Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Offering to a Naga

In Machik's Complete Explanation, the Tibetan saint Machik Labdron explains to her followers that there are many unseen beings and spirits that co-inhabit our world.

Even though I've never been one to see such beings, I have absolutely no trouble in believing they exist. I can't see ultraviolet or infrared light either, or electricity, or atoms, yet scientists assure me that these things exist—so why not nagas?

Nagas–spirits who live in or near water or powerful trees–are said to be of three types. Some are "bad guys," mischievous and hurtful. Some are "good guys," and even protect the dharma teachings. Some are mutable, and can be good guys at one time and bad guys at another.

One of my teachers, Khenpo Ugyen Tenzin, has said he thinks a naga may live at our neighborhood spring.

One of my other teachers, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, recently gave me instructions on how to make offerings to our neighborhood naga.

So yesterday afternoon found me rushing to the grocery after work to buy milk and sugar—because nagas like dairy products and sweets—and then rushing home to change into shorts and drive the five minutes to the spring, just as the sun was setting.

I was in luck. The last two spring visitors were leaving on bicycles when I drove up. The only other people there were fishing at some distance from the spring. So I had some privacy, which was good.

I waded into the water and made the offering, following Khenpo's instructions as well as I was able, then stood there for a few minutes to take in the scene. It was lovely, as always. I wondered if I would ever be able to see a naga.

Today, I received two pieces of very welcome news. I am not saying this good fortune is connected with the offering, but given that everything is connected, ultimately, I would not be a bit surprised.

The most surprising thing, though, was how happy I felt that by making the offering, I had done something helpful for an unseen being, and for the Earth that sustains us.

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche recently stressed to me, when I told him how inspired I am by HH Karmapa's commitment to helping the environment, that there are two reasons why it is important to take care of our surroundings.

First, of course, is because our environment sustains us, so by helping it we are actually helping ourselves.

Second is because of the unseen beings, like nagas, who can be sickened by pollution–and since it's human beings who cause pollution, guess who becomes the target for revenge by the bad guy nagas? We do.

So I am wondering if a lot of us started making appropriate offerings to the unseen beings and spirits in our local areas, could we help turn back the tide of pollution and destruction that seems to lurk everywhere we look?

And could we, for our children and grandchildren, preserve even a bit of the best that Florida has to offer?

Note: Naga offerings, and other such offerings, always come with specific instructions that I am not qualified to give. Ask your teacher what you can do, though, and you might be as surprised as I was.


  1. Hi
    Thank you for this. I would like to make offerings to the nagas but I don't know how. I have heard to only make them on certain days in case you wake them up. Is there any chance you would be able to send me some instruction? I would be really grateful. Thanks, love Ellie

  2. Hi Ellie, sorry, I am reluctant to do this without permission from my Buddhist teacher, which I don't have. If there is a Buddhist group near you, perhaps you could ask there and see if you can find someone who is able to give you instruction.