markadm wrote:By the way, I wanted to ask: many prayers require permission or empowerment in order to 'work'. Can I safely assume that anyone could make a mandala offering, even the elaborate (long) one?
Once again, I suggest you stay close to the teaching right at the
Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive where Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche says:
"Generally there are four ways of making a mandala offering. There is the outer mandala offering, the inner mandala offering, the secret mandala offering and the mandala offering of voidness. There are four different practices of making mandala offerings. If we do not understand the fundamental meditations and haven’t received a Vajrayana Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, we can practice the outer mandala offering and the inner mandala offering."
One who understands shunyata can also practice the mandala offering of absolute nature, of voidness.
The outer mandala offering is as it is contained in the prayer, in the beginning of the course book. It is explained how to make the offering, visualizing the place and then the four great continents, eight small continents, then at the center is Mt. Meru, where there are the categories of the sura gods living. At the top is the Realm of the Thirty-three, the city of Thirty-three, in Tibetan, tsa-sum. The asuras are situated down below the mountain, with four categories of Mt. Meru up above the ocean, and four categories of asuras being situated on the surface of the water, at the edge of the water, where the ocean stops."http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=754
and again:http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect ... 60#mandala
You can learn a great deal about Mandala Offering right there at the site. You can read what I have bolded above, and go back to the site and read the full teaching. Don't stop your offering would be my advice, and also you could take lessons online with this organization, if there are teachers nearby from Lama Zopas organization perhaps you can arrange to meet them in person in the future.