Yeshe wrote:The very first time I attended a session which included mandala offerings I had nothing with me and was presented with a cake tin and a bag of rice. This sufficed for quite a few days as I learned what to do.
To start out in public with a full mandala set and let the whole lot fall on the floor was another option another new student managed.
Isn't there a story somewhere of a boy usug sand and a rock as a base? A beautiful lesson.
Oh yeah, but if you have money to buy grains and only offer sand, that's probably not the best motivation?
It's very possible that rice will fall all around, because the design of mandala plate is slightly higher in the middle (which is different from a reversed cake plate), that is an auspicious sign. Sometimes the rice Tibetan used is not very dry (theoritically you should use Saffron water to rinse the rice and then dry it, that's why sometimes you can see tibetan monks doing mandala offering with yellow color rice) so it's easier to pile up. In anyway, in the end rice should still be able to pile up.
Usually you need to put another big plate (any normal flat plate is fine) under the mandala plate, so actually there won't be too much rice falling on the ground. You can use a big towel covering your legs to collect most of fallen rice. Or just simply hoover the ground everyday.
You shouldn't eat the rice after offering anyway (since you have given up it), if you are not poor. If you want to do 100000 mandala offering properly, I think rice will cost more than your mandala plate.
According to 'Words of My Perfect Teacher', the used rice should be given to birds or poor people, but that's not easy if you live in a western city I guess. I personally think it's a waste to throw rice into the bin (Chinese people think it's a sin to waste food.) But there's still a way to do it: in the book it says if you use precious jewels, you can reuse them (obviously you can't change it all the time). Some people use small, non-jewelry used pearls (You can find them in big chinese medicine store, 100g $20 or what. the price is affordable since they can be re-used); some people just use multi colors crystal pieces.