Saying Grace & Offering Food to Lama Tsongkhapa
Most religions have rituals or prayers involving food, whether it be offering, receiving or consuming food. In Buddhism, the practice of giving food to monks begging for alms began during the life of the historical Buddha and continues to this day. But what about the food that we eat ourselves? What is the Buddhist equivalent for “saying grace”?
Before our meals, it is good practice to be grateful for what we are about to partake and offer a portion of our food to Lama Tsongkhapa. In the Gelugpa tradition, we have a dedication prayer before we eat:
“OM AH HUM” (3x)
(To purify our food)
“GANGCHEN SHING TAI SOLJE TSONGKHAPA
NGOTOB RIGPAI WANGCHUNG GYALTSAB JE
DONGA TENPAI DAGPO KHEDRUB JE
GYALWA YABSE SUNLA CHOPA BUL”
“Within the Snowy Land is the chariot leader Tsongkhapa
One who has power & great attainments Gyaltsabje
Master & holder of Sutra and Tantra Kedrup-Je
To the Exalted Enlightened Three Father and Sons, I offer this.”
One of the 12 refuge commitments is to make offerings to the Three Jewels everyday. You might think this is difficult if you are travelling or not at home. However, offerings can be done anywhere, at any time. All you need is to remember a simple offering praise (above), which can be recited any time you wish to make an offering.
We can make food offering or drink offerings to Lama Tsongkhapa anytime, anywhere. When we make that offering, then that commitment will be fulfilled for the day. If there are people around and it is not convenient to recite over your food, just make the offering quietly. If for whatever reason we forget to make any offerings to the Buddha that day, then just make two offerings tomorrow and say sorry. Lama Tsongkhapa will not get upset.
“If you cannot remember the prayer, you can just offer your food or drink to the Buddhas by thinking that you will eat this meal or drink this drink so you can sustain your body, be strong and healthy to do spiritual practice to benefit others. By thinking like this sincerely, you fulfil your vow and would have made an offering for the day.”
– Tsem Rinpoche (Tsongkhapa: A Simple Guide to a Powerful Practice)
Blessing The Meat
As Buddhists, one way of extending our compassion towards animals is by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet (a diet that does not involve harming another sentient being). However, certain rare or extreme circumstances may leave us no choice but to consume meat, and in such circumstances we can recite a certain mantra:
“OM ABIRA KHE TSARA HUNG” (7x)
When we recite this mantra seven times (7x) over any meat we eat, it purifies the fault of eating meat (i.e. the non-virtuous action of killing) and blesses the sentient being whose flesh we are eating to have a good rebirth.
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