Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

How to make an offering

June 2, 2016 3

I first wrote this in 2014 when I was still in the USA but upon revisiting it, it still feels relevant especially since we are looking for writers and other creative types, so I’m bringing it back up 🙂 hope everyone finds it useful and it offers some food for thought!

Since I’ve been in the US, many people have contacted me asking me how they can help with our work here. First of all, before I go on, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! It is kind of you to even think to offer your services, and we do appreciate that you have voiced out your interest in Rinpoche‘s work to spread Lama Tsongkhapa’s lineage.


So, being in contact with so many people, I have received my fair share of proposals. Not for marriage, mind you, but for what work they can do and how they can contribute. Now I know many have not had the same privilege I’ve had of closely serving a Tibetan lama so I understand that there is a general lack of ignorance about protocol and well, what makes something a real offering.

Because yes. A proposal for work is an offering. A request to come help is an offering. Why? Because you are giving your time, effort, energy and thoughts to the lama, to make something grow. And what is that something? It is the Dharma because remember, when you’re telling Rinpoche that you wish to help, you’re not actually helping Rinpoche. You’re actually helping the Dharma, you’re contributing to the Dharma. The lama is the conduit for your efforts and energies.

AudienceWithRinpoche-3Now, let’s get on to the good stuff.

In general, please contact me first before contacting Rinpoche directly (I can always be reached at I know firsthand how thrilling it is to get a reply from Rinpoche (ZOMG BUDDHA SPOKE TO ME!!1!!!!11!!) but when we make proposals and requests to Rinpoche, we are leaving it up to the lama to say yes or no. We place the burden of happiness or disappointment onto him, and that is not fair. What do I mean?

Well, consider this – what if the lama were to say no? Because yes, a ‘no’ can happen due to time, place, karma. And what if the lama were to say no repeatedly? Would we feel the same way about him? Or would we project and engage in wrong view, and imagine him as the source of our unhappiness and be turned away from the teachings?

So it’s up to our own best interests to approach the students, and not the lama directly. And when we ask people to contact the students instead of the lama, as much as many people would like to believe, it’s not a matter of controlling access to the teacher but taking away from him the burden of organising any secular affairs.


Got an idea?

Want to propose something that’ll make the Dharma grow? We’re all ears! Here are some things for you to think about before contacting us with your ideas:

  1. Timelines: how many stages are there? How long does it take for you to complete each stage? How long is your entire project going to take? Will things change over time?
  2. Cost: how will you fund your project? Who will do the fundraising? What happens if costs spiral out of control?
  3. Marketing: what happens to the project after it’s done? What kind of impact do you hope to have? Where do you hope to have said impact? Do you have any proposals for a follow-up, to carry on the interest?
  4. Team: who will be involved in the project? Who will manage everything and everyone? Who will do the hard graft? How much involvement do you expect Rinpoche to have? And if Rinpoche is supposed to be involved, will it be appropriate for Rinpoche as a monk to be involved?
  5. Motivation: is this something you want to do? Or something Rinpoche needs to have done? An offering should always be something the lama needs, and not something you insist. If the lama requests you to do something, but insist you wish to help and you wish to help only in THIS particular way, consider whether you may be forcing your ideas onto the teacher


Want to meet Rinpoche?

AudienceWithRinpoche-2That’s great! We’d love for you to meet Rinpoche too! Just remember that meeting Rinpoche is not like meeting a friend for dinner and drinks, to hang out and engage in idle chatter. To meet Rinpoche is to invite a lama who is highly respected by the monasteries for his Dharma work. Therefore as students our motivation should always be to receive and host our lama, instead him receiving us. So here are some things for you to think about before requesting to meet Rinpoche:

  1. Place: where do you propose for this audience to take place? Is the venue appropriate for you to receive Rinpoche? Remember you are not the only one who wishes to meet Rinpoche, and Rinpoche may wish to combine your audience with other people’s requests, so a bigger venue may be necessary, especially when people find out Rinpoche may make an appearance.
  2. Cost: who will fund the venue? It has always seemed a little foreign to me that Rinpoche should have to pay to meet us!
  3. People: how many people are coming with you? Will their minds benefit from meeting Rinpoche, or should you wait for another time to introduce them to Rinpoche? Sometimes the best meetings take place after you have nurtured your friends into the Dharma first. Then meeting Rinpoche becomes a nice bonus.
  4. Motivation: why are you meeting Rinpoche? Is it to ask him for advice? Is it to offer your help? Is it because you want to bask in his glory (hehehe)? Is it because you find him funny? Is it because you want to learn? Remember that when we take from our lamas, it is possible that we’re not just taking money from our lama but we can also take his time.

Is it difficult to make an offering to Rinpoche? Am I trying to discourage you? No, not at all, offer away! But the best offerings are always the purest ones, free from any kinds of financial, moral or situational impositions onto the lama.

Remember that Rinpoche is one and we are many, and more often than not we can’t have everything our way. It’s a matter of kindness and generosity when we remember this.

Read more:

Life in Kechara: Behind The Scenes

3 Comments → “How to make an offering”

  1. sweekeong 8 years ago   Reply

    Wow. Thank you Pastor Jean Ai for writing the essentials of offering to Lama in one short article. I know about some of this information from bits and pieces after interacting with other senior students. It is a well done summary which we should keep in mind.

    • Pastor Elena K. Jean Ai 8 years ago   Reply

      Thanks Swee Keong, glad you found the article useful. I know people always make offerings with good intentions and a generous motivation, it’s nice to help them make the best offering possible. And there really are some things that bear repeating, so it’s nice to put everything in one place where it can be referred to in the future, without getting lost on the Interwebs 🙂

  2. Nicholas 8 years ago   Reply

    Thank you Pastor Jean Ai for this sharing how to make offering. I believe a lot of people would just think of making any offering is a simple and nice way to collect merit but having a thoughtful mind to think further how we make our offering will make our offering more meaningful and complete. I totally agree that when we want to offer we should not end up burden anyone especially the Lama. This is a great piece of advice from the insight and it’s from a dharma point of view.

    May more people understand this and make their offerings a beneficial one as a whole.

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