An Overview of Tsok (Ganachakra) or Feast Practice

[An Excerpt on the practice of tsok, or ganachakra, from The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness, the Vajrayana volume of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma]

Feast Practice and the Destruction of Rudra

In connection with samaya, one of the practices that has been developed is called a feast offering, or tsokkyi khorlo. Tsok is “feast,” kyi means “of,”and khorlo is “chakra” or “wheel”; so tsokkyi khorlo means “wheel of feast”or “feast offering.” Vajrayana practitioners are supposed to do a feast offering on the tenth day and the twenty-fifth day of the lunar calendar,the tenth being the day of the herukas, and the twenty-fifth being the day of the dakinis.* On those days, you must offer a feast connected with the sadhana that you are practicing.

offeringsThe process of a vajra feast is to collect food and purify it, and then invite your vajra brothers and sisters into the feast to share your experience. You also invite the tathagatas and herukas and dakinis as guests. You visualize them approaching you, and you give them offerings from the feast. This offering is called the select offering. If you have gone against the samaya vows, you make a second offering, called a confession offering,as an amendment of your vows. For the third part of the feast, you make a final offering, called a destruction offering. With this offering some food is taken out and put into a triangular black box in order to invoke Rudra, who is then destroyed or killed on the spot. The killing of Rudra is the third part of the feast. After the ceremony is completed, the students and masters who took part in it share the feast food and drink. At the time of Naropa, feast practice was not all that formalized, so feast practice was more like a seemingly ordinary party. But these offerings and the destruction of Rudra were already a part of the whole thing.

There are two important ingredients to be included in a feast offering:meat and alcohol. Alcohol is connected with passion, and meat is connected with aggression. These are the higher ingredients, and you cannot prepare the feast offering without them. Then you can collect fruits or grains or other food to create a meal.

Indulgence plays a very important part in tantra. However, feast practice seems to have become a rather corrupted situation in Tibet. For example, if somebody wanted to have a good drink, or to eat meat although they were vegetarian, they could put their meat and drink on the shrine table and have an excuse to have a good time. Because it was now vajra food, they figured it would not be breaking their vows.

An ordinary person who has not received abhisheka and has no awareness or respect for the vajrayana approach should not be invited to participate in feast practice. In feast practice, poison and medicine are very close. People with no understanding of vajrayana would have a problem with that. Since they would have no idea of the vajrayana meaning of sacredness, it would seem to them to be a contradiction to have a sacred party going on where everybody was eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. They would think that there must be something wrong. But feast practice is a very deliberate practice. It is not just about having a good old party; that would not quite be a vajra feast. True feast practice is overwhelmingly powerful. Students who were not used to such a vajra practice probably could not keep up with it.

Working with the Samsaric Physical Body

The meaning of the feast offering is to encourage the yogins and yoginis to take care of their bodies, so that their wisdom is not neglected. The yoginis and yogins of the vicinity join together to make sure that they are working with the samsaric physical body. By working with the samsaric physical body, you also work with the greater mandala-realm world at the same time.

As the Hevajra Tantra says: “Great wisdom abides within the body.Therefore, one should give up any questions completely. That which pervades all things comes from the body and the sense organs, but at the same time it does not come from the body and sense organs.” This means that the body is the source of the path, and that without the body, you cannot have the path and the journey.

So the body should be treated well. But you do not do so just to make the body a good solid ladder, to just maintain it so you can tread on it.You should respect the body as the inner vajra mandala. The idea is that the body is very sacred, and it is also the property of the herukas of the mandala.

Other Books Discussing Tsok