The Shower of Blessings

Today we will talk on how to make a tsok offering as a Tantric Yoga practice and what the purpose of the tsok offering is. When you look at the history of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, they always did meditation including tsok. The most famous is Milarepa. Tsok is one of the most important practices for the accumulation of merit and wisdom. It is one of the great methods. In tsok the food becomes transformed through visualization into nectar. Anything can be made a meditation practice through the power of mindfulness. It depends on how we do it. All sentient beings eat and drink to survive. Normally we eat and drink for the sake of our desire and for our physical health. Tsok is a great method of the Kagyupa lineage to transform food and eat it mindfully. When practicing tsok we are aware of ourselves as dakas and dakinis and we eat the tsok as an offering. The motivation is not to eat for the sake of one's health, but instead to support meditation practice for the benefit of others. When great practitioners with mindful awareness eat they eat with non-attachment, looking at the nature of their mind. Normal people have a desire and attachment for delicious food. Great practitioners are free of thoughts of attachment, they eat for the sake of their health and as a support for meditation practice. They have no thoughts of whether the food is delicious or not. Meditating on themselves as dakas and dakinis, they perform the tsok.

So tsok is performed for the purpose of taming the mind for cultivating non-attachment. We are attached to the pleasures of the five senses. A sutra practitioner takes many vows to restrain attachments. If there were no attachments, there would be no problem with having things. But because we have attachments, wealth only increases our desires. Those who want to be practitioners need to cut their attachment for food. There isn't the time to search for delicious food. Practitioners must eat what they are given. We are occupied in the pursuit of food, clothes, and home, so there is not much time to practice. In the biography of Milarepa, it says he didn't have tea utensils or pots because there was no time for him to use them. Great meditators eat the food of meditation. For us it's important to eat, but we should not just jump on our food. Milarepa only had nettles to eat. This is because his meditation time was precious. Even I understand the reason for this. When understanding is developing, meditation time is so precious and there's no time to search for food.

Tsok practice depends on how much mindfulness and awareness we have. Sometimes we only remember the practice after we're finished eating. But this is still coming close. If you have too many food choices, you just eat according to your desires. When you only have barley flour and black tea, you understand how precious eating these are. Sometimes I get a little spoiled by visiting the West. When I go into the retreat the desires are there, but you only have the barley flour and you don't want to eat it. But when you're really hungry, it tastes good. It's convenient, because you can make it in five or ten minutes. You don't have to cut the vegetables or cook the meat.

You begin consecrating the tsok by reciting the mantra "ram yam kam om ah hung". "Om ah hung" gives the blessing of the Buddhas' body speech and mind. The food should be placed on the right side of the altar. The drink should be placed on the left side. Burn one stick of incense. This symbolizes the purification of fire. Then consecrated water from the vase is sprinkled over the offerings, symbolizing the purification of water. Fan the offerings with the peacock feather on top of the vase, symbolizing the purification of wind. Then recite the "shobawa shuddho" mantra, visualizing the food as empty. Visualize the food offering being multiplied, filling all of space. Recite the prayers to the buddhas and dharma protectors. Then make an offering plate for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and place it on the altar. Then the food is distributed to the practitioners. After eating collect a small bit of food from each person as an offering, starting at the back. Hold the offering in the left hand and pour nectar from a spoon with the right hand on the offering. Recite the "om ah karo mukham sarva dharmanam" mantra and take the offering outside.

When reciting the mantra "om bazra amrita kundali hana hana hung phat," purify the offering with incense, water, and wind, as described. First we meditate on everything becoming empty. "Yam" is transformed into the wind. It has a bow shape. "Ram" is transformed into fire. The fire is at the corners of the bow and has a diamond shape. The kapala sits on top of this. It is huge, containing everything. Its outside is white and inside is red. It rests on a stand of three skulls, one in front and two in back. Meditating on yourself as the yidam, wind from your nostrils fan the fire under the kapala. Inside the kapalas are the raktas, medicines, and whatever else you want to meditate on. There are the five meats, human corpse, elephant, horse, and so on. Each food has a syllable. The food is not ordinary, it represents the five Buddha families. The Tibetan vowels and consonants circle on the outside of the kapala, the vowels circling clockwise and consonants couter-clockwise. The syllables "om ah hum" are above the kapala. Light from the syllables and letters radiate to the Buddhas and their energies return as light dissolving into the kapala transforming its contents into nectar.

Make an offering plate for the altar. Then recite prayers and songs to the lineage masters. All tsok offerings follow this pattern and Chod practice is also similar. Hold the tsok offering Recite the tsok song of Vajrayogini. The mudra performed while reciting "om ah karo mukham" multiplies all the offerings to fill space. The melodies of the practices come from the inspirations of the great masters.