Conversations With My Guru

Chapter 11: What Is This For?

Chapter 11: What Is This For?

That was the question Rinpoche asked me each time I made an offering. This was some 20 years ago. I would babble some reason in response, usually to say it was to repay his kindness, to thank him for teaching etc. I wondered why he kept asking me that question. A possible answer and a probable reason as to why he asked this question dawned on me many years later. Quite recently, I was with some other disciples - some of whom have been with Rinpoche for at least 15 years - and he asked the same question as we made an offering together. They had the same reply that I had in the past. This prompted me to share an experience and my thoughts. 

We had just moved to the new temple at 2 Beatty Lane. I had requested Rinpoche for teachings on the day that commemorates Buddha’s first turning of the wheel of Dharma. Rinpoche said this was auspicious and agreed. That evening during the teaching, I sat in the audience as the long-life mandala recitation began. Sangyumla turned to me and said, “Lama said for you to offer the long-life mandala”. I was flustered, my mind became blank. I had never offered the long-life mandala before. I leapt up from my seat and went forward to carry the mandala so as not to cause any delay. 

As the long mandala offering recitation was completed, Rinpoche said to me in a quiet tone, “you have not prostrated”. My mind was blank, and I felt panicky and nervous. I began doing the prostrations and this gave me some time to consider what I was doing. What was my intent? Did it make sense to be making this offering on such an auspicious day with a completely blank mind, lacking mindfulness, and awareness? Despite an auspicious start, I wondered…. what is this for? 

I feel that Rinpoche asks us this question as a skillful reminder for us to be mindful in our actions, and in making any offering, for us to consider the following which he taught "the emptiness of giver, giving and gift”, and reflect on the importance of the motivation of bodhicitta and not give any gift with feelings of attachment or pride about whatever offering is made. If we recall, there are four factors that complete the karma. That means the dedication of merit from any positive action is extremely important. The offerings are then never just a transactional “gift” …

In all that we do - whether it is making offerings, attending teaching or pujas, cleaning the temple or any activity - this seemingly simple question “what is this for” is profound. Having written this, you might think that I remember my own advice all the time. Sadly, no, for I still find myself having completed making an offering or some activity and asking myself "what was that for?” It takes effort to take this intellectual knowledge, internalise it, practise mindfulness, and apply the teachings in our daily lives. I pray you will be very successful in your practice. 


16 Jan 2022