Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Golden Drink Offerings - Serkyem

What is the golden drink Serkyem Offering?

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. 

Thank you for reading, may you find peace and great bliss. With your support it helps to spread the Buddha’s precious teachings and turning the Dharma wheels in the world.

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.

*Note
I do not own or infringe any copyright of these pictures.
Pictures courtesy and credit to the rightful distributors and or studios.
Pictures are intended for editorial use only.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What is Tibetan Torma?

Torma in Sanskrit word is called " Balingta"  and Tormas are offering cakes and symbolize the food offering to the Buddhas, Deities.  Originally made of dough, in Tibet, it roasted barley flour is used, and also sculpted from butter, they have evolved into elaborately decorated objects.  

Since making them is time-consuming, people have begun to use clay, wood and more recently, synthetic substances. Tormas are used not only in Vajrayana, but also during the Buddha Shakyamuni times. 

Legend has it, in the past in 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 to Ananda, " In seven days time you will die," Upon hearing this, Ananda was filled with fear and then told the Buddha what had happened. 

Buddha Shakyamuni 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
Tormas are in essence the identity of indivisible basic space and wisdom

The Etymology of Tormas
Guru Rinpoche once 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" which means to scatter and disperse, and because they appear in front of all guests they are described as "Ma".
The Different Types of Guests
How many type of guests, or recipients of Tormas are there? The different types of guests can be condensed into the objects of homage and objects of generosity. To be more detailed, there are four types of guests:-
  1. The guests of honor, the objects of refuge
  2. The guests of qualities, the glorious protectors
  3. The guests of compassion, beings of the six classes
  4. The guests of karmic debtors, negative spirits
1-Tormas are dedicated to the guests of honor in the way that you would pay your taxes to the King.In that way, one gathers vast accumulations and protected by their compassion.

2-Tormas are dedicated to the guests of qualities in the way that you would give a present to a friend or equal standing.In that way, beneficial activities are accomplished and obstacles are prevented.

3-Tormas are dedicated to the guests of compassion as a feast or banquet.In that way, one accomplishes the benefit of others and thereby becomes a follower of the great vehicle.
4-Tormas are dedicated to the guests of karmic debtors, negative spirits like paying back a debt. In that way, grudges are purified and future negative and harm are averted.

Tormas have different uses. Some are created and placed on shrines for ceremonies or to represent deities. Others are used in feast practice and consumed by practitioners during the practice. Others are made to appease spirits, accumulate merit, or remove obstacles. The Tormas are mostly made of barley flour and butter, but traditionally other ingredients such as egg, milk, sugar, honey, and even meat may be included depending upon the purpose of the Torma.

The Different Types of Tormas
Deity Tormas are kept on the shrine, and represent a particular tantra deity. These Tormas vary in complexity from a very simple cone painted white for peaceful deities like Buddha, Tara and Avalokiteshvara, to very complex designs for semi-wrathful deities like Vajrayogini.
Food Tormas are used in feast practices and are consumed partially by practitioners during the feast, with leftovers offered to lower beings after being blessed. In some traditions, food Tormas are now made with more contemporary ingredients whereas others stay faithful to the barley flour tradition.
Offering Tormas may be made for and offered to deities and Dharma Protectors, to obstructing spirits, or to other lower beings. Torma for obstructing spirits are called "Gektor".
Medicine Tormas may be used in Tibetan medicine to extract an illness from a patient as a cure. The torma is then cast away.

Captured Tormas may be used to speed completion of activities, by planning to offer the torma at the completion of the activity thereby encouraging successful activity.

Inner and secret Tormas is for practicing meditation with deity visualization is considered a form of Torma offering, though no physical Torma is created and then offered. Similarly, offering one's internal emotional and mental experiences and experience of non-physical forms of Torma offerings.

Tibetan calendar is now available, please click here 

Thank you for reading, may you find peace and great bliss. With your support it helps to spread the Buddha’s precious teachings and turning the Dharma wheels in the world.

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.

*Note
I do not own or infringe any copyright of these pictures.
Pictures courtesy and credit to the rightful distributors and or studios. Pictures are intended for editorial use only.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Tibetan Sacred Lama Dance

In Tibet, the first instance of ritual dance occurred when the King Trisong Deutsen invited Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava and Abbot Shantarakshita from India and they built the glorious temple Samye Migyur Lhungyidrubpe Tsuklhag Khang  and translated many secret mantra tantras in Tibet. 
During Guru Rinpoche was consecrating the glorious temple Samye, he performed the majestic vajra stance as described in the tantras. This was the very first the ritual dance (cham dances) was created by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century in Tibet. The original purpose was to remove or destroy the obstacles to the development of Buddhism.

The face masks in Tibetan word is "zhal bag" literally means "likeness of a face" are made in the likeness of the individual deities and worn by the dancers on their faces.

One's outlook when performing a ritual Cham dance, it is taught that when performing ritual dance, you should discard all notions of your ordinary self and assume the divine pride of the deity whose dance you are performing. 


Different Type of Ritual Cham Dance
The majority can be subsumed within three categories. it is peaceful, wrathful, and semi-peaceful semi-wrathful.
Musical Instruments Accompanying The Dance
The main instruments played to accompany the dances are the cymbals and drum, the long horn, the gyaling (Tibetan oboe), kangling (short horn), the white conch, the hand drum, bell, the silnyen (another type of of cymbal) and the damaru, amongst others. Dancing is rather slow, performed to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, and sometimes they are joined by trumpet and singing of the Lama.


The Colors of the costumes
The colors vary according to the color of the deity being danced or performed. For example, they may be white, yellow, red, blue,and so on corresponding to the color of the deity and whether the deities are peaceful, magnetizing, wrathful. 
The Benefits of Ritual Cham Dance explained in the Tantra
The dance postures, ritual dances, and their many poses.
Should be performed in accord with one's practice and following the texts.
Thereby, the blessings will descend, the mamos and Dakinis will be gathered and influence, wealth, and prosperity. health will increase. 

There are many countless benefits to watch the ritual dances.When such ritual dances are being performed at monasteries on special days and occasions,we should go to watch them not for entertainment or fun, but with sincere faith,devotion and right motivation and pure perception. By doing so, it is taught that your temporary and ultimate illnesses, negative influences, and obstacles will be appeased, and you will have a good health, long life, and fulfillment of your wishes and aims. 
In the dance the Protectors cut through any obstacles in the coming year, which means clearing away of all the negativities and obstructive forces accumulated over the passing year setting the tone for the coming year to begin a new - with purity, auspiciousness and joy. 

A Lama Dance exhibits a mandala of Guru Rinpoche with the blessings from the lineage, it is also called a approach of "See and Enlightened". 

Tibetan Buddhist religious dance, performed by masked dancers enacting various religious dramas depicting subjects such as the subjugation of demons. The performance takes a few hours and consists of four parts: pacification and neutralization, subjugating and destruction:-
1) Pacification is the effectuations of the obstacles into one’s presence. 

2) Neutralization is the process of offering to the obstacles so that they have a substitute for their aggression. 

3) Subjugating is threatening the obstacles with destruction should they not obey, represented in the dancing by displaying a series of weapons. 

4) Destruction culminates in shooting an arrow of fire into a large torma that contains all obstacles. 

Dancing is rather slow, performed to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, and sometimes they are joined by trumpet and singing of the Lama.
All dancers are in bright costumes and masks that represent different deities and animals. Costumes for ritual dances are usually sewn from brocade and silk. Wide sleeves of the dresses are shaped like a quiver which symbolizes that the gods concealed a bow and arrows inside the sleeves and at any time will be able to hit enemies.

Today, Lama Dance still has the same purpose. The Lama Dances usually are performed once a year on the 28th & 29th of the last month of the year, before Losar - the Kalachakra Calendar new year, (according to Tibetan lunar calendar). 

There are two days of dancing, the first in elaborate robes, the second in full mask and ornate costume and there is another special Lama dance of Guru Rinpoche which is performed on the June 10 of Tibetan lunar calendar.

Tibetan calendar is available, please click here 
Thank you for reading, may you find peace and great bliss. With your support it helps to spread the Buddha’s precious teachings and turning the Dharma wheels in the world.

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.

*Note
I do not own or infringe any copyright of these pictures.
Pictures courtesy and credit to the rightful distributors and or studios.
Pictures are intended for editorial use only.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The golden wheel and a pair of deer

Dharma wheel or "kore-low" in the Tibetan word. The golden wheel or Dharma wheel symbolizes the auspiciousness of the turning of the precious wheel of Buddha's doctrine, both in its teachings and realizations, in all realms and at all times, enabling beings to experience the joy of wholesome deeds and liberation.

This golden wheel is also called the Dharma chakra or the Dhamma chakka and is often used to represent Buddha himself. It has also universally become the symbol for Buddhism. The Dharma wheel has eight spokes, which represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path. 
The Golden Dharma Wheel With A Pair of Deer
As Buddhists, when visiting a monastery, the first thing we see is a pair of male and female deer at either side of an eight-spokes Dharma wheel at then highest point of the monastery root.
Regarding the essential meaning of the Dharma wheel, from a historical perspective it is said to have been offered in the form of a thousand-spoke wheel to Buddha Shakyamuni by heavenly god Brahma when requesting Buddha to teach the sacred Dharma. 

At that moment, from the forest came a pair of male and female deer, the deer is also commonly known as the "krishnasara antelope" of compassion. With unblinking gaze, the pair of deer looked at the wheel with joy and delight and subsequently, Shakyamuni Buddha related the noble eightfold path with the wheel.

Likewise, the Buddha related the male and female beings whose mind streams are touched by the path with the pair of deer. Ever since then, the golden Dharma wheel flanked by a pair of deer has been a special symbol for Buddhists.
The symbolism of the deer
The male (on the right) and female (on the left) deer represent both male and female disciples who one-pointedly enjoy and take pleasure in listening to the teachings of the sacred Dharma. The pair of deer represent skillful means and wisdom, Buddha hood can be attained.
The symbolism of the Dharma wheel
The eight-spokes wheel represents the first turning of the Dharma wheel by the Buddha Shakyamuni.The interior eight-spokes Dharma wheel represent the moral conduct of discipline from among the Three Trainings. The intermediate eight-spokes represent the training in wisdom and the noble eightfold path.

The outer eight-spokes Dharma wheel represent the training in samadhi or meditative concentration stage. The entirely of the Buddha's teachings are contained within the Three Trainings and noble eightfold path.

In brief, just as all the world's different religions and countries have their own symbols and insignia, the Dharma wheel with the pair of deer is the sign of Buddhism. Furthermore, this symbol was also the seal of the glorious Buddhist University of Nalanda in India long ago.

Thank you for reading, may you find peace and great bliss. With your support it helps to spread the Buddha’s precious teachings and turning the Dharma wheels in the world.

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.

*Note
I do not own or infringe any copyright of these pictures.
Pictures courtesy and credit to the rightful distributors and or studios.
Pictures are intended for editorial use only.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nurturing compassion - Releasing and saving lives

Actually, you are the Buddha. Not such an effective Buddha, perhaps, but... a Buddha, a small Buddha... We need to nurture our inner Buddha, our child Buddha.” 
Nurturing Compassion Book - His Holiness The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

It is said that in the past in India, there lived a king named Trichen, who enjoyed eating meat so fresh that the blood was still warm, and he has killed ten thousand animals for his craved.  Through the karmic ripening of these actions, the king Trichen was reborn in Vajra Hell, one of the eighteen hell realms, where the extent of his sufferings such that the King died a hundred times and each time he fell back into hell as he revived.
The venerable Ananda saw the sufferings of him and asked the Buddha about it. The Buddha replied, This is the karmic ripening of a man who enjoyed killing and eating fresh meat and who enjoyed killing animals. Ananda asked the Buddha Shakyamuni , is there any way to liberate the "king" ? Buddha replied, "if you want to liberate this man from hell, save the lives  of animals in the worldly realms and he will be freed, so, Ananda saved many lives for the king's benefit, and the king was liberated from Vajra Hell. 


What is lives releasing ?
Generally, there is no difference in the size or species of any animals to be saved. However, buying and liberating animals that were certainly destined to be killed by butchers in a slaughterhouse naturally brings the greatest benefits.
Life release is a Buddhist tradition of saving lives of animals that are destined to be killed. Although every life is precious, the fact of being alive inevitably causes taking lives of other beings. We cannot completely prevent this situation because as long as we walk, breath, eat, and so forth, we cause the deaths of many creatures. However,  we can cultivate mindfulness, and try to reduce taking lives to the best of our ability. We can also offer a gift of life and protection through the practice of life release.

No matter what our lifestyle, we can do this practice. It benefits those who offer the gift of life as well as those who receive it. Regardless of what religion, we practice, its result will be strengthened if the practice is concluded with an aspiration that all beings without exception enjoy happiness and a life free from any harm.

If we are Buddhists, we dedicate the merit from the practice of life release for the benefit of all beings, to the long life of Buddhist teachers and to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and His Holiness 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje in particular, we dedicate the practice to His Holiness long life, and to the flourishing of his activity in the world.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje said that the meaning of life release is broad, that the practice can be done in a variety of ways, and that we should use our intelligence in deciding what way is most suitable in our particular circumstance. His Holiness has also encouraged His students to engage in saving lives through abstaining (at least periodically) from eating meat and in his address about protecting the environment, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa encouraged the Sangha to engage in planting trees as a form of activity that accords with the spirit of life release.

How to do the practice? The practice has two aspects:-
1. The act of saving lives, 
2. The blessing of the prayers that accompany life release. 
When releasing animals such as animals, fish, bait fish, insects, earthworms, please make sure that the species you are releasing the native to your locations. Invasive species are plants or animals that do not belong where humans have intentionally or accidentally brought them and the effects are immense, insidious, irreversible.

IUCN, the World Conservation Union, states that the impacts of alien invasive species are immense, insidious, and usually irreversible. They may be as damaging to native species and ecosystems on a global scale as the loss and degradation of habitats. Hundreds of extinctions have been caused by invasive alien species. The ecological cost is the irretrievable loss of native species and ecosystems.
At the time of saving a life, Lamas or Rinpoches and so forth will cleanse the animals by wafting the smoke of burning incense over them and burning juniper, throw charmed mustard seeds and so on in order to expel obstructing spirits, and perform ablution rituals. The Lamas will then recite the ritual chant such as the Long Life Amitayus Buddha's sutra or Dharani and aspire that the animals may enjoy long lives. They will then remove the halters from their heads, the saddles from their back and so on, and vow never again to make use of these animals, and then send them off.
When is the right time to save "lives" ?
Every day should be a good and meaningful day for practising and saving lives. If according to the Tibetan traditions,  the main days of the Tibetan lunar calendar for releasing animals are (-)
  1. 8th  ( Medicine Buddha and Arya Taras day ) 
  2. 10th ( Guru Rinpoche day )
  3. 15th ( Amitabha Buddha and full moon day )
  4. 25th ( Dakini day )
  5. 29th ( Dharmapala day )
  6. 30th and 1st ( Shakyamuni day )
  7. The Four Great Miracle Buddha's Days 
  8. Any Buddhist festivals
This is because if one free animals on these days, the resulting virtue is hundred, thousand, ten millions times greater  than other days. If one who is unable to attend for releasing lives on such auspicious days, it is advised that you should have observed or practised for  a full vegetarian diet - including no onion, garlic, egg
His Holiness The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje himself a pure vegetarian, then turned to his own life as an example. “When I spoke about this, I was primarily thinking about the way I lead my own life. I can’t really do anything about how other people lead their lives, but in terms of thinking about myself there are some reasons for this.” 

He then explained two key reasons that he personally does not eat meat. The first reason is the intense suffering that the animals who are killed go through. Every single day millions of animals are killed to feed us, and many are subjected to terrible conditions to provide us with food. Just a few days previously the Gyalwang Karmapa had shared a story of how, as a child in Tibet, when animals were killed for his family’s food he felt unbearable, pure compassion for them.
The second reason he doesn’t eat meat, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued, is because of his Mahayana training in seeing all sentient beings as his mothers. “We say I am going to do everything I can free sentient beings from suffering. We say I am going to do this. We make the commitment. We take the vow. Once we have taken this vow, if then, without thinking anything about it, we just go ahead and eat meat, then that is not right It is something that we need to think about very carefully.” 
Benefits of Releasing Lives.
The benefits obtained by releasing the lives of animals are similar to the benefits obtained by holding full monastic vows. By freeing a single life, a single rebirth in the lower realms is purified. Even if one has committed the harmful actions in this world, the act of saving lives  can purify  those harmful actions and obscurations.

If one releases life on behalf of someone, whose life is coming to an end, their life will be extended. At the same time, in the sutras, it is said that killing  a single liberated animal ( i.e , an animal that has been released ) is equal to killing  one hundred animals, and that such an action brings countless other negative karmic consequences. 

Thank you for reading, may you find peace and great bliss. With your support it helps to spread the Buddha’s precious teachings and turning the Dharma wheels in the world.

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 migrators from the ocean of existence.
With its stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death.

*Note
I do not own or infringe any copyright of these pictures.
Pictures courtesy and credit to the rightful distributors and or studios.
Pictures are intended for editorial use only.