Official Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Center, Miami, FL
A Teaching on the Great Benefit of Offering Butterlamps
by The Very Venerable Lama Norlha Rinpoche
In general, making offerings is an extremely important method for the practitioner to accumulate merit. The attainment of the state of enlightenment occurs when we have brought to full perfection our accumulation of merit. In particular, the method of offering bowls of saffron water is an excellent way of accumulating merit because it is an act of generosity in which you have no greed. You don’t have any particular attachment to the water, so it is a way to offer that which we have no concept of possessing. It is also excellent to offer the butterlamps, candles or light because this act of offering this light symbolizes burning away our mental afflictions of desire, aggression, greed, jealousy, pride and so forth.
The other part of the symbolism is that it is a way to burn away our illness. In the Tibetan medical tradition, physical illness is based on an imbalance of the elements in the body, illness is seen as an imbalance between wind, bile and phlegm. When these are out of balance sickness arises in the body. So this offering symbolizes burning away illness. In general, making offerings such as these with a good attitude is an excellent means for accumulating an enormous amount of merit. It is particularly meritorious for us because we are very fortunate to be part of a lineage of great masters who made these types of offerings. For example, my and our own root Lama, the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche, made it his particular special offering to offer a lot of butterlamps and offered 100 every day. Then Deshun Rinpoche, who was also a very important to me in my own training, was incomparable in his offering of the bowls of saffron water. Because we are part of this lineage, it makes the merit even stronger.
For this reason at our monastery in New York, every week we offer 1000 butterlamps, 1000 bowls of saffron water and also 1000 flowers and incense. And also, I am in the process of finishing up the sponsorship of 300,000 lamps in Bodh Gaya. Two hundred thousand have already been offered in the past and now my mother is helping to implement those offerings in Bodh Gaya right now. Seventy thousand of the last 100,000 butterlamps are finished. I wanted to share this so you understand that it is a very important practice for me in the accumulation of merit. Because I feel a very strong connection to all of you it’s an important practice for all of you, too. Lineage is a very important part of Dharma practice and if you have a very strong lineage behind you and you are practicing in accord with it, this makes your own accumulation of merit easier and greater, stronger in its intensity. So through your practice and relying on an authentic lineage and authentic teachers, it will be easier for you to bring your practice to fruition. It works the same way in the world as it does in the Dharma.
If you are just doing something ordinary but you have a lot of support, you have a lot of people behind you, you have a lot of money, you have power behind you, it is easier to accomplish your aims. It is the same thing to rely on an authentic lineage. That is the support we need to bring our practice to fruition.