Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Grand Fire Puja By The Healing Lama

I am very fortunate to have attended one of the most grand fire puja over the weekend, in Dro-Phen Ling. It was personally conducted by the 90-year-old Healing Lama, His Eminence Kangyur Rinpoche.

A fire puja is a Buddhist ritual that purifies the environment, bestows blessings on the participants, and promotes world peace and harmony. There are 4 types of fire offerings:
(1) Peaceful
(2) Increase
(3) Subduing
(4) Forceful

There are four objects of offering, the offering to Buddhas being the main focus:
- Offering to all Buddha, Bodhisattvas and deities
- Offering to Dharma Protectors and highly-realized godly beings
- Giving to all sentient beings
- Giving to all spirits and hungry ghosts.

In this instance, we were participating in an Increase Fire Puja. Participating in this Increase ritual fire puja can increase our merits, health, lifespan, wisdom, wealth and the wisdom of hearing, thinking and meditating. All auspicious things will grow and expand.

A special mandala was drawn meticulously by the monks beforehand using colourful sand, it took them a few hours to complete the beautiful sand mandala.

The fire itself has to be started on a square platform designed to meet special dimension specified by the sacred text. A smooth square raised platform of earth is whitened. In the center is drawn (with colored chalk) an eight petal led flower. Outside the flower is a ring on which the fire-wood is placed. Outside this is a ring of vajras. A square is drawn outside from the ring and whose corners are marked with a half varja and a half moon. The space outside this is scattered with flowers.

The throne of Rinpoche has to be at a certain height, is placed next to the fire with a raised wall. A fire puja has to be performed in open ground, which was why Rinpoche's throne seat and sand mandala were erected outside the main gompa. For this Increasing Fire Puja, this wall is painted yellow and the syllable BAM, representing the water element, is drawn on it.

To the right of the throne is a table spread with a cloth on which are set out the five kinds of offerings of which there are two sets. All the offerings and ingredients used in the fire puja are very precise and rare, hence the fire puja is a very special ritual. The general purpose of the offering is to remove obstacles to enlightenment by removing stains left by ordinary unwholesome actions, especially broken pledges, and to prevent all inauspicious circumstances and removes obstacles to a good meditative stabilization.

These were the 13 ingredients crucial for the fire puja. Each offering also has a specific purpose. Offering melted butter is to increase life span, merit and prosperity. Sesame seeds are offered to remove non-virtues, couch grass to increase the life span, rice to increase merit, rice with curd to increase happiness, kusha grass for protecting from impurities, mustard seeds to clear obstacles, coarse un-husked barley to increase wealth, barley to gain rapid accomplishments, lentils to increase strength, and wheat to overcome illness. The sticks remove obstacles to one’s well being and high status. The many mixed or ‘special’ substances increase wisdom. The highest accomplishment which is common to the aims of all these offerings is enlightenment.

Inside the main gompa (prayer hall), there were mountains of offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha.

The number of participants were overwhelming. Throngs of people, estimated 500-600, came and occupied the entire DPL compound. There was hardly any sitting/standing space left. Incredible! 

It was so crowded that many participants had to sit outside on the main road. What was heartening was, even some participants who are sick or with difficulty in movement also attended the puja, to remove their obstacles in illnesses. Amazing!

Everyone was very cooperative and orderly. Overwhelming crowd = overwhelming response = overwhelming success! 

Finally Kangyur Rinpoche arrived to start the fire puja. He ascended the throne seat. Many wanted a glimpse of Rinpoche and to bask in His healing presence.

The Sangha and Rinpoche's entourage of 20+ monks started on the preparation before the start of the puja. A few of them, among them, very old Geshe-las, put on the ceremonial robes, necessary for the puja.

Rinpoche in a moment of meditative silence, before the start of the puja. For a 90-year-old, Rinpoche certainly looks very strong and healthy. May Rinpoche live long to benefit and heal many more sentient beings.

The sponsors of the puja offering mandala to Rinpoche, who blessed them in return with white karta.

Rinpoche put on his ceremonial robes, which is similar to the Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form. The attire of the master of ritual and the monks should be very clean. 

The ceremony began with Rinpoche blessing all the offerings on the table. Prayers are made to bless the fire place, a torma cake was offered. All the ingredients which were prepared earlier were blessed with special prayers. After the blessings, the fire is lit. The fire is ready for each participant to perform the action of obstacle burning.

Of the two vases next to the Geshe, one is for sprinkling water, the other is for making the four water offerings. The water from this latter vase is poured into three conch shells. When the times comes for each of the four water offerings, it is poured into the offerings vessels. In both cases, the water is prepared in advance and blessed by the recitation of mantras.

Participants offering light and flower offerings. Plates and plates of the special ingredients to be offered to the fire. Prayer flags hanging 24/7 at DPL. 

At one stage the fire rose to almost as high as Rinpoche. Notice the beautiful sparks?

The entire place was filled with auspicious smoke.

Beautiful fire, burning away all our delusions and obscurations!

Again notice the flickering sparks of the fire rising high. 

Each participant takes turns to throw a plate full of ingredients into the fire.  As there were 500+ participants, there were several rounds before all the substances were completely thrown into the fire.  Burning each ingredient clears away obstacles to different problems. 

Rinpoche's healing hand! 

The fire puja in its final round.

A solemn looking Rinpoche after the completion of the fire puja ceremony.

The fire is expected to burn for the next few days. Once the substances are completely burnt, when the fire goes out finally, the sacred ash is collected. Placing a little of the ash on the four corners of the house gives protection against all obstacles. The ash is also very powerful protection against bad influences, dishonest people and evil spirits entering the home.

Rinpoche circumambulating the mandala before taking his leave.

Many participants with deep respect for Rinpoche, with bowed heads and clasped palm.

The show is not over yet....

Everyone receiving personal blessing from the 3 Geshe-las with blessed water.

Everyone who was present that day was indeed blessed and most fortunate to have attended the fire puja personally conducted by the Healing Lama. I am immensely happy that a few readers and some Dharma friends from other centres have joined me in this ceremony. 

Starting tomorrow for the next 3 days, 1-3 Oct, will be the start of the public healing event, presided by Rinpoche and his 20 monks in Suntec City. Do cherish this rare opportunity to plant the seed of affinity with the Healing Lama, to meet him again and again in future lifetimes until we are enlightened.

For details, please click here.

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