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Tibetan Water Offering Bowls

The most common type of offering on Tibetan Buddhist shrines are made with seven water offering bowls — called “yonchap” in Tibetan.

Water Offerings
Water Offerings

Why Offer Water?

As we discussed in a post on setting up a Losar shrine the main point of any offering is a pure motivation to cultivate generosity, and to reduce our selfishness, stinginess and greed.

We seek to give with an open, pure heart, with no attachment to what we are giving, and with no motivation of receiving something in return.

Tibetan Water Offering Bowls: How to Use Them

Paradoxically, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama often teaches, cultivating generosity and devoting ourselves to the welfare of others increases our own happiness in many ways, as we release the painful, stiff worry that accompanies greed and self-centeredness.

He encourages us to become selfishly altruistic, to become happy people by concerning ourselves primarily with the well being of others.

One reason that we offer water is that water in Tibet has traditionally been considered plentiful and free, and therefore painless to give. The idea is that all of our offerings should be given as freely as we would give water.

Another way to view the water offerings is as representing the seven aspects of prayer:

  • prostrating
  • offerings to the Buddhas
  • confessing our wrongs
  • rejoicing in the good qualities of oneself and others
  • requesting the Buddhas to remain in this world
  • beseeching the Buddhas to teach others
  • dedicating the merit of ourselves and others which has been accumulated throughout time, in order that all sentient beings may enjoy happiness and virtue

“The making of offerings is an antidote to the pattern of attachment and greed.”
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

How Should I Set Up the Water Offering Bowls?

Traditionally in Tibetan homes, we make our yonchap every morning. If that is not possible, we do it as often as we can.

  • Start with seven clean bowls — called ting in Tibetan — and a pitcher of fresh water. Tibetans usually use silver, brass or copper bowls, which range from very plain to carved and intricately decorated treasures.
  • One by one, pour a little water in each bowl before you place it on the shrine, lining the bowls up from left to right as you face the shrine. The reason to start with a little water in each bowl is that it is inauspicious to have a bowl sitting empty on the shrine.
  • Tibetan Buddhist masters explain that each bowl should be the distance of one barley seed from the next one.
  • Starting from left to right, fill each bowl with water, almost to the top. Again, the common thought is that you leave the space of one barley seed from the rim of the bowl.
  • While setting up your offering bowls, it is common for Tibetans to recite one of the more common mantras, like:

—  Om mani padme hung (Avalokiteshvara’s mantra)
—  Om muni muni maha munaye soha (Buddha Shakyamuni’s mantra)
—  Om tare tuttare ture soha (Tara’s mantra)

  •  Others may recite what is called the gyamdro prayer. The prayer can be whatever you choose. What is most important is that you pray with a sincere wish to cultivate generosity and an open heart.
  • In the same spirit, you might visualize that you are offering endless quantities of everything beautiful and precious, plus all the good qualities in our hearts and minds, to a vast assembly of Buddhas.
  • You can put a butter lamp between the third and fourth bowls, or between the fourth and fifth bowls, symbolizing the light of wisdom, dispelling the darkness of ignorance.
  • Once the bowls are filled, it is common to bless the offerings with kusha grass (also called elephant grass) or any kind of clean straw or stick that you may have access to. To do this, you dip your grasses into one of the bowls and sprinkle the shrine with water, reciting the purifying mantra “om a hum.” (From Khandro.net)
  • Finally, you can dedicate the merit you have gained by the offerings to the elimination of suffering and its causes for all sentient beings.
Removing the offering blow

Removing the Offerings

Normally, we will remove the bowls at the end of each day, any time before sunset. In central Tibet, this commonly happens as early as 3 p.m., but you can do it any time.

  • Empty the bowls one by one, starting from the right this time, drying each one as you empty it with a clean cloth.
  • When you are done, stack the bowls upside down as you see in the images here, and if you can, offer the used water to your plants.

May water offerings help you to cultivate generosity and to be relieved of the pain of selfishness and greed!

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Comments

51 responses to “Tibetan Water Offering Bowls”

  1. Kenneth Ng Avatar
    Kenneth Ng

    Hello Lobsang Wangdu,
    Thank you for your sharing. It’s definitely useful.
    I wish to ask how else can we use the water after we have removed the bowls at the end of each day?
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Lobsang and Yolanda Avatar
      Lobsang and Yolanda

      Yes, you should remove water end of each day.

  2. as a Tibetan girl myself, i am blessed to learn this through my mom and teachers. i started doing this around the age of 11 in class room small altar. we have to give water offering to Buddha’s. I am 29 and still doing this. i don’t know if this is mother made it up or true. my mom told me not to throw water offer to god in unhygienic places like sewer or kitchen sinks. she let me pour it in flower pots. that why, i have habit of keep plants and flowers. sometimes like during winter or when i am out of stations. i put rice and incense in the ting. i don’t know if its right way or not. please correct me.

  3. Jimme Wangchuk Avatar
    Jimme Wangchuk

    Even as a Buddhist myself I had a slight doubt about the offering of holy water on the shrine..Thank you la for the clarification..Tashi Delek 🙏 and love from Bhutan

  4. Thank you so much for your video. I had all my doubts cleared!
    May all sentient beings benefit!

    I wish you all the best! May you accomplish all your spiritual desires!

  5. Richard Karma tsultrim Tarchin Avatar
    Richard Karma tsultrim Tarchin

    Thank you, this was helpfull

    1. You are so welcome, Richard! It is a privilege to help in any way.

    2. Tenzin Avatar

      Is that true if we forget to remove water in evening then we can pour little amount of extra water in bowl. N later in morning we can remove all water??
      Or
      We can left water in bowl in night as same . N in morning we can put some extra water in bowl n offer to god.

      Is that true if we left water in bowl its seen as blood by God??

  6. Many thanks Yowangdu for the info regarding the water bowls; I had the bowls but didn’t know what to do. Now I feel I am catching up with the Tibetan Buddhism.
    May you be blessed always.

    Genny

    1. Thanks so much for the kind thoughts Genny. We are so happy to help!

  7. linn linn Avatar

    Could you explainme 10 benifits of water donation.?pls

    1. Hi Linn Linn, Sorry we don’t know these.

  8. Thank you so much for the clarity of this teaching. I was drawn to the water offering bowls when I saw them at a teaching many years ago. I have had them in my home, and have filled them with water, but like a small child, having no idea what I was doing or why. The idea just appealed to me. I have been connected to my teacher, Anam Thubten, since 1999, and am growing daily into greater consciousness. I will begin practicing this offering, now that I know the proper way to do it. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Tina — we’re glad this was useful to you!

  9. Yolanda la and Wangdu la, are you on Twitter, because I would love for more folks to experience your wonderful blog and give encouragement to Tibetan Buddhist in exhile? Tashi delek my friends and very Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Yes, we are. Here is the url: https://twitter.com/YoWangdu. I hope you a great Thanksgiving!

  10. Tashi delek! Thank you Lobsang la, only one hour ago I received my first set of ting and I went right to your page for information on how to to do yonchap. You are so very helpful to those of us who are new to the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, and even the new words! Many blessings to you always!

  11. Thank you so much. We learnt something new!

    1. You are so welcome, Michele! You may like to join us on our upcoming free live webinar. You can check out YoWangdu Tibetan Culture Facebook page for the announcement 🙂

  12. Nigel Avatar

    Can you tell us what is the gyamdro prayer please

    regards

    1. Hi Nigel,
      Here is a post about it: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibetan-buddhism/refuge-prayer.html . Hope this helps 🙂

  13. Dear Lobsang lak,

    Tashi Delek!!! Thank you very much for enlightening us with all the knowledge and the real importance of our daily morning offerings.. and prayers.. i am very much grateful for all your details but still i am facing some problems…. as you said that we need to make the bowl empty before the sun set but since we both are so much engaged in our job that mostly i reached home around 6.00 pm… so kindly tell us what should we need to do in such cases??? till now i used to put some rice in the 7 bowls and every morning i keeps on changing the water… so kindly allow me to hear from you soon….

    Kind regards,
    kenzom

    1. Hi Kenzom la, Thanks for your kind feedback 🙂 It is no problem to empty your bowls when you get home, even if that is not the “perfect” time. You need to do what is practical sometimes, so that is fine! All the best to you.

      1. Hello wangdu la,

        Thanks a lot for clearing my doubts…. now m feeling much more comfortable with my all day works…

        regards,
        kenzom..

        1. You are welcome!

  14. Ugyen Sangngag Tenzin Avatar
    Ugyen Sangngag Tenzin

    Hi
    Its really a wonderful topic that we are discussing. Only through such means that we are beginning to accumulate merits.

    I always request and take interest in such as this post in the future also la.

    Regards
    Ugyen

    1. Thank you, Ugyen la! We are working on more like this 🙂

  15. dear friend

    i want to know about the meaning of seven bowl……… why we only used 7 bowl ? plsssssssss let me know

    Regards
    choden la

    1. Hi Choden la, and thanks for your nice comments. There are different reasons given for using 7 bowls, but one we like is this:

      Another way to view the water offerings is as representing the seven aspects of prayer:

      prostrating
      offerings to the Buddhas
      confessing our wrongs
      rejoicing in the good qualities of oneself and others
      requesting the Buddhas to remain in this world
      beseeching the Buddhas to teach others
      dedicating the merit of ourselves and others which has been accumulated throughout time, in order that all sentient beings may enjoy happiness and virtue

      1. dear friend

        thankssssssss . this is esstntial to use chakusha to make dhura(cotton one) that we use for lite the chemi.plzzzzzzzzz show me the vedio to make dhura .

        Regards
        chodenla

        1. Thanks again Chodenla. We will work on this!

          1. dear friend
            please i will wait for your reply………… not only me many others want to know these answer cause we saw some people didnot used chakusha (broom stick) to make chemi we all want to know so that we can follow th right way nd use to do pooja in a right ways

            regarde
            choden la

          2. Hi Choden la, We will do our best! Thanks 🙂

  16. Dear friend

    i am very happy to know the meaning of these offering water thanks a lot . well we bhuddist people do this every morning but few peoples only know the meaning of these offering water even i too have not knw about the meaning of these yenchap. thankssssssss a lot

    Regards
    chodenla

  17. Dear Lobsang,
    thank you for your video. I’d like to know, when I should bless the offering, can I use incense instead of kusha grass or a stick? and how can I practice? At the end of the day, is there some mantra that I should recite when I have to remove the bowls? Good path of light!!!
    Ciao e grazie tante.

    1. You are so welcome, Gianluca! There is no special mantra to pray when you remove the bowls, so any mantra or prayer you like is fine. Incense is definitely fine. All the best.

  18. come potrei acquistare una statua del Budda?

    1. Sorry, Enzo, we don’t have a good source for Buddha statues to recommend right now. We’ll post on Facebook or in the Resources section of the site if we find a good online source. All the best.

  19. harriet rowland Avatar
    harriet rowland

    Dear Yolanda and Lobsang,
    Thanks again for another interesting newsletter…I learn something new each time, such as leaving spaces of one barley seed between and at the brim of the water. I shall have to go and check out my horse feed to see if I can find a useful barley seed in it!Then my horses will also be practicing generosity, albeit a tiny seed! Ho,ho! You have been in my thoughts and hope that full fitness has now been restored…or very nearly…to the family. I send you much joy from beneath the lovely Andalusian 5am moon! Harriet x

    1. You are so welcome, Harriet. Thanks for this very kind message. The Andalusian moon sounds gorgeous 🙂

  20. stewart Avatar

    Thank you for sharing. I have a shrine at home and found this useful. I like that you recommend using the water afterwards for plants, which is what I do.

    1. Thanks Stewart! We are glad that you found this helpful. All the best to you 🙂

  21. To sheare this beatiful ritual with us means the generosity of your mind.!!!! The ligth with you.
    Abel. Morelia, Mexico

  22. Todd Pope Avatar
    Todd Pope

    So glad for your tutorial…
    I am setting up the Macy’s Flower Show in Chicago called “The Painted Garden.” This year’s theme focuses on the floral beauty and cultural diversity of South Asia and I want to make the gardens appropriate and meaningful to people who visit regardless of their place of origin. Thank you for the education!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind thoughts, Todd. What interesting work you have! Are you thinking of using some Tibetan components in your show? All the best to you!

      1. Kamala Devi Avatar
        Kamala Devi

        Thank for the channel.I am a disciple Tulku Tsem Rinpoche
        I learnt water offering from our Guru.Just wanted to ask can I remove the water immediately after offerings.How long can I leave it on the table.🙏🙏🙏🌹

  23. Thank you for the explanation, mantras and video. Ciao from Slovenia

    1. You are so welcome, Bozo! Sorry, we missed your comment from last month. Our best to you in Slovenia!

  24. Dear Lobsang Wangdu, thank you for the details in the text and the video!

    Best wishes,
    Raissa

    1. You are so welcome, Raissa, we are happy you like it!

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