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The seven bowls Water offering- its procedure and the prayer.

Water offering is a daily morning business in every household in Bhutan. The reason for using water as offering is that it is easily available and is very vital for every living beings. Any offerings whether big or small should not be contaminated by stinginess or miserliness. Under any circumstances so long as giving with a tight fist will not accumulate merit but creates misdoing. So water is the purest offerings amongst all.

Another symbolism of water is that it moisturizes the mind nature with bodhichitta. Our mind nature is pure but due to defilements we develop ego clinging like hard and dry soil which can’t be turned gentle and pliable. The moisture of bodhichitta makes ours mind gentle and able to easily transforms into whichever way it likes. So using water as offering generates that realization and get our mind purer and gentler.

To make the water bowl offering, begin by wiping each bowl with a clean cloth, imagining you are cleaning the defilements from the minds of sentient beings as you do so. Here, you can also take big bowl of clean water and wash the bowl which is even better instead of wiping.

After cleaning or washing the bowls, place them upside down on the altar; just as we wouldn’t invite a guest to our home and offer them nothing, we don’t place empty bowls upright on the altar.

Next, fill the first bowl with water which is kept overnight for morning offering. Then pour most of the water into the second bowl but leave a little in the bottom of the first bowl. Place the first bowl on the altar.

Then pour most of the water from the second bowl into the third, leaving a little water in the bottom of the second bowl, and place the second bowl to the right of the first one, near it, but not touching it, the distance of about a rice grain. The bowls not touching symbolizes that one has yet to achieve the state of enlightenment. Thus, one need to apply diligence.

Proceed to fill the rest of the bowls in this way, leaving a little water in each bowl as you fill the next one in sequence. Then go back to the first bowl and fill it nearly to the top, but not to overflowing about a rice grain’s distance from the top. Fill the other bowls in the same way.

While pouring the water, one should think that this water is as pure as the primordial nature of mind that is stainless and has the potential to be a bodhichitta. The moisturizing effect of water is able to soften the hard and strong attachment like rain pouring on dry earth. Contemplating this while pouring water into the bowls can be a very effective mode of purification and accumulation of merits.

Here please note, pouring with two hands in reverence and humility symbolizes the application of the union of wisdom and method. Whilst pouring and after pouring, one should recite ཨོཾ་ཨཱཿ ཧཱུྂ (OM AH HUNG) three times or more to purify any contamination. This is to invoke the blessings of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind to symbolically multiply the offerings, the transformation of nectar and purifying impurities.

While filling the bowls, imagine that you are offering huge jeweled bowls filled with blissful wisdom nectar to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Your offerings are luminous and fill the entire sky. The holy beings receive them and experience great bliss, as do you.

Now recite the following prayer

༄༅། །དག་སྣང་ལས༔ ཡོན་ཆབ་འབུལ་བའི་ཚིག་རྐང་དངོས་གྲུབ་རྒྱ་མཚོ་བཞུགས་སོ༔
From the Pure Vision: The Verse for Offering Water: An Ocean of Accomplishments
by Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904)

ཧཱུྂ༔ ཡན་ལག་བརྒྱད་ལྡན་བདུད་རྩིའི་རྫིང་བུ་འདི༔
hung yenlak gyeden dütsi dzingbu di
Hūṃ! This pool of nectar possessing the eight qualities of pure water

chomden khor dangché la bulwar gyi
I offer now to all the buddhas and their retinues,

shyé né dak dang semchen tamché kyi
As you accept it, may I and all sentient beings
tsok dzok drib dak khorwa dongtruk shok
Gather the accumulations, purify obscurations, and empty saṃsāra from its very depths.

om sarva tatagata saparivara argham pratitsa puja megha samudra saparana samaya a hung

ནུབ་གཅིག་གི་རྨི་ལམ་ན་མཁའ་འགྲོ་མ་སུ་ཁ་སདྡྷིི་ཡིན་ཟེར་བའི་བུད་མེད་དཀར་མོ་ཞིག་གིས་ཡོན་ཆབ་འབུལ་ཚིག་འགྲོ་དོན་སྨོན་ལམ་དང་བཅས་ཚང་ཟེར་བའི་འཁྲུལ་སྣང་ཤར་བ་སྤྲང་བདུད་འཇོམས་རྡོ་རྗེས་བླ་མ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་རྡོ་རྗེའི་ངོར་བྲིས་པས་ཡི་གེའི་མཐུན་རྐྱེན་ཕུན་ཚོགས་བཀྲ་ཤིས་སོ། །དགེའོ།།
One night in a dream the lowly Dudjom Dorje had a delusory vision in which a white-coloured woman appeared saying that she was the ḍākinī Sukhāsiddhī. She pronounced these words and said,
“The verse for offering water together with prayers of aspiration for beings’ benefit is complete.” And the conditions for writing it down in response to a request from Lama Tsultrim Dorje were provided by Puntsok Tashi. May it be virtuous!

Remove the seven water bowls in the evening. To empty them, start with the bowl on the right and pour it into a container. Then empty the next bowl on the right and so on until they are all emptied and placed upside down. If the bowls can air dry without staining, simply place them upside down on the shrine.

Otherwise, dry them with a clean cloth, imagining that you are eliminating sentient beings’ sufferings and their causes. The water can be either used to water flower plants, or displaced in a clean place. Never throw in the drain.

This completes the process of water offering.

Phub Dorji Wang

Image courtesy: Central Tibet Administration