Friday, October 10, 2014

About Burnt Offerings (浅谈密法火供)

Burnt offering ritual can be found in Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and etc. In Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism, burnt offering is called ‘homa’ or fire ritual or fire puja. Burnt offering is not a standalone ritual as it is pertaining to the practice of Satya-devata (本尊). The Sutrayana does not practise fire ritual and the Taoists burnt many joss papers; which is a fire ritual in its own right.


Basically the idea of homa is pretty simple; people believe that offerings once burnt by fire, the Agni, or fire god will bring the offering stuffs to the particular deity to enjoy. And as an appreciation of the worshipper’s generosity, the deity shall fulfill the person’s request.


There are two types of homa in Mantrayana: the internal and the external:


The internal homa is normally practiced by Anuttara tantrika utilizes one’s visualization and uses one’s psychic fire (tummo) as fire source and food or other consumable stuffs as the fuel.


The external homa is a more common type available to all Mantrayana and Hindu rituals. The fire altar for Hindu ritual is normally made of earth or brass, in Japan and China, the fire altar may be made of stone or iron, while in Tibet; the fire altar is normally drawn on earth and the size is much larger than the former ones.


Basically the Hindu homa and Mantrayana homa is almost identical except that the Mantrayana requires the practitioner to ‘unite in 3 aspects’ (三密相应) with his Satya-devata. It is believed that without the union of Satya-devata, the fire ritual shall be a failure.


In Tibetan tantric rituals, the homa is normally comprises of 4 activities: pacification, increase, annihilation and love; while in Hindu, Chinese and Japanese Mantrayana, there are 6 types of homa rituals: pacification, increase, long life, subjugation and love.


The general procedure of carrying out a homa ritual is first the invocation and offering to fire god, Agni (火天). This is followed by the Tribe Master (部主), Satya-devata (本尊) and finally various heavens (诸天). Finally remnant foods are offered to other dharma protectors and familiar spirits. At the end of the ritual, all of the deities shall be sent off and the homa ashes are collected and poured into a river or sea.


The timing for homa is also of utmost importance: the pacification ritual should be done during sunsets, the increase ritual during sunrises, the subjugation ritual should be done at noon and the love rituals are best to be performed at night. Looks like the homa timing is closely related to sun position of the day; of course, the timing for homa may differ according to various traditions too.


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