The Serkyem offering set is used for making ritual offerings to Dharma-protectors and guardians. Literally, serkyem means “golden-drink.” Often serkyems are filled with black-tea and various grains such as hulled barley, rice, or wheat. Other offerings might include fruits, cookies, breads, and alcohol.
Serkyem, in Tibetan " Ser" literally means golden and "Kyem" means beverage. Despite the existence of Serkyem-offering liturgies composed by High Lamas to certain Yidams, it remains largely a unique aspect of the Dharma Protector practice.
In the ancient times, the lamas developed this practice as an extended offering to the Dharma Protector to request for swift assistance. Hence, the Serkyem offering has become extremely popular among modern practitioners who seek assistance especially in times of dire need.
The Serkyem offering is traditionally offered by pouring the beverage into a two-tiered vessel, which consists of a taller vessel placed into a lower bowl. Naturally, the Serkyem offering is offered from a jug or a suitable pot.
During the offering, the beverage is poured into the taller vessel to the point where the liquid overflows down into the lower bowl. In Buddhism, the symbolism of the overflowing liquid is highly auspicious because it represents an abundant flow of merits, virtues, material resources and conditions that are conducive for one’s Dharma practice.
The beverage can either be poured fully into the vessel prior to the recitation of the Serkyem verses, or it can be poured a little at a time during the recitation of relevant passages throughout the liturgy.
The Serkyem vessel can be of any material such as gold, silver, copper, brass or even glass. Offering vessels that are made of precious materials are considered highly propitious, especially for lay practitioners who want to create tremendous merits and establish the closest affinity with the Protector.
In addition, the traditional Serkyem vessel that is made up of a taller central vessel and lower bowl is optional although the overflowing symbolism is an auspicious offering to the Protector. In some cases practitioners even use a tall wine glass placed inside a glass bowl as a Serkyem vessel.
Tea is traditionally offered as Serkyem because in ancient times, it was considered a precious beverage and a valuable commodity that the Tibetans imported from China. Due to its exquisite taste, it is usually offered to the Lamas, Yidams and Dharma Protectors and its golden color reflects the meaning of Serkyem. When tea is offered, it is traditionally offered piping hot as a direct request to the Dharma Protector for the swiftest assistance, heat being symbolic of rapidity.
Besides tea, Tibetan beer or alcohol can also be offered because of the Tantric meaning behind such substances. During a Tsog offering that the Tantrikas perform, a little bit of consecrated alcohol and meat is partaken to symbolize the psychic winds and bodily elements used in Tantric meditation. Hence, beer or alcohol represents Tantric attainments and is offered to the Dharma Protector as a direct request to overcome all obstacles that obstruct spiritual attainments and to bring about beneficial conditions swiftly.
Other suitable beverages that can be offered as Serkyem include milk, which symbolizes spiritual nourishment and also various types of fizzy drinks such as Coca-Cola.
The actual Serkyem offering ritual begins with the pouring of a little of the beverage into the vessel so it’s not empty (if its not already poured in full) along with a few grains of rice. The Serkyem is consecrated with three repetitions of the mantra Om Ah Hum, while purifying with incense. Then, the Serkyem liturgy is recited with each stanza describing an offering of the Serkyem to a particular being or a class of beings that play a defined role in our spiritual practice.
During the offering, the Serkyem is visualized to be divine nectar that expands to fill an entire ocean. This ocean is made out of not just the beverage that the practitioner offered but of all the desirable things in the world that excite and please the 5 senses.
This vast ocean is offered to the Protector and to the other special beings mentioned in the liturgy. In addition, the request or what the practitioner wants to achieve is visualized to come into fruition with the assistance of the Protector.
A brief explanation of the Serkyem liturgy:-
To the lineage Guru - The first stanza is an offering to the root lama whose blessings and teachings guide us along the path of attaining Compassion (Bodhichitta) and realization of Emptiness (Shunyata), the two main qualities of a Buddha.
To the Yidam - Offered to the Yidam that has been received as a practice from our Master. Examples of yidams include, Manjushri, Vajrayogini, or Guru Rinpoche, Arya Tara and Avalokestesvara. Through the yidam’s sadhana practice, we can achieve ordinary (health, wealth, clairvoyance and so forth) and extraordinary attainments (wisdom and compassion).
To the Enlightened Dakas and Dakinis - The offering of Serkyem continues by making offerings to the enlightened Dakas and Dakinis, the celestial enlightened beings that play a significant role in higher Tantric practices. This is to rouse them to come to our aid especially to make our practice successful.
To the Wisdom Dharmapalas - We offer Serkyem to the various Dharmapala Protectors like Mahakala, Palden Lhamo, Vaishravana, and so forth to create the merit to receive protection.
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Aspiration For Bodhichitta
For those in whom the precious Bodhichitta has not arisen
May it arise and not decrease
But increase further and further.
Dedication of Merit
By this merit may we obtain omniscience then.
Having defeated the enemies wrong-doings.
May we liberate migratory from the ocean of existence.
With its stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death.
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