Tormas are used not only in the tantric tradition, but also in the sutra tradition. For instance, in the past in the noble land of India, one day Ananda was in the forest in Kapilavastu. As he was contemplating the dharma, before him low down in the sky appeared a preta with fire blazing from its mouth, terrifying to look at. It said, “In seven days time you will die!” Upon hearing this, Ananda was filled with fear and then told the Bhagavan what had happened. Buddha then taught a majestic dharani mantra and immeasurable torma offering and by offering that torma, Ananda was freed from the terror of untimely death and attained many excellent qualities.
The Essence of Tormas
The Etymology of Torma
As the Precious Master, Guru Rinpoche said:
Since they do not hold, but cast away, they are called ‘tor’,
And since they pervade everything, they are called ‘ma’.
In that way, because they are given free of grasping and attachment they are described as ‘tor’ (meaning to scatter and disperse), and because they appear in front of all guests they are described as ‘ma’.
The Different Types of Guests
The different types of guests can be condensed into two types: objects of homage, and objects of generosity. To describe them in a little more detail, there are the following four types of guests:
· the guests of honor,
· the objects of refuge;
· the guest of qualities,
· the glorious protectors;
· the guests of compassion, beings of the six classes; and
· the guests of karmic debtors, negative spirits and obsctructers.
Tormas are dedicated to the guests of honor in the way that you would pay your taxes to a king (This was in context to olden days). By dedicating tormas to the first guests in that way, one gathers vast accumulations and is protected by their compassion.
They are dedicated to the guests of qualities in the way that you would give a present to a friend of equal standing. By dedicating to the second guests in that way, beneficial activities are accomplished and obstacles are prevented.
They are dedicated to the guests of compassion as a feast or banquet. By dedicating to the third guests in that way, one accomplishes the benefit of others and thereby becomes a follower of the great vehicle.
They are dedicated to the guests of karmic debtors like paying back a debt. By dedicating to the fourth guests in that way, grudges are purified and future harm is averted.
The Different Types of Torma
There seem to be many different divisions regarding tormas. For instance, if you divide them in terms of the recipients to whom they are given, you can divide tormas into:
· tormas for the gurus of blessings;
· tormas for the yidams of siddhis;
· tormas for the oath-bound dharma protectors;
· tormas for the dakinis of activities;
· tormas for the eight classes of drekpas; and
· tormas that embody all.
Alternatively, you can divide them in terms of their essence. For instance,
· accomplishment tormas,
· offering tormas,
· sustaining tormas,
· empowerment tormas and so on.
Likewise, if you divide them in terms of the principal torma and their functions, you can divide tormas into white tormas and red tormas and so forth.
The following explains the division in terms of outer, inner, and secret tormas.
· Outer torma refers to the tormas made from the three white and three sweet food substances, consecrated as the five meats and amritas, and then presented and dedicated.
· Inner torma is to arrange the torma plate of the outer vessel of the world and the torma of the inner contents of sentient beings and offer that, and to offer gathering offerings (tsok) to one’s body.
· Secret torma is to maintain the view of the great indivisibility of the truths of the purity and equality of appearance and existence. This is the torma of suchness, the most supreme of all tormas.
The Visualization of Tormas and How to Perceive them
Some tormas are visualized as celestial palaces and yidam deities. Some are visualized as wrathful weapons that are then hurled upon the enemies and obstructers. This is a sublime method for pacifying and dispelling all hindrances and adversity created by spiteful enemies and malicious obstacle-making spirits and then effortlessly establishing oneself and all others in virtuous karma.
The Commitments Connected to Tormas
· The commitment regarding practice is to offer tormas on a regular basis.
· The commitment regarding the vessel is to use a torma vessel that is not cracked or broken and that is clean.
· The commitment regarding substances is to use clean, untainted substances.
· The commitment regarding how to arrange tormas is to arrange them on a raised platform, in a straight and beautiful way.
Benefits of Tormas
Guru Padmasambhava explained:
“Tormas are the most supreme of all activities. They should precede all activities. In that way, tormas are used and needed in order to pacify illness, to increase lifespan and enjoyments, to free one from adversity, to magnetize, to free enemies and obstructers and so forth. They also act as an amendment for not fully completing the activities since all acts of amending and replenishing make use of tormas. Tormas are also needed to increase lifespan and dispel obstacles”.
As it says in The Hevajra Tantra:
To protect sentient beings’ life-force From obstructers and false guides, The vajracharyas give tormas.
Reference: A Lamp Illuminating the Path to Liberation