Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche strongly recommends this text for those who wish to deepen their understanding of sur practice. In the text, Patrul Rinpoche describes in precise and graphic detail all the different types of guest that we invite to a sur offering. These descriptions are far more extensive than usually found in sur liturgies, helping us to generate devotion to those we invite out of faith, and compassion to the beggars, outcasts, fallen monastics and malevolent spirits who are the main objects of our offering. Patrul Rinpoche includes a special section for the spirits that held sway in his home region in Tibet—as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote, “Kham was haunted in the past by many ghosts and evil spirits, and this was one of the reasons why Patrul Rinpoche used to explain the Bodhicharyavatara continually to his disciples. Before long, there were no more ghosts—or at least, no one came to any more harm. Such is the hidden power of Bodhichitta!”Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Enlightened Courage. Snow Lion, page 29. Patrul Rinpoche’s compassion is evident throughout the text, particularly in his description of beggars who are devoted two sections. For each type of guest, we are instructed in how we should make offerings and what we should request of them. The text is an invaluable guide for Vajrayana practitioners.
Rain of Amrita - An Offering of Sur
General and Specific Instructions Necessary for the Offering of SurThe Tibetan word sur means ‘burnt offering’. It is a special type of offering mainly directed towards spirits or bardo beings who can only gain sustenance through their sense of smell. Lama Zopa once described sur as “Aroma Charity for Spirits”. Since there is no equivalent word for sur in English, I have retained the original Tibetan term in this translation. Just as Buddhist concepts such as ‘karma’ and ‘nirvana’ found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘sur’ too may one day enter our lexicon.
by Patrul Rinpoche
Om ah hung
The mandala of fire burns the offerings and sends out rays of perfectly pure light that merge with the smoke, rising up in great clouds of wisdom amrita, the remedy for the maras.Amrita in Sanskrit, dütsi (Wyl. bdud rtsi) in Tibetan, has two meanings: (1) according to the Sanskrit root, a means ‘not’ and mrit means ‘dying’, so literally, ‘not dying’ or ‘elixir of immortality’; and (2) as reflected in the Tibetan, tsi means ‘remedy’ and dü ‘maras’, so ‘remedy for the maras’. As in all sadhana practice, the offerings (in this case the smell of the burnt food) are transformed into wisdom amrita. This amrita is not a liquid (translations such as ‘nectar’ or ‘elixir’ can be misleading) but rather the wisdom-essence of bodhichitta. Maras refers to negative influences, such as illnesses, that harm sentient beings, or the ‘four maras’ which trap beings in samsara. The essential nature of the sur offering is none other than bodhichitta, the sole remedy for the four maras and the ultimate cause for the enlightenment of all beings. The offerings please the victorious ones and satisfy all beings of the six realms. They are multiplied and transformed by the magical means of bodhisattva SamantabhadraThe bodhisattva Samantabhadra is renowned for the boundless offerings that he made by multiplying his body an infinite number of times, each body making its own offerings, filling the whole of space. and by recitation of the Space Treasury mantra.The mantra appears below. As you recite the mantra and perform the corresponding mudra, an inexhaustible cloud of sensual stimulants arises from emptiness, filling the entire universe and remaining for as long as space endures. May the victorious buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs bless these substances with the truth of their speech and the inconceivable power of their samadhi, transforming them into clouds of inexhaustible sublime offerings!
Bless the offerings with the Space Treasury mantra
nama sarwa tatagaté bayo bisho mugebé sarwa takam utgaté saparana imam gagana kam soha
Short invitation to the four types of guestsThis and subsequent headings do not appear in Patrul Rinpoche’s text but have been inserted for the sake of clarity. For the four types of guests see Orgyen Tobgyal’s explanation here.
O victorious buddhas whose compassion is unfailing,
Through your magical power, come now to this sacred place.
Supreme bodhisattvas who think only of helping others,
Through the strength of your kind heart, come now to this sacred place.
And by the power and truth of the victorious ones and their heirs,
All you karmic debtors and guests invited out of compassion, come now too!
Vajra samaya dza!
Om ah hung
O deities, you who are the manifestations of the Buddha’s three kayas, who are born out of great compassion, and who accomplish all the perfectly pure aspiration prayers.The Buddhas have perfected all ten paramitas of the path to enlightenment. The eighth paramita is that of aspiration, which is connected to wisdom. Upon reaching the eighth bhumi, bodhisattvas perfect the countless prayers of aspiration that they made while on the path to enlightenment, since they no longer grasp at phenomena as being truly existent. You hold all sentient beings in your compassion throughout day and night—your sole concern is their welfare. You manifest as peaceful deities, wrathful deities, tramensTramens are a class of beings that have the body of a human but the head of an animal. They are considered to be very dangerous since they feed off the flesh of human beings. Tramens sometimes appear as protectors in the entourage of a deity, where they guard the outer rim of the mandala. and so on; as the sound of the profound and vast teachings; and as the inconceivable display of your all-knowing enlightened mind. Since you manifest in all these ways, your vision is unimpeded and your skilful actions are inconceivable. Please rejoice in this sur offering of wisdom, this remedy for the maras, and enjoy it. Please bless us thanks to the power of the two accumulations.
Om ah hung
Great bodhisattvas, heirs of the victorious ones, protectors of beings, although you delight in the infinite buddha fields that you manifest, and enjoy boundless wisdom and clairvoyance, please accept this sur offering, this wisdom amrita, for the sake of my own happiness and the well-being of all sentient beings. Through the truth of the bodhisattvas’ qualities which are unparalleled in all of samsara and nirvana—Manjushri’s wisdom, Vajrapani’s power, Avalokiteshvara’s compassion, Samantabhadra’s actions, Protector Maitreya’s liberation—and the perfect and sublime bodhichitta that all the heirs of the victorious ones have given rise to, together with the truth of these words, may these sumptuous and fine offerings that I have prepared be blessed so that they pervade throughout the three realms and have the power to satisfy every single being of all six classes.The six classes of beings are: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, demi-gods and gods.
Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas
Om ah hung
Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas,
Arhats who have exhausted all their defilements,
You who accomplished what they set out to do,
Who have laid down the burden of the five aggregates and will no longer be born in samsara,
Who have abandoned gathering and hoarding,
Who have realized primordial wisdom beyond existence,
I offer to you as alms this sur, this wisdom amrita, I have prepared with pure motivation
So that you will, in return, care for all sentient beings who have at one time been my very own mother.
Vajrayana Deities and Vidyadharas
Om ah hung
Male and female deities at the centre of the inconceivable mandalas of the secret mantras, vidya-mantras and dharani mantras, retinue, emanations and emissaries—all you countless deities I invite here—as well as deities who remain as vidyadharas cared for by the deities, and the vidyadharas who fly in the sky in their illusory bodies of wisdom, some with form and some without. Through the power of your miraculous abilities and your great compassion, please enjoy this sur offering, the essence of which is amrita, as a ganachakra feast. Purify all my breakages of samaya, and make the power of mantras and samadhi blossom in me without any obstacle.
Powerful Beings of the World
Om ah hung
I invite the great and mighty beings of this world, the most powerful gods, nagas, local deities, rakshasas and so on, the chiefs who hold power over people and resources, as well as those who aspire to be chiefs. I make this offering of sur, this wisdom amrita, to all of you, as well as to all the gross and subtle elemental spiritsThe elemental spirits, jungpo (‘byung po) in Tibetan, are malignant spirits that belong to the preta or hungry ghost realm. They are not always malevolent and are not the most powerful of harmful spirits. They are called ‘elemental’ because this class of spirits includes gods of fire, earth, wind and so on. who accompany you. These offerings have been blessed by the words of truth spoken by the victorious ones and their heirs so that they become a feast of everything that you could possibly wish for and desire—please accept them. This embodiment of the compassion of the victorious ones that grants the gods and all beings their share of bodhichitta is the treasure that fulfils all desires—may this offering please and satisfy you.
Beings of the Six Classes
Om ah hung
I invite all beings of the six classes who wander in the cycle of existence, who believe phenomena to be real and grasp at a self, who are tormented by the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and endlessly take birth in samsara. They are attached to themselves and dislike what is other. They mistakenly see things in a dualistic way and grasp at gross appearances. Even though, bound by their physical bodies, they cannot gather here in an instant, even though the rarefied food that we offer cannot possibly satisfy them, through the power of my great compassion, I imagine that all sentient beings of the three realms are actually here in front of me. Through this sur offering, this remedy for the maras, may I perfect the paramita of generosity and may all sentient beings, who have at one time been my mother, be liberated from the suffering caused by their karmic perception and may they be filled with great joy.
Om ah hung
I invite those who are the most deserving of generosity and who offer bodhisattvas the opportunity to accumulate vast storehouses of merit—those who are the destitute of the world, the beggars, who go from door to door, placing their hopes in other people, who live the lives of vagrants, always subsisting on charity. All such people of lowly condition are the objects of my generosity and I hold them with compassion—may this sur offering, whose nature is amrita, reach them all. May those who are hungry be satiated, those who are cold find clothing, may this sur offering become the source of fulfilment for each and every one.
May they receive the bodhisattvas’ blessing and may I never commit the root downfall of failing to give away my food or possessions because of stinginess.One of the root downfalls of the bodhisattva vows. Khenpo Kunpel explains “Those of the highest acumen are to eschew the eighteen root downfalls as explained in the Akashagarbha-sutra. The Bodhisattvas of medium scope must keep themselves from the four root downfalls such as the refusal to donate wealth or the gift of Dharma through a failure in generosity, as explained in the Grihapati-ugraparipriccha-sutra. For Bodhisattvas of basic capacity, it is enough to preserve and not give up their bodhichitta in intention.” Kunzang Pelden.
The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech: A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva. Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Shambhala, 2010, page 132.
Om ah hung
I invite outcasts who live on the boundaries of the living and the dead, whose food is left-overs and drink is dregs, who reap meagre fruit from their past generosity and have only a limited capacity to give, whose radianceThe term mdangs refers to the vitality or radiance of human beings and animals, in other words what makes them have a certain impact, the feeling that they arouse. is weak, and who wear dull, faded clothes. May these poor and destitute sentient beings enjoy this sur offering, the wisdom remedy for the maras. May it fulfil their needs and satisfy them. May it naturally pacify the torment of their hunger, thirst and lowly condition. May their strength and standing grow so that they become equals among their kind. May they then practice the noble dharma.
Om ah hung
These degenerate times have led some people of loose morals to take the robes of a monk or nun, motivated solely by their wish to better their lot or to find security. They wear the outer garb of a monastic—their maroon and yellow rags. They appropriate for their own sustenance precious offerings given in faith to the sangha. The colours of their robes are dark bluish and a faded yellow. They are seldom satisfied with what they have to eat and crave the food of others. They eat tormas that are offered to the deities, beg food from everyone they meet, seize food being distributed to the sangha, take the food that is offered out of devotion, scavenge for leftovers, stretch out their hands when in the dining hall, hold out their cup when drinks are being prepared, and drool when they see meat. A great spread of food fails to satisfy them, they readily part with their money for what looks like meat, even if it may not be, and they carry their meat and butter together.
They have little interest in representations of the enlightened body, speech and mind, and readily forget about them. They scavenge around rotting corpses like vultures and buy damaged goods as if they were made out of gold or silver. They beg for tea in summer, for butter in autumn and for wheat in winter. They come when they’re not invited, they crave things they don’t need, they get angry when they’re denied what they want, and they steal when people look away. Give them one thing and they’ll ask for two—the more you give, the more they ask for.
I offer this sur offering of wisdom amrita to all such people who constantly expect something from others—those from the past, those who have died, those who are still living, and those still to come. May they be satisfied and find contentment. May they never experience any hunger or thirst. May so little as a tiny speck of food nourish them fully. May they never covet what other people pile on their plates. May they have a bright and healthy complexion, full stomachs and be naturally joyful. May they always practice the dharma and strive to purify their obscurations, and may they become worthy objects of faith and inspiration.
BeggarsPatrul Rinpoche has already mentioned beggars earlier in the text, however he devotes another section to them here, going into more detail.
Om ah hung
I invite those who subsist from begging, who comb the ground to pick up rags, who loiter near people’s doors. Their faces are grey like ashes. They don’t speak, they howl. They hold out their hands and their bowl. They always carry a staff and an empty bag. They call out to people they know and grovel to those they don’t know. In the summer they yearn for beer, begging for the empty glasses and water that rinsed them. In autumn they long for grain and rummage for chaff and dry fodder. In spring they dream of butter, arguing over the dregs from milking and fighting with the new-born calves. In winter they crave meat and beg for gnawed bones and dirty broth. Time after time, they go out begging. They leave early in the morning and come back late at night, or if not the next day. To say, “They’re not coming today” is idle talk—they always come! They turn up to eat as if they’d taken a sacred pledge, they utter their refrain like some sort of dumb litany. When they’re beaten, they don’t respond. They always speak sweetly, but inside they’re ruthless. They are never satisfied with what they receive and flare up when people don’t give them anything. They always expect something from others.
I make this offering of wisdom amrita, this sur, to all the beggars of this world—to men and women, to the disabled, the blind and the deaf. May they be fully satisfied, may it soothe their hunger, quench their thirst, restore the eyesight of the blind, the hearing of the deaf, the limbs of the disabled. May they enjoy perfect happiness and well-being, and always practice the dharma.
Om ah hung
I invite those who, because they didn’t have anything to eat while they were alive, constantly thought of taking food from poor people or from the alms offered to the sangha. They died from hunger or from cold, without hearing a word of dharma. Even if they did hear the dharma, they were devoid of faith because they spent too much time with lamas and monastics and became too familiar with them. Since they were unable to benefit from the dharma, they ended up in the bardo of becoming or in one of the two hungry ghost realms.There are two sorts of preta: those who live collectively and those who move through space.
See Patrul Rinpoche. The Words of My Perfect Teacher. Revised. New Haven Conn.: Yale University Press, 2010, pages 72-76.
They experience all sorts of hallucinations, such as day and night being reversed and the three kinds of suffering, of cold, hunger and thirst. They always loiter near people’s houses and doors; they can see food, drink and money but cannot take them. They are tormented by fear and hatred. When death came upon them they looked towards those who were still living, with their arms outstretched, their attachment as strong as ever. They continue to gather in the temple when the conch sounds for practice, hoping to find food and drink. But even if they wait next to where the offerings are laid out, they never receive any—no one sees their pleading faces nor their outstretched hands. Because they are ignored, their minds blaze with anger. Everywhere appears dark to them, as if at dusk, and their bodies are mere shadows. Rain, snow and blizzards torment them. For them, green fields are black, crops are dry, gold is covered in rust, faces are repulsive, and speech is injurious. They long for food and are tormented by thirst. They scavenge for the dregs of used tea, and eat snot and spittle.
To all such beings who hunger after sur offerings and tormas, I offer this wisdom amrita which, like a great treasure, appears in the form of whatever each one desires and needs. Satisfied and sated, may they be free from all craving for food and drink. May they remember their deities and lama without expectation or attachment, and may their faith and heartfelt prayers lead them swiftly to the pure fields.
Until then, you remain amidst the great multitude of beings who have passed into the bardo, while here amongst the living, our numbers are few. Dead, don’t hurt the living. Don’t hope for too much from them. Avoid desire and attachment. Do not steal the vital essence of nutritious food. Do not harm the health of unborn cattle. Do not cause feuds and unrest within families. May this sur offering, which is amrita in nature, satisfy you completely. And through it, may you receive the blessing of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas and give rise to the precious mind of enlightenment.
Insert: Dedicating Sur Offering Specifically to the Guests of CompassionThe indented section has been marked as an insert by Patrul Rinpoche (or the editor) using specific punctuation marks. It begins with the rather cryptic title “The sur offering.” The 2009 edition of Patrul Rinpoche’s collected works printed in Sichuan even begins a new chapter at this point, with the title “Section set apart from the Rain of Amrita to specifically dedicate sur offerings to the guests of compassion.” It is clearly not a new section, but this title gives an idea of its purpose. It is a shortened version of the offering to degenerate monastics.
Om ah hung
The suffering of this degenerate age also affects those who follow the discipline of the robed monks and nuns. Motivated by the wish to better their lot or avoid hardship, they wear the iconic saffron robe and support themselves from offerings made to the sangha. Their food scarcely satisfies them—they crave what other people have to eat, control the amount of food given to the community, and take alms that were offered in devotion. They beg for butter in summer and barley in autumn. They barge in on people, solicit them unnecessarily, and become exasperated when they don’t receive what they want. If you give them enough offerings to last for a year, they’ll shamelessly come back and ask for more. They always count on being supported by others.
I offer this sur offering of wisdom amrita to all such people—those who are dead, those who are still alive and those yet to come. May it satisfy and fulfil them. May they never feel hungry. May they find nourishment from even just a tiny speck of food and may they never covet the food piled on the plates of others. May they have a bright and healthy complexion, full stomachs, and be naturally joyful. May they always practice the dharma and strive to purify their obscurations, and may they become objects of faith and inspiration.
Local Deities and Spirits in Patrul Rinpoche’s Area
All you local deities, Nyenchen TöpatsalName of the great nyen spirit who rules over Golok. He is a mountain god (or nyen) who takes on a powerful, black and wrathful form. He is also said to be a great bodhisattva on the tenth bhumi. An innumerable retinue always accompanies him. and the rest, who pitch sides one against the other during wars and robberies, who incite people to gain victory for their camp and to defeat their enemies—use your miraculous abilities to come here now without delay. I, a yogi, have blessed this sur offering with mantra, mudra and samadhi—in essence it is amrita, the remedy for the maras, outwardly it takes the form of whatever pleases the senses, like a wish-fulfilling jewel or a wish-granting tree. Accept these inexhaustible objects of delight that will endure for a kalpa, and inspire people to be kind and altruistic. Make people in all countries of the world, but especially the regions of the Machu, Dzachu and Marchu rivers, be free of any prejudice or preference for kin or outsider. May they instead be kind to one another, benevolent and loving, and live together in harmony. May they instantly put an end to all harmful behaviour such as bickering, fighting and arguing. In short, please do all that you can to instil in everyone, whether human or not, an irrepressible enthusiasm to act in accordance with the dharma. Do not go against the words and commands of the accomplished siddhas of the past, such as the glorious vajra master of Oddiyana, the great Padmakara, and support the completion of all projects started by Pema Chöpel, the former administrator and deputy who followed the instructions of the king of Dergué, the ruler of this vast country who protects the dharma. May everything be accomplished without obstacle, just as he envisioned.
I summon in particular the old professor Sonam Tenpa, professor Ngawang, Sé Palchen Gönpo, Wangchen Kartsé and so on—all those who have taken non-human form as elemental demons because they believed that their thoughts, fuelled by desire and aversion, were real, and that dream-like appearances were truly existent—those who now try their utmost to disturb the peace and happiness of the kingdom in all kinds of ways. Use your miraculous ability to travel, which you developed as a result of your karma,It doesn’t mean that they gain magical powers through their merit, but simply that, being reborn as elemental demons due to their negative karma, they now have this ability. to come here now to enjoy this sur offering, this remedy for the maras. Be kind to all beings, focus your mind single-pointedly on wishing to go to a pure field, such as Sukhavati or Lotus Light, and pray that you will exhaust your negative karma and become disciples worthy to be trained by the buddhas and bodhisattvas.
I summon all others who commit negative actions, such as those who take delight in animal sacrifices and those who kill during wars and disputes, since they will constantly suffer from fear and anxiety throughout their life, and will endure unbearable heat and cold in the hell realms after they die. Therefore, never transgress what we bodhisattvas, heirs of the victorious ones, tell you to do.
This food offering fills the three realms, which are pure buddhafields.
It reaches the guests of our compassion—all beings in the three planes of existence.
Through the power of the profound dharmata,
May you enjoy this inexhaustible treasury of every want and need!
Om mani padme hung hrih
A practice of red sur to put an end to cattle epidemics. At the beginning of the sur offering to the four types of guests say,
nama sarwa tahagata avalokita
om sambhara sambhara hungThe combination of this mantra and the accompanying mudra transforms the offerings into an ocean of desirable objects.
Also recite the names of the four tathagatas:
Jina Ratna-bahulya, Jina Sarūpottama, Jina Rūpa-paryānta, Jina Sarkāya-vimuktasena.Shakyamuni Buddha said that the blessings, aspirations and compassion of four buddhas in particular have a special connection to the practice of offering. We recite their names, which is the same as praying to them, so that they grant us their blessings.
Every kind of gyadré and gongpo spiritGongpos are spirits who instigate hatred, arrogance, jealousy and disharmony in people’s minds. Gyadrés are a kind of gongpo who provoke fighting and conflict. in existence, whether important or not, and especially all you elemental spirits, hungry ghosts and pishachisPishachis are a class of semi-divine beings traditionally associated with the wild, remote places of the earth. They are considered particularly violent and known to devour flesh. who steal life, deplete the radiance of beingsSee note 13., suffocate beings, rule over the sicknesses of humans, act out of anger and malice, cause disease in black cattleA general name in Tibet for the herd animals yak, dri (female of the yak) and dzo (cross between a yak and a cow, or a bull and a dri), which are all black. and so on, as well as all other malevolent spirits—come now and accept these delightful and sumptuous offerings. They are an inexhaustible bounty of whatever you might wish for or desire—food and drink, places to live, mountains of flesh, oceans of blood, mounds of bones, skin with flesh and hair, rain of marrow, brain and grease, and so on.
Everything you might possibly wish for is here and will never diminish no matter how much you eat, how much you drink, or how much you smear onto your body. The offerings are higher than mountains, deeper than oceans and longer than rivers. They are the most excellent medicines that can cure all diseases, the elixir that can revive the dead, the great potion that can eliminate suffering. With all this clearly focussed in my mind, I offer them to you, I give them to you, I dedicate them to you. May they satisfy all your desires. May your mind be filled with love, compassion and a deep sense of care for all beings. May you stop harming humans and animals and may all beings be free from the fear of losing their life.
Repeat this section many times.
At the end say,
Through the power of my aspirations,
The power of the tathagatas’ generosity,
The power of the basic space of phenomena,
I present these offerings to the noble ones.
May whatever positive intention
To benefit every sentient being,
Any positive action of any kind,
Anywhere in the universe,
Be accomplished without impediment!
This concludes the practice of generosity of giving material offerings.
All phenomena come from causes.
The Tathagata has taught these causes,
And also that which ends these causes—
This is what the Great Mendicanti.e. the Buddha. taught.
Like a star, hallucination, candle,
Magical illusion, dewdrop, bubble,
Dream, lightning or cloud—
Know all compounded phenomena to be like this.
These two stanzas represent the generosity of giving the dharma. Dedicate, and arouse loving-kindness and compassion.
By Patrul. Virtue.
Translated by Gyurme Avertin
Edited by Philip Philippou