Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

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Oneteacher
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Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Oneteacher » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:17 pm

Hi online dharma friends,

I have been studying and practicing Chinese Buddhism for 10 years. I am new to Vajrayana, but interested in learning more. Below I will point out what appears to me like a serious contradiction. Hopefully you all can point me in the direction of resources for better understanding this apparent problem, either teachers (I live in the Los Angeles area) or texts. This is my first step towards disentangling the vast network of Nyingma terminology (please be patient), and a way of introducing myself here.

Words of My Perfect Teacher, Revised Edition, p. 182

"...you should not take them [deities within samsara] as your refuge for future lives, make offerings to them, or prostrate to them."

At a teaching recently on Chod practice at Pure Land Farms in Topanga, I was instructed to offer my body to worldly gods and demons.

And in a daily Nyingma practice text in the Chagdud Gonpa tradition, I found instructions for a torma offering to "all you local gods and spirits."

On what basis is the explicit injunction NOT to make offerings to worldly spirits bypassed in these particular contexts? My guess is that through bodhicitta some bending of the rules can happen, and / or within specific ritual settings such offerings are made "safe." In Mahayana in general though, and clearly in Words of My Perfect Teacher, creating any kind of debt with worldly spirits is frowned upon, and it is easy to understand how accumulating such debts with powerful beings of questionable motivation could be dangerous, or lead to hindrances.

Maybe this is just semantics: Patrul Rinpoche's offerings imply genuine dependence upon worldly spirits, Chod and Tsok ritual offerings do not? I don't know!

Thanks for your help

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:43 pm

Making offerings does not imply taking refuge, an offering to the Three Jewels is a bit different than an offering to ordinary beings. That statement is meant I'm guessing in reference to taking refuge ad making offering to the object of refuge..not offerings in general.

We make offerings to all beings in the six realms of samsara regularly, but we certainly don't take refuge in them!
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by pemachophel » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:13 pm

What Johnny said.

In addition, when we make offerings to our Gurus, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Yidams, Dakinis, and supra-mundane Protectors, the Tibetan word is chod (offering). When we make offerings to any of the six classes of wanderers in samsara, the word is jin-pa (generosity), which is one of the six paramitas. Making such generosity to worldly beings is the practice of "engaging Bodhicitta." Its result is not any kind of refuge or blessing. Its result is 1) the happiness and or the cessation of suffering of those to whom we have made the offering and 2) the accumulation of merit for ourselves. This offering of generosity in no way contradicts our refuge vows and actually fulfills our Bodhicitta vows.
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ

Oneteacher
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Oneteacher » Thu Aug 29, 2019 1:19 am

Thank you both! That clears things up. I need to look into learning Tibetan...

M.G.
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by M.G. » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:43 pm
Making offerings does not imply taking refuge, an offering to the Three Jewels is a bit different than an offering to ordinary beings. That statement is meant I'm guessing in reference to taking refuge ad making offering to the object of refuge..not offerings in general.

We make offerings to all beings in the six realms of samsara regularly, but we certainly don't take refuge in them!

A related question.

What spiritual practices in the Western world, if any, would constitute taking refuge in a worldly god?

Fortyeightvows
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Fortyeightvows » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:21 am

Furthermore, with his legitimate wealth he makes five spirit-offerings: to relatives, guests, ancestors, king, and deities. This is his third solid and substantive investment, used in the appropriate sphere.
AN 4.61

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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Fortyeightvows » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:22 am

M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 am
What spiritual practices in the Western world, if any, would constitute taking refuge in a worldly god?
!!!

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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by M.G. » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:26 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:22 am
M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 am
What spiritual practices in the Western world, if any, would constitute taking refuge in a worldly god?
!!!
I don’t totally understand your answer. Is it meant in jest?

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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Fortyeightvows » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:28 am

M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:26 am
I don’t totally understand your answer. Is it meant in jest?
I was just acknowledging that you ask a great question!

M.G.
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by M.G. » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:54 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:28 am
M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:26 am
I don’t totally understand your answer. Is it meant in jest?
I was just acknowledging that you ask a great question!
Oh! Thank you! 😊

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Matt J
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Matt J » Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:30 pm

I'm not sure exacly what is meant by deities, but in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa suggests that we usually take refuge in the Three Lords of Materialism. Expanding on that, I would say that people in the West often take refuge in various forms of pleasure, money, and power. Such abstractions are often historically represented by gods, demons, etc.

Personally, I often take refuge in wandering thoughts and sleep. If you like, you could call them Lucifer and Morpheus.
M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:43 pm
Making offerings does not imply taking refuge, an offering to the Three Jewels is a bit different than an offering to ordinary beings. That statement is meant I'm guessing in reference to taking refuge ad making offering to the object of refuge..not offerings in general.

We make offerings to all beings in the six realms of samsara regularly, but we certainly don't take refuge in them!

A related question.

What spiritual practices in the Western world, if any, would constitute taking refuge in a worldly god?
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:05 pm

Matt J wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:30 pm
I'm not sure exacly what is meant by deities, but in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa suggests that we usually take refuge in the Three Lords of Materialism. Expanding on that, I would say that people in the West often take refuge in various forms of pleasure, money, and power. Such abstractions are often historically represented by gods, demons, etc.
In American Gods, Neil Gaiman has them appear in the US alongside the older gods which were brought over by successive waves of migrants, so you have Media and Technology interacting with Thor, Loki, Kali, Anansi, Vulcan and the rest. It all makes perfect sense in the context of the book, although it's not so clear in the TV series based on it.

:focus:
Kim

M.G.
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by M.G. » Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:02 pm

It’s a clever and probably correct formulation to speak of something like sleep as being a worldly god or a source of refuge, but Buddhism traditionally took - and takes - a much more literal view of such, no?

Our cultural electronic media addiction could probably use some enlightened taming, though.

Sādhaka
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Sādhaka » Fri Nov 01, 2019 7:06 am

Matt J wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:30 pm
pleasure, money, and power.

In Gold Oil Drugs We Trust.

Or was it Gomer Oz Dabar?

Bristollad
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Bristollad » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:57 am

M.G. wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:02 pm
It’s a clever and probably correct formulation to speak of something like sleep as being a worldly god or a source of refuge, but Buddhism traditionally took - and takes - a much more literal view of such, no?

Our cultural electronic media addiction could probably use some enlightened taming, though.
Both I would say - look at how the four Maras are discussed.

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Matt J
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by Matt J » Fri Nov 01, 2019 5:31 pm

Not necessarily. Take a look at shitro, for example. Or the whole "Feeding Your Demons" methodology by Lama Tsultrim.

https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practi ... ur-demons/
M.G. wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:02 pm
It’s a clever and probably correct formulation to speak of something like sleep as being a worldly god or a source of refuge, but Buddhism traditionally took - and takes - a much more literal view of such, no?

Our cultural electronic media addiction could probably use some enlightened taming, though.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

PeterC
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Re: Clarification: Refuge and offerings to worldly gods

Post by PeterC » Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:18 pm

M.G. wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 am
A related question.

What spiritual practices in the Western world, if any, would constitute taking refuge in a worldly god?
When you take refuge in something you rely on it to guide you to enlightenment. This is how one takes refuge not just in the Buddha but also the Dharma and the Sangha.

So if one were to say, only X saves, or there is no god but X and Y is his prophet, or similar sentiments, you are relying on those figures to the exclusion of others. There are similar statements in all the standard texts of monotheistic religions - for instance, “I believe in one god the father almighty maker of heaven and earth of all things visible and invisible” and so forth.

So if one practices one of these religions, one can’t really also be taking refuge in the three jewels. On the other hand, one can make offerings to Brahma, Vishnu and various other deities that don’t demand exclusivity, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be in conflict with Buddhist refuge.

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