What Are Pujas?
In Sanskrit, ‘puja’ means ‘offerings’. Every puja ritual is performed based on individual scriptural texts, passed down by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni and various ancient masters. Through prayer supplications and offerings, the puja ritual invokes the blessings of individual Buddhas or meditation deities.
The mantras and chanting is holy speech which delivers blessings. Monks skilled in pujas will need to engage in specific visualizations and meditation methods for a ritual to be effective. The required torma (ritual cakes), offerings and ingredients are also important to ensure the efficacy of the prayers.
Why do we do Pujas?
Just as we take medicine to recover from an illness, we could participate in pujas to remove our obstacles or negative conditions along our path. There are many different pujas in Tibetan Buddhism. Merit accumulation, obstacle-clearing, demon-subduing, healing, karma purification, cleansing, wealth pujas, pujas to help invoke wisdom and compassion etc. Different effects can be achieved through performing different types of pujas.
Generally, through performance of pujas, one accumulates merits. Accumulation of merit is an indispensable factor in attaining one’s wishes, such as, to be pacified of obstacles and illnesses, to subdue spirit harassment, to pacify naga attacks, to remove problems at work etc. Through a virtuous and pure motivation to offer, the puja participant accumulates great merits, pacifies negative conditions and removes obstacles.
Participating in pujas will also have a positive influence on the spread of Dharma and increases conducive conditions for a practitioner’s development on the paths to liberation and enlightenment.
Torma (ritual cake offerings) is one of the essential component for most of the pujas. The monks spend an average of 2 hours each time to prepare tormas (ritual cake offerings) for each puja. The ingredients used to make tormas are: Oats, milk, yoghurt, butter, sugar, honey, and molasses.
Different pujas require different types and amount of tormas, hence the monks will always refer back to the prayer text to ensure that the correct tormas are being prepared. The monks also need to be specially trained and skilled to make them, as a lot of focused effort is required into the delicate handwork and making of the beautiful tormas. The method and features of the tormas must be in exact accordance to the scriptural texts.
Weekly Saturday Pujas at GSDPL
All monks who visit GS Dro-Phen Ling are being specially selected by the (monastery’s) Education Project Department to represent Gaden Shartse Monastery. They are selected for their experience and skill in conducting rituals. Apart from the weekly Saturday pujas for all members, the monks also conduct personal pujas, upon request and arrangement. Personal pujas are done twice on a daily basis (except Mondays, which is rest day for the monks).
Newcomers need not be worried about being unfamiliar with the pujas, or not knowing what to do during the pujas, as the pujas are guided. Before the puja begins, a brief explanation will be shared to the crowd, so that we all understand what the puja is about, and important points we need to take note of. At any point while the monks are conducting the ritual, our volunteer will step up to make announcements to guide all participants, so we will just follow along. Some instructions would be to generate a certain visualization or thoughts in our mind, such as making offerings to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas etc.
Snapshots during one of our weekly pujas:
Participants have a chance to be at peace with their body, speech and mind during the pujas.
Receiving blessings of the nectar from the puja.
Rejoice in the great benefits that we all receive from participation of the many great and skilful Tantric pujas which the monks perform for us.
Should you have any queries or perhaps wish to find out more information, please always feel free to approach any of our friendly volunteers for a chat!
See you at the centre soon!