A simple Buddhist shrine contains an image of the Buddha, representing the enlightened body. Additionally, we add a sutra text, representing enlightened speech. And finally, we place a stupa (or a photo of a stupa), representing the enlightened mind. All sentient beings naturally possess this enlightened body, speech, and mind but we have yet to realize it. As a way to express respect, joy, and aspiration in front of these supports, we place offerings in front of these representations on the shrine.
The eight outer offerings are also essential to have on one’s shrine when engaging in the sādhana (means of accomplishing) practice of the yidam deity. The deity is the wisdom manifestation of one’s pure and enlightened nature, thus making beautiful and fresh offerings to the deity is of great importance and a tremendous source of merit.
Whether one is a beginning or seasoned dharma practitioner, the eight outer offerings are a simple yet profound way to cultivate merit, respect for oneself and others, and a proper environment for spiritual practice.
- Water for drinking
- Water for washing
- Perfumed/scented water
- Food (either fresh or a clay or wooden torma offering)