Offering a Pure Land
In this two-day retreat we will explore the mandala offering, in which we learn to envision the universe as a pure land. The mandala offering is traditionally said to be the most meritorious of offerings. It is also an extraordinarily imaginative and joyful visualization. In exploring it we will look at the power of the mind and the imagination to transform our world, and we will look at how to make this offering, which we are encouraged to make daily, directly applicable to our own lives.
We all wish for spiritual realizations, but these depend upon creating certain inner conditions such as purifying negativity, accumulating merit, and receiving blessings. We will combine the practice of mandala offerings with receiving blessing by engaging in Guru Yoga practice. This is a special practice that enables us to strengthen our connection with our Spiritual Guide. Everyone is welcome to join us in this retreat.
If you are new to this practice and would like one of our retreat coaches to run through it with you beforehand please arrive at the Temple half an hour before the session starts. Someone will be there to answer any questions and show you what to do. It will be helpful if you can let us know beforehand that you will be coming (call 520-441-1617), but if you can’t then don’t worry – just show up.
Saturday 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm
Sunday 12pm, 2pm, 4pm
Suggested donation: $3 per session.
The Meaning of A Guru Yoga
& Mandala Offering Retreat
How does this retreat relate to my life?
“Most people usually seek happiness from external material things, but these can never bring true happiness. From beginningless time, we have all tried to find happiness by improving material things and external conditions, but instead of making people happy, improving external conditions has only increased the suffering, dissatisfaction, fear, and danger in the world. We can see this very clearly. From our side, therefore, we need to seek happiness from a different source.
The determination to extract the meaning of our human life by engaging in a spiritual path must come from within, and will arise when we realize that following the ordinary paths of a worldly life will never bring true happiness but always suffering and dissatisfaction. When we understand that by following the spiritual path we can attain a deep and lasting happiness, we will make the decision, ‘I must make my human life meaningful by following the spiritual path.’ Having decided to follow the spiritual path our thoughts will naturally turn to relying upon a qualified Spiritual Teacher who can guide us on this path. Guru yoga is relying with strong faith on such a Spiritual Guide. “
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
What is a guru?
‘Guru’ is a Sanskrit word meaning spiritual guide. A spiritual guide is any spiritual teacher who sincerely leads us into correct spiritual paths by giving correct instructions and by embodying the teachings in their daily activities.
What is Guru Yoga?
Guru Yoga is a special way of relating to our own spiritual teacher where we regard them as an enlightened being. Guru yoga is a special and powerful method that enables us to receive the blessings of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and holy beings.
In this retreat we visualize our Guru as Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka (see picture)
What if I don’t have a spiritual guide?
That’s ok. By coming to the retreat you will be creating the cause to meet a qualified Spiritual Guide in the future. Geshe-la says:
“Our mind is like a field, our Spiritual Guides instructions are like seeds sown in that field, and our faith in our Spiritual Guide is like water that germinates these seeds. If these three come together we will quickly and easily harvest a rich crop of Dharma realizations. If we do not have these conditions at the moment we should pray that we will find them in the future.”
What are blessings?
A blessing is a transformation of our mind from a negative state to a positive state, from an unhappy state to a happy state, or from a state of weakness to a state of strength through the inspiration of holy beings such as our spiritual guide, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. Geshe-la says:
“From our own side it is difficult to cultivate and maintain a peaceful and positive mind. We know this from our own experience; although no-one wants to have negative minds, they arise without choice. In reality, the only way to develop a positive, peaceful, and calm mind is to receive blessings from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Of course, Buddhas do not bless only the minds of Buddhists, but the minds of everyone – non-Buddhists, religious people, non-religious people, even animals. For example, through receiving blessings even animals can sometimes develop positive and peaceful minds, and at that time experience some happiness.
Our friends and relatives cannot help us to develop a peaceful and calm mind, and can sometimes even act as a cause for us to develop negative minds. However, if we check carefully within our own experience we can see that sometimes, for no particular reason, we naturally develop a calm and peaceful mind. Where does this experience come from? I can say that it is definitely the result of receiving Buddha’s blessings at that time. In this way we can understand that our happiness depends upon a positive mind, and this depends upon receiving Buddha’s blessings. There is no other source from which we can develop a positive mind.
Therefore receiving blessings is important both for those who seek Dharma realizations and for those who seek ordinary happiness. Without receiving blessings it is difficult to develop even a temporary peaceful mind, and even if occasionally we do develop a calm mind through our own effort, this will last for only a minute or two before it changes. Developing a calm and peaceful mind for any length of time totally depends upon receiving blessings from Buddhas. “
What is merit?
Merit is the good fortune created by virtuous actions. It is the potential power to increase our good qualities and produce happiness. One of the main purposes of engaging in the practice of making mandala offerings is to create abundant merit that will enable us to effortlessly develop good qualities and fulfill our spiritual aspirations.
What is a mandala offering?
In this context , the mandala is the entire universe visualized as completely pure and offered to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and holy beings. When we offer the mandala we imagine we are offering the entire universe in our hands, but our hands do not become larger and the universe does not become smaller. If we find this difficult to understand, we can think about how large images can be reflected in a small mirror or how whole cities can be shown on a television screen. Geshe-la says:
“Making mandala offerings is the best method to free us from future poverty and to enable us to obtain future rebirth in a Pure Land. Buddha Vajradhara made a guarantee that practitioners who sincerely make mandala offerings would never suffer from future poverty. Kadampa Geshes also said that if we want to be wealthy in the future, then we should stop ordinary business and make mandala offerings. We need to remind ourselves of this many times because at first we may have doubts about this practice and lack confidence and determination. Through familiarity our faith and conviction will grow, and our determination to practice this will increase. Eventually we will feel that we are actually making a huge and generous offering to all the holy beings. From such a profound and special practice of giving we will of course receive wealth. Making mandala offerings is also a very powerful method to increase our merit, and to develop pure concentration. “
The importance of faith
Faith is the root of all virtuous qualities and spiritual realizations and prevents us from perceiving faults in people or things that are pure or holy. The object of faith is any object that is regarded as holy or pure such as enlightened beings, spiritual teachings, spiritual realizations, and spiritual teachers and friends. Faith is like pure eyes that enable us to see a pure and perfect world beyond the suffering world of samsara. Geshe-la says:
“With faith our mind becomes completely pure, free from negative conceptions. Our negative thoughts and delusions will disappear, at least temporarily, and become unmanifest. With such a pure mind we will never experience any problems, and we can easily attain every Dharma realization of both Sutra and Tantra. So faith is a very important quality to develop. “
Sit back and relax – don’t worry about understanding it
A basic understanding of Buddhist teachings and meditation will be helpful during this retreat. However the main thing is to keep an open mind. Just relax and enjoy the experience even if you understand very little of the meaning.