Saturday, 7 April 2012

The 100 torma offerings - the extensive practice of giving

Chenrezig (Guan Yin) and beings from the 6 realms
Now is the Qing Ming period whereby the Chinese honour and remember their ancestors. Families would visit the cemetries to pay respect to their loved ones who had passed away, as well as to clean their graves. It is the time where they made offerings of food, incense and so on. For those whose ancestors were cremated, they would visit places like temples, columbariums or sacred places,  where their ashes were stored in urns and to make prayers as well.

Recently I attended a puja called the 100 Torma Offering Ritual (called 'torma gyatsa' in Tibetan) organised by Amitabha Buddhist Centre to commemorate Qing Ming. This is a practice where vast merits were dedicated for our ancestors, who receive the merits in order to purify their negative karma for a better future rebirth. This is a beautiful way of repaying the kindness of our departed loved ones.

I personally like this puja a lot because of the vast benefits.  We do not just make offerings to our loved ones, human beings, but also to the Triple Gem as well as to all sentient beings of the 6 realms.  We remember the compassion of the Buddhas as well as extending our compassion towards the sufferings of all sentient beings. Through this act of giving, we please all the guests and  accumulate the merit of practising generosity. Hence this is an excellent powerful method of repaying our own karmic debts as well as creating the cause of our own happiness.

The ritual, based on the practice of Chenrezig (Guan Yin), involves making offerings to 12 types of guests, both the transcendental and the worldly, which includes:

The Wheel of Life depicting the 6 realms of cyclic existence

Transcendental Guests: Lineage lamas, Yidams, Triple Gem, Dharma Protectors, Sages and Wealth Deities

Worldly Beings: Local deities, landlords, yakshas, interferers and spirits to placate their angry minds and stop them from causing harm.

Sentient Beings of 6 Realms:  we accumulate merit through acts of generosity.

Hungry Ghosts: we satisfy their hunger and thirst.

Karmic Debtors from past acts of killing, beating and stealing, our offerings repay debts and appeases them and averting future harm.

Bardo Beings (those in the intermediate state before rebirth): our offerings liberate them from the fears and sufferings of the bardo.

Remaining Guests, the most pitifully weak among hungry ghosts which we invite them to partake of the remains of the feast

Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, "This practice is contained in the verse in Lama Chopa, the Guru Puja, where it says, 'Whatever conditions I meet, please grant me blessings to be able to make this life of freedom and leisure highly meaningful with the skillful means of living in the practice of the four actions and immediately use it for meditation by applying the samayas and advice of thought transformation.'   

Whether we are happy or unhappy, whether we meet favorable or unfavorable conditions, whether we meet a friend or an enemy, whether we receive praise or criticism, we should immediately use the situation for meditation, which means that we should apply the practices of thought transformation. Various practices are explained, and by doing these practices we then make our human rebirth useful.

The offering of a hundred tormas is one of the four actions, which are collecting merit; purifying negativities; giving tormas to interfering spirits and making offerings to the Dharma protectors. Giving tormas to the protectors, whether worldly protectors or protectors who are beyond samsara, has the same purpose. This practice of offering tormas to the interferers includes making charity to pretas and nagas. At the end of the practice, you also give them teachings. The whole practice is unique and very beautiful."

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