Sur – partial ingredients list: neighbor’s offering, white foods, flour, sugar, raisins, oats, barley, barley, coconut, cookies, carmels, chocolate, peanuts, Tibetan salt, sage, containers, Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Aroma Offering, Seattle, Washington, USA

Sur – partial ingredients list: neighbor’s offering, white foods, flour, sugar, raisins, oats, barley, barley, coconut, cookies, carmels, chocolate, peanuts, Tibetan salt, sage, containers, Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Aroma Offering, Seattle, Washington, USA
Heart Disease

Offering Aroma

The Tibetan word “sur” (Tib. gsur) refers to the smell of roasted flour that is offered to spirits. The best times for practicing sur are in the evening or at night. You do this practice during a break from sitting meditation—not a break time from Dharma practice but a break time from sitting meditation. The text says “night time”; I think that evening or night time are best because these are the times when spirits wander. This is also the time when dakinis gather. It’s easier for the intermediate state beings to get what you offer at those times. If you cannot do it at those times, then other times are acceptable, but those are best. 1

The container used for sur practice should be clean and unbroken. The fire shouldn’t have much smoke. If you make fire with firewood, then usually there’s smoke.2 If there’s a lot of smoke, then you don’t smell the food because the smoke overwhelms the scent of the food. The food scent gets mixed in the smoke, the smoke’s stronger, and so they might not receive the food.

So, reduce the smoke as much as possible. Let it burn as much as possible until there’s either no smoke at all or very little smoke. The less smoke the better so that the spirits can smell the food. When they smell the food and when you chant the mantra they get something. When the coals are red inside with some white flecks outside, that’s good. So then put food on top of the burning coals.

It’s excellent if you can do this practice every day. If you do it occasionally, then that is OK also. However, if you do it consistently and then stop it’s not so good because the hungry ghosts get into the habit of being fed every day and then they come and there’s no food.

Also, when making offerings to hungry ghosts, it’s good to cover your eyes. We traditionally wear a hat with black threads or strands hanging down to cover our eyes when offering to hungry ghosts.3 When hungry ghosts see a human body and human face, it appears so powerful and magnificent that they get scared, just as we would get scared if we saw a lion in the jungle. So, we wear these things when making charity to them so that they won’t get scared away.

The Materials to be Offered

When doing sur practice, you must have actual food to burn on the coals to offer it. Otherwise, it would be like trying to have lunch with no food. For the actual substance to be burned, it’s best to use the same twenty-five ingredients that are used for making tormas. These are the five types of grain, five types of medicines, five types of scented substances, five types of essence, and five types of jewels.

If you cannot get those ingredients, then the minimum would be to use just roasted flour mixed with butter. Tsampa—roasted barley flour—mixed with men-chey powder is what’s traditionally used. However, you can use different kinds of roasted flour—barley, wheat, or corn—mixed with lots of butter. The butter shouldn’t be wet. Don’t melt it—fold in lots of hard butter. .4

So, the minimal ingredients would be just roasted flour and butter. If you can get men-chey powder, then it’s good include that as well. Then, if you can it’s also good to include the three white substances (butter, milk and curd) and the three sweet substances (sugar, honey, and brown sugar or molasses).

If you can do so, the best thing is to include all twenty-five ingredients. The Kriya Tantra Vase Pill traditionally has these twenty-five ingredients. If you have the pill that goes in the vase for Kriya Tantra or for Highest Yoga Tantra then it’s very good to mix those in with your sur ingredients. You can usually get those from the Tibetan monasteries or from the Tibetan Medical Institute in Dharamsala. There’s also a precious pill called Moon Crystal which can be obtained from a Tibetan doctor or from the Medical Institute as well which traditionally has these twenty-five ingredients. If you have any of these pills, then you crush one and mix that little bit with a large container of roasted flour.

It’s also very good if individuals or Dharma centers can gather together the twenty-five ingredients and mix them with the roasted flour. Using these ingredients is a very powerful method for success.

Another important point related to the materials used is that you should not say anything bad about the substances you are offering to the spirits. His Holiness Song Rinpoche explained that if you say anything bad about the materials while you are preparing them—either before or during the ritual—then the spirits or pretas [hungry ghosts] who are close by waiting around to receive offerings or who have some kind of clairvoyance will actually see the offerings in that way. Rinpoche told stories about this—how people said bad things about the offerings and then they actually appeared like that to the spirits. So, instead say how beautiful or wonderful the materials are and then also recite the words of the ritual and do the visualizations.

Returning to the twenty-five ingredients, they are as follows:

Five scented substances:
1. Red and white sandalwood (offered to Lord Buddha by the goddesses Tsedog and Kyongma, respectively)
2. Akaru (wood incense)5
3. Camphor – offered to Lord Buddha by the goddess Ochajuma
4. Saffron – offered Lord Buddha by the Princess of Scents
5. Nutmeg (zadi) – offered to Lord Buddha by a cannibal

Five medicines:
1. Kandakari
2. Leti
3. Shu Thag (white)
4. Claw of water lion6
5. Wänlog (this is a root of a plant, shaped like a hand having five fingers)

These medicines, Lord Buddha blessed.

Five types of grains:
1. Wheat
2. Barley
3. Rice
4. Beans
5. Sesame seeds

Five jewels:
1. Gold
2. Silver
3. Pearl
4. Coral7
5. Lapis lazuli (mumen)

These five jewels were offered to Lord Buddha by Arya Nagarjuna.

Five essences:8
1. Gold – essence of earth: offered by Bhaham Namyang
2. Lentsa (Tibetan salt) essence of water: offered by the King of the Nagas
3. Honey – essence of flower: offered by the leader of humans, Khagon
4. Butter – essence of milk: offered by the farmer girl, Lagkyinga
5. Brown sugar – essence of fruit: offered by Hananmum

Benefits of these Substances
Kunkyen Jamyang Shepa, who was an extremely famous, learned, highly attained teacher, wrote about the benefits of these substances for vases and tormas in the root text Kiria Pungzang as follows:

• Place the five medicines inside to eliminate the eons of sickness.
• Place the five scents inside to have pure morality.
• Place the five jewels inside to fulfill all needs and to eliminate the eons of harm from weapons.
• Place the five essences inside to become the heart of all and to fulfill all wishes.

Kunkyen Jamyang Shepa also explained:

• The benefits of the five medicines are to not have disease and to have happiness.
• The benefits of the five scents are to achieve pure morality and to not fall to the bad realms of transmigrators.
• The benefits of the five jewels are to receive all needs according to what one desires/wishes, to pacify war, and to not be harmed by weapons.
• The benefits of the five grains are to increase enjoyments and pacify famines.
• The benefits of the five essences are to help increase all the essences of samsara and nirvana and to fulfill all needs.

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