Sunday, 14 November 2010

The significance of Guru Puja & Tsog Offering (Lama Chopa)

Normally, I try to attend different types of pujas, from the more common ones to the highly sacred rare and large-scale ones. Each different puja has its own significance and immense benefits based on the practice of a particular Buddha. Hence attending different pujas protects us from the different types of delusions and problems we encounter.  While I will surely make it a point to attend the highly sacred cleansing and healing pujas which are rare, uncommon and can only be conducted by the monks, there are 2 common and regular pujas which I personally like. They are the Green Tara Puja and Guru Puja & Tsog Offering (or Lama Chopa).  I like both pujas alot because I can chant the entire sadhana  in Tibetan along with the monks.

Tara Puja is conducted once a month in DPL and every week in ABC. Guru Puja is conducted twice every month in both centres, on the 10th and 25th of the lunar Tibetan calendar (it is like the 1st and 15th of our lunar calendar).  Maybe because both pujas are regularly performed, many people tend to give it a miss. I beg to differ. These regular pujas are equally important and I would like to elaborate more on the importance of Guru Puja.

Guru Puja is quite often recommended as a means to accumulate extensive merit - offerings are made to all the enlightened beings in the form of the merit field, from Shakyamuni Buddha over the lineage lamas to our personal spiritual guru. It is a comprehensive practice containing the essence of the entire teachings of sutra and tantra. It strengthens the bond with one’s spiritual master and creates the cause for finding one's spiritual master again in future lives.  

The Guru Puja lays the whole path to enlightenment in our mindstream, connects us more strongly to our teachers, allows us to accumulate skies of merit and purifies eons of negative karma. This is a time that is special for making the tsog offering, a particular ritual inserted into the Guru Puja. To create merit, positive connection, it is traditional to bring offerings for the altar, which then becomes the basis for the visualized offerings made during the puja; cookies, fruit, flowers, tea lights (unscented), or saffron are suggested.

In the Tantric Buddhism of Mahayana tradition, guru worship is a core practice. Without guru worship, it is impossible to achieve anything through all the various practices. The guru is a personified form of all the enlightened beings and he represents the complete blessings of Body, Speech and Mind, as well as the mission of the enlightened beings. The relationship with the Guru is very important. During the Theravadin teachings the Guru should be seen as Buddha; in Mahayana you see the Guru as Buddha and in Vajrayana you see the Guru as inseparable from Buddha.

The guru is the most accessible source of spiritual energy. For a common being, there is no better way than devotion to one's own guru in order to collect a great amount of merit and receive blessings from the enlightened beings. It is very important to recall the special emphasis put on guru devotion in many great tantric treatises by the Buddha. In countless classical tantras, Vajradhara repeatedly stresses the importance of guru devotion. This practice is also taught to be the highest form of worship in which common human beings can engage in this world.
Also, for tantric practitioners, engaging in Guru Puja helps to purify any transgressed vows.  In terms of generating merit, attending pujas in a group is also a karmic bonus – every person doing the puja accumulates the same amount of merit as all participants combined. Score!

Lama Zopa Rinpoche said: "This practice of Guru Puja is very profound, with many extra benefits, and is very quick to bring enlightenment. The lam-rim prayer, the prayer of the steps of the path to enlightenment, in Guru Puja has lam-rim and also lojong (or thought transformation). Generally, the whole of the lam-rim, from guru devotion up to enlightenment, is thought transformation. If your mind is not transformed into the path, how can you have realizations of the path? By reflecting on the profound meanings of the verses, doing Guru Puja definitely leaves an extraordinary imprint of the complete pure path to enlightenment".
The coming Guru Puja is on 16 Nov 2010 at 7.30pm at both DPL and ABC.

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