In Mahayana Buddhism, we read about offerings in scriptures.
Here’s an excerpt for reference.
With the most excellent of delightful flowers and garlands, Music, incense and parasols. These such wonderful objects of adornment, I offer to the Tathagatas.
The most excellent robes, and supreme fragrances, Incense Powders, incense and candles, Amassed in a sublime collection as high as a mountain, I offering them all to the Tathagatas.
BUT it is important to note and explain that “offerings heaped as high as mountain” is meant to be visualised only. In another word, we just imagine them in our mind!
If a reader is not well informed, it is easy to wrongly conclude that offering more is better. More means more merits?
Let us sit back and think.
Buddha taught the removal of greed and craving in his entire earthly existence…..
Are we sure that Buddha would be happy if great amount of money is spent to purchase “Buddhist offerings” so that we can heap them high on the altar?
Having volunteered at some Buddhist organisations, I witness devotees spending lots of money to purchase flowers, bottles of lamp oil, incenses, fruits etc for a Buddhist offerings or ritual. When added together, they easily cost thousands of dollars. These offerings are grand to behold and does add to the festivities inside the temple.
Large quantity of flowers in grand floral arrangement; although beautiful to behold, will wilt in a week. Due to the large quantity, additional disposal cost are incurred.
Incense in small quantity perfumes the air but cause a choking hazard when thousands are lit.
Bottles of lamp oil stack high and incur additional storage space.
The list goes on and on.
In some rituals, valuable foodstuff such as biscuits, agricultural product such as wheat, barley and various other ingredient etc are being thrown into huge bonfire as offerings known as fire puja.
I was told, “the bigger the offering, the happier Buddha would be. More is better.”
I am not convinced.
To me, it seems more like an offering to Mara. One that is rooted in greed.
I am not against rituals and ceremony. It is the quantity and waste that made me aghast!
Are you sure the Buddha will only be pleased if you offer expensive, branded stuff in huge quantity? That is such a prehistorical god worshipping mentality for goodness sake.
Just outside the temple gate, there are less privileged people who worry about their next meal and here we are; throwing food and stuffs into a large bon fire to be burned?
And I have not even started talking about smoke pollution yet!
If such wasteful and ignorant approach to a Buddhist ritual resulted in mundane blessings, then the blessings must be coming from Mara. (The adversary of Buddha)
Fortunately, not every Buddhist organization is wasteful and lacking wisdom.
I have also seen organization that practice Buddhist rituals and ceremonies wisely and frugally. Offerings are symbolic and frugal.
Focus and emphasis is to teach the participants right understanding and right view. Funds are donated to charities and directed towards helping the less privilege in society.
I am very sure the Buddha will be happier that way.
My confidence is based on Kutadanta Sutta. (Yup, I can almost hear the “Maha” guys’ accusation that I am of Hina mentality)
If you agree, please share with others so that Buddha’s wisdom remain alive and relevant in this modern time.