About Offering Bowls
Tibetan Buddhist Offering Bowls
The Seven Water Bowl Offerings
The seven water bowl offerings are traditionally set out on a Buddhist altar each day. These seven bowls represent the ‘seven limb practice’ a method to purify negative tendencies and accumulating positive potential.
The seven limbed practice is made up of –
1 – Prostrations to all the Buddhas
2 – Making Offerings
3 – Confession of non-virtuous actions
4 -Rejoicing in the positive actions of oneself and others
5 – Requesting the Buddhas to reach
6 – Requesting the Buddhas to remain in this world
7 – Dedication of merit
Take the upturned bowls and keep them stacked. Before you place them on the altar add a little water to the top bowl as a preliminary offering. Pour most of the water into the second bowl in the stack and place the first bowl on the altar. Then add water to the third bowl and place the second bowl on the altar. Repeat this process till all the bowls are laid out on the altar. This process ensures the bowls are not presented empty to the altar. Arrange the bowls to form a straight line from your left to right. The space between each bowl should approximate to the thickness of one barley grain. Fill the bowls with water from your left to right. The poured stream of water, which is described as being poured ‘like a barley grain’, should be thin or slow at the beginning, thick or fast in the middle, and tapers off to a narrow stream at the end. The bowls should be filled to within a barley grain’s thickness of the top of each rim. One should not directly breathe upon the water bowl offerings, as this creates defilement in one’s offering to the deities. At the end of the day, empty the bowls from right to left. The bowls are wiped clean and stacked upside down in readiness for the next morning
The seven Shrine offerings
1. Drinking Water – Offered to the Buddha for drinking and to cleanse the mouth or face. This offering symbolises the auspicious results of all virtuous causes and conditions. In the Seven Limbed Practice it represents Homage & Prostration.
2. Cleansing Water – Offered for bathing our object of Refuge, the Buddha, and our precious Teacher. This offering symbolises purification of our negative karma and obscurations. In the Seven Limbed practice it represents Offering.
3. Flowers – This offering represents all the various types of beautiful flowers in the entire universe that can be offered, as well as medicinal flowers, fruits and grains. It symbolises the beauty and flowering of Enlightenment and signifies the opening of one’s heart. In the Seven Limbed practice it represents Confession.
4. Incense – Makes an offering of beautiful smell to the Buddha and symbolises morality, ethics and discipline which are the basic causes and conditions from which pure enlightened qualities are cultivated. In the Seven Limbed practice it represents Rejoicing in all the virtue in the world both ordinary and extraordinary.
5. Light – This offering comes in the form of light that includes all natural light such as the sun, moon and stars, as well as all types of man-made light such as lamps and candles. The light symbolises the dispelling of all darkness of the mind, all ignorance. In the Seven Limbed practice it represents requesting the Buddhas to always offer Dharma teaching.
6. Perfume – This offering represents all beautiful fragrance or perfume that one can smell or put on the body. Perfume is offered to the Buddha’s mind and symbolizes the perseverance and joyful effort that is the heart of Enlightenment. In the Seven Limbed practice perfume represents beseeching the Buddhas to remain in the world.
7. Food – Food of all kinds and various tastes is offered to the Three Jewels. This offering symbolises the clear and stable mind of Samadhi, or meditative absorption. In the Seven Limbed practice food represents Dedication of all merit for the benefit of all sentient beings.