Feast Offerings: Skillful Means in the Vajrayāna


Feast offerings (Skt. gaṇacakra; Tib. tsok) are very important in the Vajrayāna tradition. Here, Phakchok Rinpoche describes the meaning and significance of this ritual practice. Additionally, he gives some very practical instructions on how we prepare for a feast offering. This teaching is in English and translated into Chinese.

When we perform feast offerings, we are practicing generosity.  At the same time, we are doing a pūjā such as a maṇḍala offering. By offering a feast, we remove obstacles and purify bad karma. And simultaneously, this offering helps us to receive blessings and to improve practice.

In the foundational teachings, the Buddha taught repeatedly about generosity. He explained that the practice of generosity or giving is a very easy way to accumulate merit. In many cultures, such as the Chinese culture, people have this habit and thus practice giving regularly. In the Mahāyāna teachings, we speak a lot about the motivation behind giving. Primarily, we give without selfishness or any sense of stinginess. And we check our motivation—giving with the wish to benefit all sentient beings.

In Vajrayāna, we give with this same great motivation, but we further increase the scope. We give to all the buddhas and their retinues. But who makes the offering? Here, we see ourselves as enlightened beings as well. For example, we imagine ourselves as Guru Rinpoche. At the same time, we make very vast and very pure enlightened offerings. This is the motivation and attitude we adopt.

When we begin to practice feast offering, it is very good to understand the richness of the practice. Feast offerings are very profound. Rinpoche reminds us to take our time and recall all these steps of the practice in order to be authentic. For example, an authentic feast offering requires that we have a numerical balance between male and female practitioners. And we always take time to give rise to bodhicitta as our motivation.

Rinpoche reminds us that feast offerings bring very swift results. He shares stories of students and great masters who practiced feast offerings to overcome difficulties. If we are having difficulties, it is very good to sponsor feast offerings. When we have the right motivation and make feast offerings, especially if we utilize special substances, then we can quickly achieve our desired aims.

Now, when we do a feast offering it is important that we assemble the correct practitioners—those who know and respect the practice. We should also have large and beautiful offerings. Then we should make our offerings as elaborate as we can afford. Once we have gathered the male and female practitioners and prepared vast offerings, then we recall our motivation. After that, we need to perform the correct visualizations. We need to believe that Guru Rinpoche and the real buddhas and bodhisattvas are truly here within this perfect maṇḍala.


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