We all know the saying “start off the day on the right foot”
In Tibetan Buddhism, this can be achieved through the Daily Puja.
A Puja is typically a daily practice, a ritual, done early in the morning before a meditation sit in which you are doing deity mantras. A Puja involves having a shrine on which there are symbolic objects which the practitioner uses to make symbolic offerings to a (symbolic) deity. Namgyal Rinpoche also describes the Puja as an “outer practice”.
The Eight offerings are:
Two bowls of water, one for washing, and one for drinking, a flower, incense, a candle, scented water, food, and a bell.
Meditation master Namgyal Rinpoche describes the Daily Puja:
In the teaching, the practice of Puja is a skillful tool that is used to increase awareness and meditation experiences. Some beings, imbued with faith, can “pray without ceasing” and perform the ritual over and over again. But others find the daily practice a mere rote; it becomes mechanistic and tedious, a tiresome duty that one should do.
There are a few notes here about the Puja, one is that it can be a culture shock for westerners who are either not used to the right-brain ways of ritual, or distrust them thinking they are for gullible or old fashioned people.
The other point is that ritual is an opportunity to constantly refresh in our minds our aspirations, and the meaning of the prayers. It is necessary to connect with the heart to do this, and step out of the mind. Also a challenge for westerners.
It is recommended that you have a Dharma Teacher before practicing these activities, as they are activities involved in a broader dharma path, not necessarily isolated practices.
You will need: 7 offering bowls, 2 filled with fresh water, 1 with water and a flower, 1 with white rice and incense, 1 with white rice and a candle, 1 with water and a pinch of saffron, 1 with white rice and food such as an egg or apple, and then a singing bowl with gong. These are your eight offerings.
It is also suggested that your offering table be covered in a white cloth, have a picture of your lineage Guru and/or your personal meditation teacher, a Thangka of the deity you are practicing with hanging above the shrine and possibly a statue of that deity as well, fresh flowers on the shrine, and any implements of the deity that you are working with (such as a “gem”, crystal mantra beads, and a flower for Chenrezig).
Make your shrine space beautiful. Maintain the cleanliness of your shrine daily, and empty the offering bowls either after your meditation practice or before going to bed.
Take time and reflect, once you have set up your shrine, on what each of the items means to you. Remember that they are symbols. Why offer incense, what could it mean? And why offer the incense to a symbolic deity, what does that mean? Do this for each item, take your time, hold the items and get a feeling for what they mean. Remember what it was like to be a child and how you used to talk to different objects as if they had individual personalities.
This is important to avoid the stagnation of ritual, and avoid turning the shrine into just a fancy display.
A Puja involves prayer and offering the bowls/music to the deity whose qualities you aspire to. Tarchin Hearn offers beautiful prayers and instructions for practice in these articles which we will redirect you to, as well as his book on the Puja:
The book “Daily Puja” by Tarchin Hean can be found here.
This exercise is from “Body Speech and Mind” by Namgyal Rinpoche:
I suggest you do a little exercise beforehand: take two separate cups, each half filled with water and, holding one at the level of the third eye and one at the root chakra, pour the water from one cup into the other, back and forth, for five minutes while watching the flow. Take the time to do this exercise; it will lead to experiencing the offering.