Water Offerings ...why we do it ?
In almost all Buddhist home , one will always find an alter room with statues; thangkhas or photographs of Bodhisattva.
Every morning dutifully seven bowls of fresh water is offered without fail and side by an incense stick and sang is also offered. Some people lit butter lamp continuously and some offer butter lamp only during religious day like lunar date 8/10/15/25 and 30. The day begins then.
However, many laymen don’t know the reason why these offering is made but followed as the culture was passed down from their parents.
In Buddhism an offering is not a sacrifice like other religion do. Buddhas and enlightened beings do not require sacrifices. Offerings should be obtainable without any difficulty in Buddhism. For this reason, water, the most plentiful substance is the chosen offering. It is pure, clean and plentiful not requiring us to hurt others to give it and it is symbolic of purity.
The rule of offering
Seven water bowls is the most basic, yet complete offering. It is also important to place a butter lamp between the third and fourth water bowls. Lamps symbolize wisdom and the illumination of the Dharma that releases us from ignorance.
The seven water bowels and one lamp represent the following:
Water for drinking (Argham)
Water for washing (Padyam)
Light: butter lamps or fire (Aloke)
Sound and Music (Shabda): in eight bowl offerings, the
eighth bowl represents sound.
Note: In seven-bowl practice, it is said there is not eighth bowl for sound because sound is non-visual.
For ceremonial purposes, or elaborate offerings, the bowls might actually be filled with an offering symbolic of the sensory object as under. You must have seen this during Lhabsang Thruesel.
• Water (for water)
• Water with saffron (for water for washing)
• Actual blossoms or flowers (flowers)
• A stick of incense (incense), usually in a bowl of rice
• An actual butter lamp or candle (for light)
• Perfumed water or a bottle of perfumes (perfume)
• Fruit or food (food)
• A bell placed in the eighth bowl (sound) if an eighth bowl is
Prayer and hand gesture to performed during the offer as under:
Recite the following prayer with gestures: Refer image for type of
gesture to performed.
First Offering Bowl: WATER for drinking “ARGHAM”
OM ARGHAM AH HUM (Visualize many water bowls filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Second Offering Bowl: WATER for bathing “PADHYAM”
OM PADYAM AH HUM (Visualize many water bowls filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Third Offering Bowl: FLOWERS “PUSHPE”
OM PUSHPE AH HUM (Visualize some variation of flowers filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Fourth Offering Bowl: INCENSE “DHUPE”
OM DHUPE AH HUM (Visualize and try to sense the smell of clouds of incense filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Fifth Offering Bowl: LIGHT “ALOKHE”
OM ALOKE AH HUM (Visualize endless beautiful butter lamps filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Sixth Offering Bowl: PERFUME “GENDHE”
OM GHANDE AH HUM (Visualize perfume bottles or water bowls with perfumed water filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Seventh Offering Bowl: CELESTIAL FOOD “NEVIDHYA”
OM NAIVIDYA AH HUM (Visualize endless foods, suitable to the deities—typically vegetarian—filling the skies around the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
Eighth Offering Bowl: MUSIC “SHABTA”
OM SHABDA AH HUM (Try to hear or imagine beautiful celestial music, singing bowls, bowls, drums).
Please try to genuinely dedicate the merit of the offerings to the elimination of suffering and its causes for all beings and to their cause for enlightenment.
Slowly practice the gesture and when experienced do it fast as per mantra recitation.