Monday, October 27, 2008


Thank you for your feedback on the post, "OM MANI PADME HUM." It's part of a much larger piece, and as I work on it, all of you are going to get dragged along with me. Enjoy!

A few years back when I began learning about Buddhism, I went into a Tibetan shop and told the owner I wanted to create an altar, and needed the basics. One thing he instructed me to get were a set of Buddhist Offering Bowls.

They come in a set of seven, and he said to lay them side-by-side, one kernel of rice width between them. Each morning I was to fill the bowls with water, from left to right, all the way up to the rim, then at sunset remove the water, right to left, turning the bowls upside down.

And although I've not always remembered to empty the water each night, my seven bowls have always remained filled and equidistance from one another at all times.

"What are the seven bowls about?" a friend, seeing my altar for the first time, asked.

"Ummmm... yea, well I don't actually know. They're just really important," I answered.

And so here I am today, several years later, working to understand why I do the things I do. A theme in my life. Definitely.

The bowls hold offerings, when the offerings are made each day, both merit and wisdom are accumulated. Obviously the Buddha and other enlightened beings don't need anything, so these offerings are made with the belief that it is good to be giving. For us. We benefit when we give.

Traditionally the first bowl is for water used to cleanse the mouth or face. This symbolizes auspiciousness.

The second bowl is water to wash the feet, symbolizing purification.

The third bowl is used to offer flowers, representing generosity.

Fourth comes incense, representing moral ethics.

The fifth bowls is for a light or lamp, signifying stability and clarity of patience - dispelling all ignorance.

The sixth bowl offers fragrance, representing perseverance, meaning joyous effort.

The seventh bowl is to hold delicious food, representing samadhi (nectar or ambrosia) to feed the mind.

Musical instruments are often at the end, signifying wisdom, as wisdom is a special power of the mind that penetrates phenomena, namely, compassion.

It is perfectly acceptable, and common, however, to simply fill each bowl with water. By doing so, you are preventing against greed or self-importance, which could destroy the virtue of the offering.

And all that merit and wisdom you accumulate? You are to dedicate it to the welfare of all beings, with the wish that they be free of suffering and attain enlightenment (awaken).

Tomorrow as I fill from left to right, I will try also to fill my mind with:

Auspiciousness (positive causes and conditions which bring positive effects)
Purification (from negative karma and obscurations)
Generosity (especially with wisdom)
Moral Ethics (cooling the mind from suffering)
Stability and Clarity of Patience (dispelling ignorance)
Joyous Effort (may all sentient beings progress in their attainment of the qualities of enlightenment)
Ambrosia to Feed the Mind (keeping the mind healthy, clear, calm and peaceful)
And the phenomenon of compassion (free from all confusion and ignorance)

* Photo from


Michelle O'Neil said...

I'm sure there are many things we all do without knowing the reasons why. Good digging! Love what you found.

Angie Ledbetter said...

The bowls are beautiful. Reminds me of a novena, or nine prayers, or days of prayers said for the grace benefits of self or others. :)

Carrie Wilson Link said...


I love that! The more I learn about Buddhism, the more I appreciate Catholicism!

Deb said...

Wow, Carrie, thanks for the teaching. I love your line about learning more about why you do what you do.

She said...

I do so many things without knowing exactly why! The bowls are beautiful!