Mandala offering (མཎྡལ་འབུལ་བ) is a preliminary practice for accumulating merit, in which one symbolically offers the entire universe to the field of merit.
The mandala offering, a symbolic representation of the purified world system is offered to the lama. It is made formally and ceremonially when disciples request a lama to teach or to live long.
In informal daily practice a practitioner offers a mandala of the purified universe to acquire merit and attain realizations. Representing all the bountiful riches of the universe, it is considered the most meritorious object that can be offered.
Making such an offering is thus a powerful aid to the practitioner on the path to Buddhahood. When making the mandala offering, visualising ourselves as the lama’s best disciple, we offer ourselves to him in order to serve all sentient beings.
The Thirty-seven Point Mandala Offering composed by Chögyal Pakpa is a famous practice of mandala offering. The thirty-seven points are:
1) Mount Meru
2-5) The four continents
6-13) The eight subcontinents
14) The jewel mountain
15) The wish-fulfilling tree
16) The wish-fulfilling cow
17) The harvest, which needs no sowing
18-24) The seven attributes of royalty
25) The vase of great treasure
26-33) The eight offering goddesses
34) The sun
35) The moon
36) The precious umbrella
37) The royal banner victorious in all directions
The 37 Point Mandala Offering
by Chögyal Pakpa Lodrö Gyaltsen
om benza bhumi ah hung
oṃ vajrabhūmi āḥ hūṃ
shyi yongsu dakpa wangchen ser gyi sa shyi
The earth is the golden ground, completely pure, full of beauty and power.
om benza rekhé ah hung
oṃ vajrarekhe āḥ hūṃ
chi chakri khoryuk gi korwé ü su hung
The circular iron mountain wall completely surrounds it; in the centre is the letter hūṃ—
ri gyalpo rirab
Meru, the king of mountains;
shar lüpakpo lho dzambuling
In the East is Pūrva Videha, in the South is Jambudvīpa,
nub balangchö jang draminyen
In the West is Aparagodaniya, in the North is Uttarakuru.
lü dang lüpak ngayab dang ngayab shyen
Beside them are Deha and Videha, Cāmara and Aparacāmara,
yoden dang lamchok dro
Śāthā and Uttaramantriṇa,
draminyen dang draminyen gyi da
Kurava and Kaurava.
rinpoche riwo paksam gyi shing
The jewel mountain, the wish-fulfilling trees,
döjöba mamöpé lotok
The wish-fulfilling cows, the harvest which needs no sowing,
khorlo rinpoche norbu rinpoche
The precious wheel, the precious gem,
tsünmo rinpoche lönpo rinpoche
The precious queen, the precious minister,
langpo rinpoche tachok rinpoche
The precious elephant, the precious horse,
makpön rinpoche ter chenpö bumpa
The precious general, the Vase of Great Treasure,
The goddess of beauty, the goddess of garlands,
The goddess of song, the goddess of dance,
The goddess of flowers, the goddess of incense,
The goddess of light, the goddess of perfume,
ཉི་མ།། ཟླ་བ།། རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་གདུགས།།
nyima dawa rinpoche duk
The sun, the moon, the precious umbrella,
chok lé nampar gyalwé gyaltsen
The royal banner victorious in all directions:
lha dang mi paljor pünsum tsokpa matsangwa mepa
There is all the bountiful wealth of gods and men, complete and flawless—
tsawa dang gyüpar chepé palden lama dampa nam dang yidam kyilkhor gyi lhatsok sangye dang changchub sempé tsok dang chepa nam la
To the root lama in all his compassion, to the glorious, sacred lineage lamas, to the victorious yidam deities and all the deities of their mandalas, to the buddhas and all the bodhisattvas I offer.
tukjé drowé döndu shyé su sol
Please accept it, with compassion, for the benefit of beings
shyé né jingyi lab tu sol
Having accepted it, please grant your blessing!
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
sa shyi pö chü juk shing métok tram
The ground is purified with scented water and strewn with flowers.
rirap ling shyi nyi dé gyenpa di
It is adorned with Sumeru, the king of mountains, the four quarters of the universe, and the sun and the moon;
sangyé shying du mik té pulwa yi
Thinking of it as the blessed buddha-fields, I offer it.
dro kun namdak shying la chöpar shok
By virtue of this offering, may all beings here and now attain the happiness of that pure land!
idam ratna mendala kam nirya tayami
Objects Offered in the Mandala of 37 Heaps
1. Mt. Meru: Place a heap of grain in the center of the base to represent Mt. Meru, which has four faces, each of a different precious substance:
o The eastern face is made of radiant, silvery crystal.
o The southern face is of bright blue lapis lazuli.
o The western face is of ruby.
o The northern face is of gold.
Each jeweled face of Mt. Meru radiates dazzlingly, and its reflection accounts for the color of the sea, sky and world on its respective side.
The top of Mt. Meru is flat and square, like a plateau. Here are found the four guardian kings, and the palace of the worldly gods, who have incredible enjoyments.
The shape of the mountain resembles an inverted pyramid with the apex buried beneath its lower levels. There are eight lower levels, which are like eight steps all around the bottom of the mountain. Only four of these are above the ocean, visible to the eye, while the other four are beneath the ocean. The asura realm is located where the water meets Mt. Meru. The sura realms are located on the upper four levels or steps. Here they have enjoyments a hundred times greater than those found in America! Above the fourth level is the god realm, Tushita.
2. The Eastern World: It is white and semi-circular like a half-moon. The people who live there are tall and very beautiful with half-moon-shaped faces. They have subdued minds and limitless possessions. They always enjoy a high status and live for three hundred years. They eat rice and vegetables. They are a quiet, peaceful people who never fight, but they have no religion.
3. The Southern World (this is our world): It is blue and trapezoidal (similar to the canopy of an Indian rickshaw). The inhabitants' faces are the same shape as their world, as is true of all the worlds. Here, many people have high realizations.
4. The Western World: It is red and circular. The people here have round faces, live for five hundred years and have infinite enjoyments.
5. The Northern World: It is yellow and square. The people here have square faces and beautiful bodies made of light. They live for a thousand years. The standard of life is god-like: there is no fighting, food grows in abundance; the moment one is born one receives everything one needs. Because there is very little suffering there is no desire for religion and the people are unaware of death. But seven days before they die, they hear a voice whispering, telling them where they will be reborn and what sufferings they will experience.
There are not many examples of suffering in the western, northern and eastern worlds, so it is very difficult for those people to practice Dharma.
6-13. Each world has two smaller, similarly shaped and colored worlds on either side of it. These are the next eight heaps of grain on the base. First put a heap to the left of the main world, then one to the right (i.e. for the eastern world, put the first heap in the south-east and the second in the north-east, then move on to the southern world.)
The next four objects are called the four "precious things." They are the particular enjoyments of each of the four worlds; things that the inhabitants of each world enjoy the most. We should visualize them in the aspect of offerings, but think that in essence they are realizations of the Dharma. They are to be visualized floating in the sky above their respective world.
14. The Precious Mountain (east): This is a huge mountain made of the seven precious gems: gold, silver, lapis, coral, diamonds, pearls and emeralds.
15. The Wish-Granting Tree (south): It is huge and made of the seven precious gems: its roots are gold, trunk is silver, branches are lapis lazuli, leaves are emeralds, with sapphire buds, pearl flowers and diamond fruit. Thinking of whatever you wish for and praying to the tree, your needs pour down from it like rain. This is by the power of the object. When its leaves rustle, they make the sound of Dharma. The people of the southern world like fruit, so this tree is their particular enjoyment.
16. The Wish-Fulfilling Cow (west): This cow is also made of jewels: with diamond horns, sapphire hooves and a tail like the wish-granting tree. Its body is golden-orange colored, healthy and very beautiful. Its excrement is gold. Whatever one desires springs forth from its pores. It also gives unceasing milk.
17. The Uncultivated Harvest (north): These are crops that grow unceasingly, without needing to be cultivated. Its fruit is perfect: skinless and clean, easy to pick (just falls off in one's hand), beautiful and delicious, satisfying all desires.
(If using four rings, place the second ring at this point. If using three rings, the second ring is placed later.)
The next seven objects are the seven possessions of a chakravartin (wheel-turning) or universal monarch; offering them creates the cause to become such a monarch. The qualities of these objects are explained in the Heruka Lama Chöpa.6
18. The Precious Wheel (east): This is a vehicle for the universal monarch, actualized by and propelled by his great stock of merit. It travels very fast—it can cover the four worlds and the god realms in a day—and can carry the monarch and his entire retinue to any part of the universe he wishes to go to.
Made of gold, with a thousand spokes, it's very bright, like the sun. The wheel is symbolic, when offering it, dedicate: "By offering this precious wheel, may I and all sentient beings achieve complete control over Dharma activities (like Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama). By understanding the different levels and so on of sentient beings and teaching them accordingly, may I lead all of them to enlightenment."
Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, by understanding different beings' capabilities, intelligence, merit, etc., can show various methods without error, and not only through his speech but also in various manifestations. He possesses all realizations of the words and their meanings. So by offering the precious wheel we pray to be able to do the same. This is the benefit of offering this wheel.
19. The Precious Jewel (south): This is an eight-sided wish-fulfilling jewel made of lapis lazuli. It is as bright as the sun, can make night like day-time, and emits light rays of five colors that can be seen for thousands of miles. These rays bring all success and whatever is needed by sentient beings. When we're tormented by heat they make us feel cool; when it's cold they provide warmth. They bring all happiness and prevent illness and untimely death to all those within their range. They also fulfill whatever Dharma wishes sentient beings have.
Dedicate: "By offering this precious jewel, may all sentient beings have their Dharma wishes fulfilled perfectly."
20. The Precious Queen (west): She is extremely beautiful, charming, has a camphor-scented body and sweet-smelling upali-flowered breath. Perfectly dressed, she has a calm, subdued mind and gives good vibrations. She is free of the five faults of women: greed or miserliness with men and other objects, jealousy, anger and pride; and possesses the eight qualities of a perfect lady: harmonious mind, bearing only sons, of noble birth, of high caste, free of jealousy towards other women, does not gossip or hold wrong views, and remains unaffected by objects of the senses. She bestows bliss and freedom from hunger and thirst on any being who touches her. Her mind is endowed with love and compassion; she grants all success and guides all beings from physical and mental suffering.
Dedicate: "By offering this precious queen, may all sentient beings enjoy the non-contaminated, non-deluded great bliss of aryas."
21. The Precious Minister (north): He has renounced all non-Dharma actions, so all his projects are Dharma-related and for the benefit of others. He is never treacherous or harmful, but always acts with love. He never gets upset about or tired of working for others. He spontaneously carries out the wishes of the universal monarch without having to be asked (he is able to read the monarch's mind). He is extremely wise and skillful in all situations and in directing the activities of the entourage and the army.
Dedicate: "By offering this precious minister may all sentient beings fulfill exactly all the wishes of the buddhas."
22. The Precious Elephant (south-east): He is as large and as white as a snow mountain and as strong as a thousand ordinary elephants. He is so wise, skillful and alert that he doesn't need to be led by a rope; a fine thread is enough. He is decorated like a ceremonial elephant. He has a large penis, and his trunk, tail and testicles touch the ground. He carries the universal monarch wherever he wants to go without needing to be ordered—he can read his master's mind. He can travel around the universe three times in a day, without shaking or disturbing the rider's body. He is peaceful, never violent or harmful to others; perfectly obedient, incredibly wise and able to conquer all opposing forces.
Dedicate: "By offering this precious elephant may all sentient beings ride the supreme great vehicle to enlightenment."
23. The Precious and Excellent Horse (south-west): Is white, of perfect shape, size and color, is decorated with the jeweled crown of the devas, a jeweled saddle and various jeweled ornaments. He can travel around the universe three times in one day, and never gets tired or sick. He is very wise and subdued and can be led by a thread; a bridle is not necessary. He is magnificent-looking, and protects his rider from harm.
Dedicate: "By offering this precious, excellent horse, may all sentient beings attain mundane and supra-mundane psychic powers." (Offering the precious horse creates the cause to achieve clairvoyance.)
24. The Precious General (north-west): He never harms others as he has totally abandoned all non-Dharma actions. However he can never be defeated in battle. He intuitively knows the wishes of his ruler, and never tires in his service. He leads large armies of horses, elephants, chariots and foot soldiers. In times of struggle and hardship visualizing the precious general prevents you from being harmed by others (the would-be harmers are subdued) and protects you from poverty.
Dedicate: "By offering the precious general may all sentient beings become holders of the entire collection of teachings."
According to Lama Tsongkhapa, the precious householder is offered at this time, instead of the precious general, who is included with the precious minister. The precious householder has many possessions and jewels: all sentient beings are pleased to see him.
25. The Great Treasure Vase (north-east): It is made of gold, and decorated with jewels. It has a flat base, large belly and long neck, like a Greek urn. The neck is decorated with cloth from the deva realms, and the vase has a beautiful tree as a stopper. The vase contains various treasures and grants all wishes.
(If using four rings, place the third one at this point. If using three rings, place the second.)
26. The Goddess Of Beauty (east): She is white, she stands in an S-shaped dancing posture with hands on her hips, holding a vajra in each hand. She exhibits her beauty through dancing and moving her body.
27. The Goddess Of Garlands (south): She is yellow-colored and very beautiful. She holds a rosary made of precious vajras with both hands at her breasts; with this she grants initiations to whomever comes before her.
28. The Goddess Of Song (west): She is pink-colored; she plays a lute and sings, offering the music to all beings.
29. The Goddess Of Dance (north): She is multi-colored: her face and feet are white, neck and breasts are pink, hands and hips are blue and her thighs are light yellow. She holds a vajra in each hand, with her right hand on her head and left hand on her left hip.
30. The Goddess Of Flowers (south-east): She is bright yellow; in her left hand she holds a vase containing a vajra and flowers. She scatters the flowers in the air with her right hand.
31. The Goddess Of Incense (south-west): She is white; in her right hand she holds an incense burner at the level of her shoulder. The incense totally satisfies whoever it's offered to. Her left hand is in the threatening gesture at her left shoulder.
32. The Goddess Of Light (north-west): She is pink and holds a beautiful lamp on her left shoulder with her right hand held over her head. Her left hand is at her heart.
33. The Goddess Of Perfume (north-east): She is rainbow-colored. In her left hand at her heart she holds a conch shell containing a vajra and beautifully scented sandal water. With her right hand she sprinkles this perfume in all directions.
These eight goddesses, visualized in space above the first level of Mt. Meru,7 are the emanations of your own transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and emptiness. They should be visualized as young and very beautiful. They have slender waists, enchanting faces with fine blue eyes and red lips. Their bodies are fragrant; they have soft, smooth skin which, when touched energizes great bliss. Any sounds they make are lovely to hear. Visualizing the goddesses as exquisitely beautiful in all respects is for the purpose of transforming desire into the path. Imagine that all space is filled with these goddesses.
(If using four rings, place the fourth at this point. If using three, place the third.)
34. The Sun (south): It's in the southern sky above the level of Mt. Meru. It's like a gigantic magnifying glass dispelling darkness (the darkness of sentient beings' gross and subtle delusions); like a clear lens through which hot rays are focused, and it emits brilliant rays of light. Its shape is that of a disc, with a golden fence around its edge. At its centre, stairs lead to a palace in which the children of the gods are dancing and singing.
Think about the function of the sun; for instance, how it causes crops to ripen.
The sun signifies all wisdoms, all paths: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. It signifies the clear light, which results in the dharmakaya. The sun is absolute bodhicitta; it dispels the darkness of ignorance grasping at true existence, the root of samsara.
35. The Moon (north): The moon, in the northern sky, is the same size as the sun and is equal to the sun in brightness. Usually, the sun's light obscures the moon but in the mandala the light of both pervade the world. The moon is also disc-shaped, with a fence around its edge and a palace at its centre where the children of the gods are singing and dancing. The moon causes samsara to cease; its two edges are the two extremes which it eliminates. The light of the moon has the power to dispel sentient beings' gross obscurations.
The moon symbolizes method, the methods of the three vehicles; also conventional bodhicitta, whose root is compassion. Its light extinguishes the darkness of the self-cherishing attitude, so that we naturally come to cherish others. The light also prevents us from falling into the blissful state of self-liberation.
The moon and the sun are visualized together because method and wisdom, bodhicitta and emptiness, should be practiced together, simultaneously. From the tantric viewpoint the sun represents the clear light of wisdom and the moon represents the illusory body. Visualize that the light of the sun and moon dispels the darkness of the obscurations and ignorance of all sentient beings. By visualizing like this you create the cause to achieve the entire path, both the method and wisdom aspects, that result in attaining the rupakaya and dharmakaya. The sun and moon are also offerings of light.
36. The Precious Parasol (east): Its handle is of lapis lazuli encrusted with jewels and gold. Its thousand spokes are of gold, and it is crowned with an eight-sided sapphire. The canopy is white and has a fringe hanging all around; the ends of the fringe are richly decorated with various jewels, some of which are like magnifying glasses and emit powerful light. There are also strands of pearls hanging from the edge; from the jewels and pearls come a flow of nectar that eliminates the true sufferings and true causes of suffering of all sentient beings. There are small glass vases hanging from the fringe from which nectar pours as an offering to the buddhas. This nectar also quenches the thirst and alleviates the suffering of those beings who suffer from thirst. There are also small bells making very sweet Dharma sounds in praise of the Buddha and teaching sentient beings according to their level.
This parasol is similar to the one that the naga king, Maitri, offered to Lord Buddha. Its essence is all the qualities of the cessations, the abandonment of the two obscurations. The parasol can provide extensive protection from suffering and offering it creates the cause for oneself to become an object of refuge, able to save sentient beings from the heat of samsara.
37. The Banner Of Victory Throughout All Directions (west): It has a jeweled shaft with three pieces of cloth hanging from it. There are innumerable small bells hanging from the banner making pleasant tinkling sounds. The banner is illustrated with different symbols, such as an eight-legged lion and a special kind of fish. Its top is crowned with a half-moon and an eight-sided sapphire.
The essence of the banner is all qualities of all realizations. It symbolizes total victory; by offering it we create the cause to be victorious over the four maras. We also create the cause to be able to benefit others perfectly by leading them according to their level, and to liberate them from the fears and sufferings of samsara. It brings about the auspicious conditions for us to realize the Dharma and thus become a holder of the banner of the teachings, like Vajradhara.
In times of trouble, banners were placed on the roofs of monasteries to overcome negative forces. By putting the banner in the front of the mandala, we create the cause to have perfect listening, reflecting and meditation, and to become a holder of all Dharma teachings.
Now place three heaps in the center, symbolizing the realizations of the body, speech and mind of the merit field; by offering these we create the cause to be able to attain them. Then place the mandala top. With a small amount of grain in both hands, hold up the mandala.
"...u.su lha.dang mi..." —"at the center are all possessions precious to gods and humans..." Visualize clouds of offerings floating in space above the center of the mandala. These include: your body, wealth and all your merits of the three times as well as all the various enjoyments of gods and humans.
As you recite the prayer, mentally offer all that brings pleasure to the five senses. Imagine that you are offering everything, not leaving anything out: all the possessions of gods and humans as well as all the wonderful things that exist throughout the ten directions and are not possessed by anyone.
· Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, Objects Offered in the Mandala of 37 heaps.
· Rigpa Shedra, Thirty-Seven Point Mandala Offering
· Mandala Offering, Lotsawa House
· The importance of Offerings, Jampaling.org