As Buddhism spread beyond the shore of ancient India and move towards a modern world, Buddhist teachers encountered foreign culture and new social norms.
Some of these may not be compatible with Buddhist teachings. The situations worsen when the concept of an awakened man cannot be fully comprehended by the new audience.
One of the common misconception is to mistaken Buddha as another god. Consequently Buddha is worshipped in a manner that is similar to local religion and custom.
Another problem is to expect the monastic community to comply or conform with modern social engagement. People mistakenly think that the rules established by Buddha is for ancient times only.
Let’s examine what is inappropriate offerings.
1. Offering made at the expense of killing a sentient being.
The Buddha advices all his disciples to refrain from killing and harming others. He prevented a mass sacrificial ceremony involving 500 livestocks. Message us loud and clear to me. Therefore it is inappropriate to slaughter animals to make offerings to Buddha. It is also a bad idea to cook a meal for the monastic community by specially slaughtering animals for food.
2. Offerings of stolen material.
The Buddha would never ask His disciples to commit a crime to make provisions for Him and His monastic disciples. Therefore anything that is stolen becomes an inappropriate offerings.
3. Offering of sex.
The Buddha left home to lead a celibate life. His wife became his disciple later on in life and lived as a celibate nun. Buddha established monastic communities that are celibate. Celibacy is not a whimsy code of conduct and has its importance. Therefore it is grossly inappropriate to offer sex, especially to the monastic communities. It may come as a surprise, but the confusion is creeping in under the misguided pretence of tantrism or mystism or modern progress.(copying other religion)
4. Offering alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs
The Buddha strongly advices His disciples from intoxicating their mind. An intoxicated mind is not conducive to meditation. Therefore it is not appropriate to offer wine at the altar and definitely not praise worthy to offer alcoholic drinks to the monastic communities during a meal. No Champaign, wine or beer please.
5. Offering entertainments.
The Buddha forbade His Monastic communities from entertainments. It is therefore not appropriate to offer entertainments to Buddha and the monastic communities. It is not ok to bring them to musicals and opera. Not even an orchestra.
6. Wrong views about Offering labour services and volunteering service
Many people mistaken they are offering a service to the Buddha or His Sangha by doing volunteering works at a Buddhist dojo. This is a misconception. The correct way to think is that the Buddha and His Sangha is giving us an opportunity to do meritorious deeds. One advantage to think this way, is that we will not feel obliged and pressured while doing our work because we sign up on own free own. We should appreciate that Buddha and Sangha is the most contented beings.(Not demanding) Last but not least, it prevent us from having a “work” mentality that leads to unhealthy expectation for a reward.
7. Offering perfumes, flower garlands, jewellery, luxurious goods etc.
It is noble of us to give the best that we can afford but it is a misguided view to think that offering the best means to give luxurious and expensive goods. The best gift is offered with love and respect, without expectation for any returns. During the Buddha’s time, a few kings were so impressed by Buddha that they even offered their kingdoms to Buddha. THE BUDDHA REJECTED their offerings. The monastic code of conduct also requires monks and nuns to live simply. Therefore it is awfully bad taste to offer luxurious goods because it creates more problem for the practicing monks and nuns. For example, if we want to offer a bag, we should offer the basic one and not a branded luxurious bag. Likewise, prayer beads made of precious stone is not ok. If we have too much money to spend, then donate the money to charities in honour of our spiritual teachers instead, or help sponsor poorer monastery and dojo in honour of our teachers. Spend wisely and don’t be lazy with the extra work.
8. Offering pets
Pets are like family. The monastic community renounces family life. So it is really not appropriate to give pets to them. Separately, people abandon pets and animals at Buddhist dojo thinking that they will be taken care of. While the monastic community practice compassion and try to help the poor animals, we are being irresponsible by creating a burden for the monks and nuns.
Give wisely and have a blessed life.
May all be well and happy.