Ngondro - Mandala Offering

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Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Chaz » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:45 am

I'm wondering if the choice on mandala plate is of such importance that something like this couldn't or shouldn't be used:

http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/per ... an-754705/

This is a pro-grade cake pan. My wife decorates cakes as a hobby and this is her pan of choice.

It's not as fancy as even the least expensive mandala plate I've found, but it's still 1/4 the price.

I'm wondering if such a pan be used as a Mandala plate. If using a mechanical tally counter to count repetions is ok, I can't help but think an aluminum cake pan - a really nice one - would make a suitable mandala plate.

I'm not trying to get by on-the-cheap, but I am on a budget, so why not?

The thoughts of others - conebeckham, Adamantine, anyone?
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby conebeckham » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:03 am

It's important to use the best material you can afford, and to maintain cleanliness, when doing mandala. If your motivation is to save money, then you should examine that.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby ground » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:14 am

Can anyone explain what the different rings are for that are provided together with the plate?

Kind regards
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby palchi » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:52 am

Chaz wrote:I'm wondering if the choice on mandala plate is of such importance that something like this couldn't or shouldn't be used:

http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/per ... an-754705/

This is a pro-grade cake pan. My wife decorates cakes as a hobby and this is her pan of choice.

It's not as fancy as even the least expensive mandala plate I've found, but it's still 1/4 the price.

I'm wondering if such a pan be used as a Mandala plate. If using a mechanical tally counter to count repetions is ok, I can't help but think an aluminum cake pan - a really nice one - would make a suitable mandala plate.

I'm not trying to get by on-the-cheap, but I am on a budget, so why not?

The thoughts of others - conebeckham, Adamantine, anyone?


Hi Chaz,

according to the instructions I got this would be ok - more important how you see and treat the plate than what it's original intended purpose was....

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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:04 am

As a college student, I can totally relate to being on a budget. And since Vajrayana entails methods of mentally increasing and enriching one's offering infinitely, I'd be tempted to go the more economical route too. Still, when I think about it, if I were trying to decide for myself what to do, this would be my thinking: since the essence of the practice is letting go of one's attachments to one's possessions and cultivating the perfection of generosity, it would be more in the spirit of the practice to spend however much extra I can for a really nice mandala pan/set and to consider it as part and parcel with my mandala offering.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:09 am

TMingyur wrote:Can anyone explain what the different rings are for that are provided together with the plate?

Kind regards


There's likely also a more symbolic meaning behind them, but they enable you to heap several more layers of offerings on the pan than if you had just the pan alone.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby conebeckham » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:47 am

Different traditions have different instuctions...some with the rings, some without.
However, if you look at a set of mandala rings, you should notice the offering substances and articles illustrated on the rings.....so, if you're using a set with multiple rings, you should take care to line them up
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby dakini_boi » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:26 am

I think the point is that the plate you use is something you feel is special - not simply spending a lot of money on the thing. Of course, if what you have is a cake pan, you can use it - and if you treat it as something special, then it's your special mandala plate. Personally, the aesthetics of that plate would make it difficult for me to use it unless it was the *only* thing I happened to have around. . . think of it this way - you're going to pour a glass of fine wine for your lover. Sure, you could serve it in a coffee mug. And of course, your lover will appreciate it no matter what, especially if all you have is a coffee mug - but how much more romantic and special if you serve it in a crystal wine glass? Going out of our way for things like this reinforces our values, both in "ordinary" relationships, and in relationship with the objects of refuge. It's not like the buddhas care if you use a solid gold mandala plate or a paper plate - or a dry, stale pizza, for that matter - the whole point is to accumulate merit, which ripens in OUR mindstream, so we take care to make the offerings as special as we can.

At the moment, for a mandala plate I sometimes use a small, flat, circular piece of nephrite, or "inca jade." It's not an incredibly flashy stone, and it certainly wasn't expensive (only $15) - and I didn't even buy it for the purpose - however, I just LOVE it and I love the way it feels. So it feels appropriate to me to use it in this way. It makes the offering feel like something special, like something I value. There's nothign wrong with wanting to save money, maybe you could find a decorative ceramic plate that has a certain elegance, for under $10. Or in Chinese or Japanese stores they often have extensive selection of inexpensive ceramic plates.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Adamantine » Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:48 am

Chaz wrote:It's not as fancy as even the least expensive mandala plate I've found, but it's still 1/4 the price.

I'm wondering if such a pan be used as a Mandala plate. If using a mechanical tally counter to count repetions is ok, I can't help but think an aluminum cake pan - a really nice one - would make a suitable mandala plate.

I'm not trying to get by on-the-cheap, but I am on a budget, so why not?

The thoughts of others - conebeckham, Adamantine, anyone?


You've gotten some good replies so far. I agree that the entire purpose of mandala offerings is to cultivate the paramita of generosity, cut through grasping and give 'everything' without reserve.. without any stinginess or thought of return, even of merit . . . So if you do have the resources one should definitely get the nicest highest quality offering materials one can... this creates 'temdrel' also. However, if you really don't have the money, then whatever you can afford to use is acceptable-- but don't kid yourself about what you can and can't afford. For instance, -my own Lama did a mandala offering retreat in one of the caves in Tso Pema. . he had absolutely no money and no food. He survived by eating peaches from a peach tree nearby. And he used regular rocks he found for the mandala offering. . .In this case, it's the intention and the visualization that is most essential. But if you aren't living in a cave, eating from a peach tree, then you probably can afford decent offering materials.. only you know though. I'd discuss it with your PI if you have any doubts!

Oh, and to answer Tmingyur the rings are to stack all the different heaps of offerings according to the long-mandala offering. I think it's auspicious to do a long mandala offering at the beginning of the session, then after that do the short/abbreviated ones to accumulate. . so the rings may be important for ngondro if you want to try doing it that way.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:43 am

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.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby narraboth » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:00 pm

it's ok to use anything flat, if you are poor. depends on how poor you are.
It doesn't need to be luxury, but it needs to be clean, good looking and well arranged. I think a cake plate might look a bit odd.

As a student, I wanted to save money too, so I bought a very cheap mandala plate, and several months later it got stains, get darker, and it always smells like old coins, makes my hands smelly too. (at least cake plate won't smell)
So I bought a gold-plate one. It's a bit expensive but if it's something that you need to use for a while, you should put in some money to get a good one. And to be honest, mandala offering is the only thing you need to spend money on for doing ngondro, and you are expected to spend money when you are 'offering' something I guess?
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby narraboth » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:21 pm

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.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Chaz » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:45 pm

Thanx to all! The input thus far is extremely helpful.

Actually, I won't be starting Mandala offerings for a while yet. I've just started Ngondro in the last couple days. From my reading of the instructions I was givee for the practice, looks like I'll need 2 plates - one that's kept on the shrine as a permanent offering and the second to do the the litugical practice. Because Mandala offering is still a ways off- I've been told to do each practice to completetion in turn - I can save up and buy proper plates.

My instruction also includes directions for preparing the offering: Rice dyed with saffron, gemstone chips and small coins. I was thinking of dimes for that ingredient but if anyone has suggestions, I'm totally up for that.

Thanx again!
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby justsit » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:24 pm

Namse Bangdzo sells some nice inexpensive mandala plates, and they also offer a big bag of "gemstones" for about $20. Any small coins will do, nickels, dimes, all OK.

Good luck with ngondro! :twothumbsup:
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby gnegirl » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:19 pm

When the US first issued the Sacajawea dollar coins that are gold in color I gave a roll of them to a Lama friend of mine. He got a bit excited, and at a later visit I noticed his offering mandala on his shrine had the brand new dollar coins propped up against each level of it.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby pemachophel » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:07 pm

"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."

When I did this (1973 or 4), I was living in the back my Teacher's Tibetan antique shop in Greenwich Village. (Kangchen Dzo Nga at 215 Thompson St. to be precise. Anyone out there remember that store?) I remember I offered a pound of rice per day. (Rice was much cheaper then!) In any case, once a week, I would take the big bag of ABO (already been offered) rice to the park at the bottom of 5th Ave. and feed it to the pigeons. In the more than one year it took me to complete one bum of the entire 12-line Longchen Nyingthig mandala offering, no one ever asked me about the rice, what I was doing, or anything like that. So disposing of the rice according to Paltrul Rinpoche's WMPT was no problem even in the heart of NYC.

(As an aside, my Teacher had left the country just as I was starting this practice. He said that, after saying a bunch of the 12-line prayer, He would teach me a condensed prayer for the remainder in order to finish it more quickly. However, He was gone much longer than He had originally anticipated; so I wound up saying the entire prayer (3 hours per day) for the entire practice. For me, that was the hardest part of that ngon-dro.)
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby heart » Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:05 pm

pemachophel wrote:"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."

When I did this (1973 or 4), I was living in the back my Teacher's Tibetan antique shop in Greenwich Village. (Kangchen Dzo Nga at 215 Thompson St. to be precise. Anyone out there remember that store?) I remember I offered a pound of rice per day. (Rice was much cheaper then!) In any case, once a week, I would take the big bag of ABO (already been offered) rice to the park at the bottom of 5th Ave. and feed it to the pigeons. In the more than one year it took me to complete one bum of the entire 12-line Longchen Nyingthig mandala offering, no one ever asked me about the rice, what I was doing, or anything like that. So disposing of the rice according to Paltrul Rinpoche's WMPT was no problem even in the heart of NYC.

(As an aside, my Teacher had left the country just as I was starting this practice. He said that, after saying a bunch of the 12-line prayer, He would teach me a condensed prayer for the remainder in order to finish it more quickly. However, He was gone much longer than He had originally anticipated; so I wound up saying the entire prayer (3 hours per day) for the entire practice. For me, that was the hardest part of that ngon-dro.)


Nice story, thank you for sharing my friend.

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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Chaz » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:43 pm

narraboth wrote: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.


Some folks say that rice isn't good for the birds. I don't know if that's true or not, but it makes me reluctant to offer used rice to them.

I personally think it's a waste to throw rice into the bin (Chinese people think it's a sin to waste food.)


I'm thinking I'll put mine in the composter. It'll break down with the other organics and eventually find it's way into my cutting gardens to feed the flowers that will adorn my shrine room.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:21 am

Chaz wrote:I'm thinking I'll put mine in the composter. It'll break down with the other organics and eventually find it's way into my cutting gardens to feed the flowers that will adorn my shrine room.


FWIW, I think this is a great idea.
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Re: Ngondro - Mandala Offering

Postby Adamantine » Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:46 am

Chaz wrote:
Some folks say that rice isn't good for the birds. I don't know if that's true or not, but it makes me reluctant to offer used rice to them.

.


I don't believe this is true... I researched it a couple years ago because
I suddenly got concerned about the birds who were eating all
the dharmapala-offering rice. Rice expands too slowly in
normal (not boiling) temperatures, and plus the birds digestive
enzymes begin breaking it down fairly soon after eating... So the idea
of rice expanding and exploding bird stomachs is something
of an urban legend, from what I can tell..
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