Water Offerings

I hate twitter. It keeps trying to rope me into conversations, that you can’t really have on twitter. Hence this post.

Water Offerings.

Water Offerings are a Tibetan Buddhist method leaving offerings for essentially any and all spirits. Offering water is nearly a universal practice showing up in pretty much all religions, though with different ideas, and methods. The method I use and describe is essentially one of the standard Tibetan systems, with two tweaks I’ll discuss.

Why offerings? Well there are hosts of reasons why it is a great idea to give offerings, sometimes it is payment, sometimes it is respect, sometimes friendship, other times simply compassion. Always parallel it to real life, if you want help from someone, they’re more likely to help if you’ve given them something, helped them out, fed them, and respected them, why would spirits be that different? Wouldn’t you share your good fortune with friends and family? Why are spirits that different?

Why water offerings? If I were to designate offerings as simple, complex, and medium, water offerings would be medium. Simple offerings would be ones of pure intention or energy, and they definitely have their places. Complex could be as “simple” as the eight traditional offerings, involving having flowers, bells, food, incense, and more, and can be a lot more than that. Water offerings are the best of both worlds. Energy offerings tend to dissipate, the moment your focus wavers it starts to go. Water serves to “stabilize” the intention into a form and lets it persist, so you get the versatility of an intention/energy offering, but with more of the solidity of a complex offering.

Traditional set of seven

So in the version I perform I use eight small cups, plus a ninth to bring the water to the altar. This is one of my differences, the number. Water offerings have different amounts, I prefer eight, because I already do the eight offerings and I’m familiar with them, and while several forms of water offerings do use the eight offerings they decide randomly to include a candle instead of the one cup, I use water for everything. I find the single candle mixed in with all the cups disrupts the flow in my head. You can either offer this to anything and everyone, or call up a specific spirit to dedicate it to, even if you “produce” far more than you think they need.

Place all the cups (or bowls) in a row from left to right and fairly close together, the width of a grain of barley or rice they say. Slowly pour the water into the first bowl, each drop, each particle of water represents a basin of warm clean water to wash the feet after a long journey. It is a symbol of rest and relaxation. As you pour repeatedly say “Om Ah Hum” and if you can visualize it, the Om creates the offering, the Ah multiples it many times, and the Hum distributes it to those in need. If you’re more Western A-I-O works instead. My personal tweak is once I’m done pouring the offering, I just focus on that cup. I really focus on making a clear visual, as big and as many as I can. Om, an ocean of water to wash the feet as far as my mind’s eye can see. Ah, a universe of these oceans. Hum, those in need throughout all the universes get what they need.

Once you are done, then take that cup and slowly pour most of it into the next cup, leaving some in the cup you’re pouring from. This time as you say Om Ah Hum (or A-I-O) the particles of water are glasses of fresh cold drinking water. Again finish with a really big offering and copious amounts of the offering.

You follow this pattern with all the following cups. The next offerings are flowers, incense, candles/light, scented water, food, and musical instruments. When you are done visualize the eight cups and repeat the multiplication and distribution for everything.

If you’re doing this for a specific entity each of the offerings can be customized for them. When offering in this manner for Tzamaron, my Mercurial Angel, the flowers and candles are orange, the incense is amber, etc. When offering to a peaceful being the food never contains meats. If offering to a specific departed person if I know them I offer their favourite drinks, food, scents, music, and the like. Things like this can make it more specific and appropriate.

I do a water offering in the morning, and in my nightly rituals I thank the spirits, pour everything back into one cup, and dispose of it; in a potted plant, in the backyard, even down the sink if done respectfully. Generally you should leave it out for a while, so the spirits can make use of it. You don’t drink it though, it was given to someone else, it is not yours. When you’re done dry all the cups and stack them upside down, this keeps them clean and makes sure each offering is fresh.

May you, and yours find benefit in this simple and elegant offering.


One Response to Water Offerings

  1. Jack says:

    I had considered adding this to my practice for Kuan Yin but not really thought about it in this wider context before. I really like the idea, definitely going to have to revisit the idea of adding it to my daily practice.

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