberated into nirvāṇa; this essence of immaculate nectar,
I share with all those who, from beginningless time until now,
Have been guests in worldly existence.
The whole of appearance and existence is pure in its nature of the three kāyas. This is because the five elements of the outer environment (i.e. the ‘vessel’) are, in their pure nature, the five buddha-consorts; the contents—the five aggregates—are, in their pure nature, the five buddhas; and the eight consciousnesses of the mental continuum are, in their pure nature, the five wisdoms. Therefore, the vast and secret Akaniṣṭha pure realm, which is the space of the five buddha-consorts—the five elements of the outer environment in their utter purity—has the nature of a palace. And the aggregates, elements and sense sources that are found within this sphere, are, in their purity, the mandalas of buddhas of the dharmakaya, sambhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya.
Inanimate appearance (i.e. the ‘container’ that is the outer environment) and the form aggregates of animate existence are blessed and thereby melt into amṛta nectar (symbolizing the destruction of the māras), until no part remains unchanged. The steam and vapours from the amṛta* appear in the form of rainbow-coloured light, which floods the whole expanse of the sky, and saṃsāra itself is liberated into nirvāṇa. Through this method, we can amass immaculate virtue and, by doing so, overcome all our negative emotions. This is the quintessential ‘amṛta’, the virtue that we dedicate.
As for the objects to whom we dedicate, they are the guests in worldly existence who have wandered throughout the three realms of saṃsāra from beginningless time until now—all sentient beings who have been our very own parents. We dedicate to them in a state that is free from the three conceptual spheres.
The aspiration appears in the next five verses. Firstly:
Having attained all the noble qualities of the stages, paths and fruition,
And dispelled all obstacles in view, meditation and action,
Within the sky-like space of Samantabhadra’s wondrous wisdom mind,
May we seize the stronghold of the youthful vase body!
Through the power of all this accumulated virtue, may we attain all the noble qualities as we gradually traverse the five paths and ten stages which culminate in the ten strengths, four fearlessnesses and so on at the level of fruition! In this way, may we accomplish spontaneously the welfare of ourselves and others! May all obstacles in our view, meditation and action be dispelled! And ultimately, within the sky-like space of Samantabhadra’s wondrous wisdom mind, may we seize the stronghold of the youthful vase body—the inner clarity that is ‘youthful’ because it is clear wisdom with its own powers perfectly complete, but is contained within ‘a vase body’ since it is not yet manifest.
And when at last the great ocean of saṃsāra is emptied,
May all beings attain buddhahood in the Lotus Net of Akaniṣṭha!
Having attained complete enlightenment and secured our own wellbeing, we will go on to act uninterruptedly for the benefit of others. So we make the following aspiration: ‘When at last the great ocean of saṃsāra is emptied, may all beings attain buddhahood in the pure realm of Akaniṣṭha, the untainted ‘Lotus Net’ extending throughout the whole of space!’
The aspiration continues:
The sang offerings of the aggregates and elements blaze in vivid, brilliant splendour!
The sang offerings of red and white bodhicitta blaze in bliss and emptiness!
The sang offerings of emptiness and compassion fill the dharmadhātu!
Upon the ground of five-coloured vajra light of phenomenal existence, saṃsāra and nirvāṇa,
I offer the sang offering of spontaneously accomplished perfect buddhahood.
May all my karmic debts from the past be purified!
In the present so they do not remain in my mind-stream, I confess them!
In the future, may I never be drawn into the wheel of obscuration!
Through making a sang offering of the impure aggregates, elements and sense sources as the blazing forms of peaceful and wrathful deities, our ordinary bodies are liberated into illusory enlightened forms of vivid, brilliant splendour. Through making a sang offering of the ordinary red and white bodhicitta in the fiery expanse of wisdom, the wisdom of the unity of bliss and emptiness blazes supremely. The sang offering of indivisible emptiness and compassion fills the dharmadhātu.
Upon the ground of the blazing five-coloured vajra light of all the phenomena of appearance and existence, saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, we perform this sang offering for the attainment of precious, spontaneously accomplished, perfect buddhahood. Through the power of this, may all our karmic debts from past lifetimes be purified! In the present, we confess our harmful actions and transgressions so they do not remain in our mind-streams. And in future, through this confession, may we never again be drawn into the cycle of obscuration!
The text continues:
All impairments of the vows of individual liberation, bodhisattva precepts,
And samayas of the vidyādharas,
Conscious or unwitting, I openly admit.
May illness, harmful influence, obscurations and impurities be purified!
May this age of plague, famine and warfare be pacified!
The outer vows of individual liberation, the inner vows of the bodhisattvas, and the secret vows of the vidyādharas each have their own unique system detailing what is to be adopted and what is to be avoided. In the first of these it is primarily refraining from certain proscribed negative actions that is taught; in the second it is the precepts of accumulating virtue and maturing sentient beings; and in the third it is the various samaya commitments of the extremely secret mantra vehicle. We openly admit and confess all our impairments of these vows and commitments, incurred consciously or unwittingly. Through this confession, may all our illnesses, harmful influences, obscurations and impurities arising from the transgression of our vows and commitments be purified! May all the calamities of this age and place, such as plague, famine and warfare, be pacified!
The text continues:
May the attacks of invaders be repelled!
May the forces that create obstacles by inviting the spiritual teacher to leave this world be averted!
May inauspicious bad omens for the land of Tibet be averted!
May the planetary forces, nāgas and arrogant king-like spirits, who cut short the breath of life, be repelled!
May the eight great fears and sixteen lesser fears be overcome!
For me and all those around me, may all that is inauspicious be averted!
May the powers and strength of samaya-breakers and gongpo demons be averted!
May the attacks of invaders, or of barbarian armies coming from the four border regions towards Lhasa in order to destroy representations of the enlightened body, speech and mind, or to carry them off as plunder, be repelled!
May all the forces that create obstacles by inviting spiritual teachers to leave this world for the realms of peace be averted!
May all inauspicious bad omens for the land of Tibet be averted!
May the planetary forces, nāgas and arrogant king-like spirits, who so abruptly cut short the breath of beings’ life, be repelled!
May the eight great fears of fire, drowning, wild animals and so on and the sixteen lesser fears be overcome!
May all that is inauspicious, for me and all those living around me, be averted!
May the powers and strength of obstructive samaya-breakers and the hosts of gongpo demons be averted!
When offering sang in this way, practise as indicated in the ritual for the fire offering, with 108 sang burners and various kinds of wood.
As for the benefits of this practice, the sang text says:
Through this diamond-like practice of Riwo Sangchö, one will be able to ‘ransom’ death, purify the misuse of offerings and avert the various kinds of obstacle. I, Lhatsün the illusory manifestation, wrote this without error in accordance with the ḍākinī’s instructions when revealing the hidden land of Sikkim.
Gya. Gya. Gya.
The explanation provided here may be applied to more elaborate or briefer versions of the sang offering text as appropriate.
It is in the lotus grove of the pure scholarly tradition of scripture
That the sublime masters take their pleasure and delight, but
For those continuously engaged in village ceremonies, this donkey’s voice
May still provide some amusement with its garden of assorted advice.
From the stream of elegant sayings that benefit the teachings,
I have not taken even so much as a droplet on the tip of a blade of kuśa grass,
Yet this garland of words that I have laboured to produce,
May still contain some moisture drawn from the clouds of Dharma.
Through the merit of this, may all beings
Find immediate relief from sickness, evil influence and fear of harm,
And ultimately, may they be freed from the torment of the negative emotions,
Always abiding by what is good and virtuous!
This explanation of sang offering, entitled ‘The Gentle Rain of Benefit and Joy’ was composed in response to the request of one named Samantabhadra. Not having seen many histories like this before, and recognizing that people these days take special delight in this practice as a method for improving the conditions of their present life, it was done mainly to be of benefit at this particular time. I, the Dharma-preaching monk, Gyalse Shenpen Taye, wrote down quickly whatever came to my mind in my hermitage ‘The Palace of Great Bliss’ at the monastery of Rudam Orgyen Samten Chöling. May virtue increase!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2006. Root verses of Riwo Sangchö courtesy of Rigpa Translations.
‘The Life-Force Practice of the Vidyādharas’. ↩
The story of the householder Śrīgupta is found in Khenpo Sangye Tendzin’s commentary to Sakya Paṇḍita’s Elegant Sayings (Sakya Lekshe). In the story, Śrīgupta is persuaded by a false teacher to set a trap for the Buddha and offer him some poisonous food. When the Buddha foils his plans, Śrīgupta is repentant, and the Buddha makes him repeat the following verse three times:
Attachment, aversion and ignorance,
These are the three worldly poisons,
The victorious buddhas possess no such poison.
The enlightened ones conquer poison through truth.
(This verse is then repeated with the Dharma and the Saṅgha in place of ‘the victorious buddhas’.) And:
All that is poisonous,
And any living beings possessing poison—
All this arises from the poison of attachment.
Attachment is the greatest of all poisons.
(This verse is then repeated for aversion and ignorance). ↩
This refers to the practice of removing water from the ear by pouring in even more water. ↩
The three appearances occur at the moment of death as the father’s white essence descends, the mother’s red essence ascends and the two meet at the heart. ↩
Dzogchen Monastery. ↩