Buddhist makes offering to the Buddha by placing the offerings in front of a Buddhist altar. The Buddhist altar usually have a Buddha image or a Bodhisattva image to help focus the mind.
Since young, I had found it weird to pray to a wooden or metal sculpture and ask it for boon. It does not make sense that Buddha can be invoked by a mortal to be “imprisoned” in a wooden statue for us to pray to. Just illogical to me.
When I enact the offering of food to Buddha, I would recollect the great deeds of Buddha and his teachings before placing the offering at the altar. I believe this is an important and beneficial spiritual practice because it helps develop a mental aptitude to give without expectation.
I mean, we can’t be praying to a statue with a plate of apples and really believe that statue will turn us into millionaire or make us successful in our career right?
As time goes by, this spiritual practice of offering will condition our mind to give without expectation and this wonderful quality will manifest in our daily life as we interact with others.
A BUDDHIST STORY
During the Buddha’s time he would sometimes give teachings in the evening. Unlike our modern days, there was no electrical lightings back then. People would voluntarily bring along oil lamps to help brighten the Dharma hall. Rivalries inevitably arose amongst the rich householders on who presented a better lamp.
An old woman beggar saw the commotion on lamp offerings at the market place and was inspired to do likewise. Since she was extremely poor, she had to endure much humiliation and hardship before she could get some oil to make an oil lamp. One that is made from broken dish with a tiny bit of oil in it.
When she arrived at the Dharma hall, she realised that her oil lamp made from broken dish is horrible in comparison with the beautifully ornate lamps left on display by the rich merchants. So she left her lamp in an inconspicuous corner and sat in a remote distance from the assembly of devotees.
While the Buddha was teaching the assembly, a big gust of wind extinguished all the lamps in the hall and suddenly there was darkness. Except for the corner where the beggar’s lamp stood. Buddha asked the owner of that lamp to bring it to him.
You can imagine all attention was on this old beggar as she brought her humble oil lamp and walked towards the Buddha. As she approached, her oil lamp seemed to burn brighter and brighter, until it lit the entire hall. The Buddha then taught everyone the importance of purity and sincerity of mind when making an offering.
When offering a gift, it is our thoughts that counts. A simple flower or an apple, a glass of water is good. Let our imagination and sincerity guide us.
I hope we are inspired to make offerings. Although the Buddha is not physically present now, we can still make offering to the Buddha by mentally imagining our offerings are meant for him.
The merit generated will be tremendous.
Types of offerings
Offering of fragrance – smoke from incense, fragrance oil in aroma therapy
Reminder of the positive effect of observing precepts spreading far and wide to benefit others
Offering of flowers – Can be a bouquet of flowers or a single flowers.
Reminder of the impermanence of things
Offering of food – Biscuits, chocolates, fruits etc (you can eat it after offering- don’t waste food)
Reminder of the practice of charity
Offering of water – A glass / cup of clean water
Reminder of the clarity of mind and its importance to Enlightenment
Offering of light – candles, oil lamp, electric lamp
Reminder of wisdom chasing away ignorance , just like light driving away darkness