“What, a DOLLAR?” – Lama Karma Drodhul and the Ngöndro Group

Amy Schwartz writes —

Hello all, here is my attempt to summarize Lama Karma’s beautiful short teaching on making offerings, for those who could not be at KTD this evening. It’s not a perfect transcription, so hopefully Lama Karma will correct me if I got anything wrong!


Photo, Anitra Brown

When we look at samsara and nirvana, they are both empty. But the nature of samsara is suffering, while nirvana is totally beyond all suffering.

We aren’t as far from nirvana as we think.  It’s important to understand that we all have Buddha nature — blissful and full of all the qualities of the Buddha himself. This is great new for us.  If we make a full aspiration, we can achieve enlightenment.

We need to overcome our fears and other afflictive emotions.  There are many skillful means to do this.  Understanding our Buddha nature is a key method, because this nature is always ready to shine, as long as we put in an effort.  This is so hopeful.  Buddha nature is a cause for rejoicing.  As we feel joy and appreciation, this overcomes our fear instantly.  In fact, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa told His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche that when he taught on the Buddhadharma, he should be sure to let everyone know they have this Buddha nature.

Photo, Anitra Brown

Once you really understand this, you will never look down on others, because we are all the same, and it makes no sense to look down on another Buddha!

So this is the basis of Buddhism.  All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas realized their Buddha nature, so why not us?!

Once you understand this as the path, every practice, including making offerings, is a way to overcome the afflictive emotions and reveal our true nature.

In the wonderful teachings we received over the past few days on the ngöndro practice, Rinpoche mentioned making offerings three times.

In Vajrasattva practice, it was said that serving and offering to the sangha is a powerful form of purification.  In the Mandala practice, Rinpoche said that making offerings to the sangha supports our formal offering practice on the cushion, helping us to gather the accumulations.  And in Guru Yoga, the text described how we all need merit, and we need devotion, yet our devotion is so fragile and wavering.  To realize the nature of our mind, we need unshakable faith and devotion to the guru.

In Tibet, the first thing people do when they visit a temple is make offerings.  They might prostrate, light incense, or offer some money in the mandala plate.  For me, whenever I travel to India or Nepal, this is what I like to do.  Last year when I went to India I had a lot of money, more than $10,000, from all the offerings I receive when I travel and teach.  I went to a long empowerment and teaching with Gyaltsab Rinpoche and gave almost all of it away.  By the time I got to Nepal, I was almost broke, and I had to ask Rinpoche to buy my plane ticket home.  But it felt so wonderful.

With our ego, trying to satisfy ourself all day long, no matter how hard we work at it, we never really feel good.  But doing just a little something for someone else, we feel reworked. Because the merit from that virtuous deed has instantaneous effects.

Now with all these gurus and sangha members here, it is an especially auspicious time to give. We have Lodro Nyima Rinpoche here, all the way from Tibet! But don’t just do it because others are doing it.  Do it from your heart.

Including these kinds of meritorious actions in our practice will help us to feel deeper devotion, which swiftly connects us to our Buddha nature.


Then Carla writes —

When I first read/heard about making offerings to all the sangha I was very resistant. How am I going to offer all the monastics/lamas 10 or 20 dollars?

Thanks to Amy McCracken, who explained to our group that even offering 1 dollar is sufficient – that it isn’t the amount, but the intention that matters – it changed my view and feeling.

Also the exchange between Anitra and Lama Karma –

Anitra Brown said, “Won’t they open the envelope and say (paraphrased) : a dollar??”

Lama Karma’s response was. “Maybe they’ll open the envelope and say – great! I can go to the dollar store!”

So I am thanking Lama Karma and Amy McCracken. And also Amy Schwartz for her blog postings on offerings.

Being able to make offerings – no matter how small – to all the sangha was an amazing experience. One I hope to be able to repeat many times.

And a HUGE thank you Anitra! you collected and dealt with all the group offerings. A complicated task during a very busy time.

It is very much appreciated.

Your state and dharma sister



anitraandrinpocheDear Carla, Thanks for sharing your experience.

I never understood why some people, usually Asians, gave envelopes to all the sangha, while most of us gave just to our teacher and Karmapa.  Lama Karma let us know that the purpose is to let us practice OFFERING, even it it’s just $1 in the envelope. I think we are just at the beginning of this teaching, and we will come to understand better why and how to give sangha offerings.  Next time we will be more prepared, psychologically and from a practical standpoint.  And it really does feel good.

Those of us there experienced such blessings over the past ten days, including getting to know each other better through activities like rehearsing the song Lama Karma wrote for Rinpoche, and which we performed at the birthday party.

Our group was a strong presence through the White Tara pujas with our body, speech mind offering to Rinpoche, in which we offered beautiful gifts that Lama Karma had purchased in India last year.  It was so very moving.

We gave $450 in sangha offerings as a group and made a strong showing in the individual sangha offering thanks to Lama Karma’s instruction.  And we were the only group to sponsor four White Tara statues, contributing $7,500 towards the White Tara fundraising project, plus all the donations towards Rinpoche’s 24-inch statue.

Thank you all for your help, and thanks to Lama Karma for being such a good teacher.

in Dharma, Anitra Brown


If you are currently doing ngöndro practice, and would like to join the KTD Ngöndro group, click here.


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