Seven Limbs of Practice: Chöpa

Most Bhutanese Buddhist rituals contain the set of seven practices known as Yenlak Dünpa (ཡན་ལག་བདུན་པ་). The seven practices prostration (ཕྱག་), offering (མཆོད་པ་), confession (བཤགས་པ་), rejoicing (རྗེས་སུ་ཡི་རང་བ་), request to live long (བཞུགས་པར་གསོལ་བ་འདེབས་པ་), request to turn the wheel of Dharma (ཆོས་ཀྱི་འཁོར་ལོ་སྐོར་བར་བསྐུལ་བ་) and to dedicate the merits (བསྔོ་བ་).  Sometimes one finds eight parts, with the addition of taking refuge (སྐྱབས་འགྲོ་).

In most meditation, prayers and worship Bhutanese undertake, these seven parts are included in the practice. There is a lot of meditation and mindfulness training one can do while carrying out these seven practices. We have discussed the practice of prostration and also various kinds of offering. This essay will focus on the general concept and practice of offering or chöpa (མཆོད་པ་).

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Why do Bhutanese practice chöpa?

Chöpa or offering is the practice of giving or generosity. This is the first one of the six perfections which Mahayana Buddhist must practise in order to reach enlightenment. It is a fundamental Mahayana practice. The more a person offers, the more generous he or she becomes and someday the person will have immense joy in giving even the body, like the Buddha is said to have done when he was born as prince Mahasattva.

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What do Bhutanese offer in chöpa?

When one talks about offering or chöpa, there are many kinds of offering. There are external or chiyi chöpa (ཕྱི་ཡི་མཆོད་པ་), internal or nanggi chöpa (ནང་གི་མཆོད་པ་), secret or sangwai chöpa  (གསང་བའི་མཆོད་པ་) and ultimate offering de khonanyid kyi chöpa (དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་མཆོད་པ་).

External offering refers to things like offering pleasant sense-fields such as pleasant visual objects, sound, taste, smell, etc. This is called the offering of five sense objects or doyön nga. It can also include offerings of good things that are owned by oneself or dakpö yongsu zungwa (བདག་པོས་ཡོངས་སུ་བཟུང་བ་) such as one’s wealth and offering of good things that are not owned by oneself or dakpö yongsu mazungwa (བདག་པོས་ཡོངས་སུ་མ་བཟུང་བ་) such as a wildflower. One can also offer one’s body, abode and possessions nélülongchö (གནས་ལུས་ལོངས་སྤྱོད་). One of the most common forms of offering is to offer the entire world with all the good things in it.

Similarly, one can offer real things such as water, tea, clothes, etc. which one has or ngösu jorwa (དངོས་སུ་འབྱོར་བ་) and also imaginary things or yikitrülpa (ཡིད་ཀྱི་སྤྲུལ་པ་). The best form of imaginary offering is to follow the example of the offering made by Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. One must imagine all good things and then multiply and magnify them to fill the entire space and offer them to the Buddhas. This is called the cloud of offering of Samantabhadra or Küntuzangpö Chötrin (ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོའི་མཆོད་སྤྲིན་).

In addition to external offerings, one can offer good things within oneself. One can offer one’s body, the experience of happiness and joy, one’s virtues and merits accumulated so far, one’s good qualities and achievements, and the enlightened qualities latent in one’s mind. This will be internal offering.

Then, there is the concept of secret offering in tantric Buddhism. For example, a devotee can offer the five kinds of nectars and five kinds of meats, which are substances generally considered very filthy and impure. They are consumed to overcome one’s habitual prejudices and conventional taboos. They are considered nectar because, when used in the right way, they destroy the ordinary sense of duality and defilements. There is also the offering of great bliss generated through the use of the psycho-somatic energies, energy channels and vital air. These are secret offerings.

Finally, there is the ultimate offering in which all sense of duality is dissolved. There is no offering, no one making the offering and no one receiving the offering. Abiding in such awareness of the basic nature of one’s mind is the ultimate form of offering.

What should one think of while practicing chöpa?

According the Buddhist texts, when one makes offering (chöpa), one should do so with no sense of attachment or stinginess. The practice of offering should strike on the person’s attachment to things. One must make the offering wholeheartedly and if possible use meditative visualization to increase the quality and quantity of what one offers.

Offering is giving and giving is said to result in receiving more in the future. So, chöpa will bring wealth and prosperity for the practitioner. The person also obtains the great joy of giving. It is important to give without any expectation of return or reward.

Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, founder of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called "Why We Do What We Do."

 

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Most Bhutanese Buddhist rituals contain the set of seven practices known as yoen lak duen pa (ཡན་ལག་བདུན་པ་). The seven practices prostration (ཕྱག་), offering (མཆོད་པ་), confession (བཤགས་པ་), rejoicing (རྗེས་སུ་ཡི་རང་བ་), request to live long (བཞུགས་པར་གསོལ་བ་འདེབས་པ་), request to turn the wheel of Dharma (ཆོས་ཀྱི་འཁོར་ལོ་སྐོར་བར་བསྐུལ་བ་) and to dedicate the merits (བསྔོ་བ་). 

This piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called "Why we do what we do".

Collection Bhutan Cultural Library
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Karma Phuntsho
Editor Bradley Aaron
Year published 2015
Original year published 2014
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