Usually, when you visit Buddhist temples, you would notice people performing prostrations and presenting offerings. The bowing and prostrations are a way of showing respect and appreciation for the teachings of the Buddha and all the lineage masters / teachers. The varied offerings have different meanings as well. Each temple interprets them differently. Here we will briefly introduce them to you:
1.Incense: Discipline and Effort. Body fragrance. Mental stability.
2.Flowers: Joyful, Blooming to attainment.
3.Candle/Lamp: Bright future, Enlightened mind,Radiance.
4.Water: Great compassion, Equality, Purification, and Boundary guarding.
5.Fruit: Speedy attainment, ascending levels.
6.Tea: Favorite Dharma taste, Speedy enlightenment.
7.Food: Pure food for health and Dharma as food for spirit
8.Jewery: Auspicious attainment of Dharma wealth.
9.Sutras: Knowledge, Wisdom, and Comprehension of Great Path.
10.Clothes: Purification of body and mind, Majestic.
You may wonder, “what should I bring to the temple for an offering”? My suggestion is to offer what you like and what makes you feel happy. It is more important is that it is from your heart and that you sincerely wish to make this offering.
There was a story, one day the Buddha was teaching The Dharma. There was no light in the large room where he sat. All who came to hear Buddha’s teachings brought oil lamps as offerings to light the room. There was one lady who was very poor. She did not have any oil for her lamp, so she used what little money she had left to buy a small amount of oil. She then brought her little lamp and placed it amongst the other larger lamps. All of the sudden a strong wind came and blew out every lamp. That lady’s little lamp however remained lit. Everyone was surprised and puzzled.
As the “All knowing one”, Buddha explained to the huge crowd of people attended this Dharma discourse, this poor lady made the biggest sacrifice to come. She even renounced food to purchase oil for her lamp.
So it is the sincerity that counts. (Refer to The 8-Fold Path post under Right intention.)