Mandala offering is one of the practices included in ngondro, where someone does over 100,000 of things, e.g. 100,000 recitations of a mantra, prostrations, or in this case, 100,000 mandala offerings.
Why Do Mandala Offerings
In this video, Ven. Thubten Chodron explains the reasons for doing mandala offerings. She explains that its a great way to counteract miserliness and to work with our attachment to things, whether they are our material possessions or our people close to us.
From the karmic perspective, this practice creates vast mounts of merit and also creates the causes for one day having great material resources and support in a future life. This plays particular importance in the bodhisattva practice, where having support and resources are important in order to be able to benefit sentient beings.
How to do Mandala Offerings
To do the practice, of course someone can visualize it, but its better if someone has a physical mandala set to use. In terms of material of the mandala set, I’ve heard that its good to get one of the best quality that one can get (e.g. silver, copper, etc). And for offering substances, the best that one can get. If these means pearls or colored stones, then that works.
I’ve also heard that if someone can not get these things, its better to start with what one has. It’s not good to postpone on the practice on the basis of, “I’ll start once I can afford a really nice set with some pearls.” It’s better to start now, even if that means using a plate with some rice.
Here is information on how the Manadala offering practice is done:
A further detailed commentary on the symbolism about the practice:
My Impressions of this Practice
I recently did a mandala offering ngondro a year ago, but have put off writing it. I actually started this site a way to encourage people to do the precious practice of ngondro, and to encourage people to find teachers and teachings that would be beneficial to them.
I found that personally, this practice was beneficial for me during a time when I had a lot of material comforts. It was very helpful to constantly offer away everything that I have, with an understanding that these things are all impermanent and without true essence, so offering them can be done without a sense of loss.
Though the more I do ngondros, the more I find that I have less to say because I’m not sure I’m not qualified to say something about it. But I would highly encourage someone to try this practice out because it creates the wish to want to give in order to help others. Even if someone actually doesn’t give in reality, just the wish to give is a start and will eventually lead to growth in one’s practice.