Sang Offering at Tsogyelgar

This idea of service demands surrender, a continuous attention to the Other. It feels like humiliation and servitude only when we identify with a ruling willful ego as mirror of a single dominating god. But what if a God is in each thing, the other world distributed within this world?
— James Hillman


Once a day we offer Sang. Sang is juniper burnt over wood. It is an offering given to the Buddhas, protectors, and elemental beings that make up our living environment. The column of smoke rising from the juniper is also a bridge connecting these various realms or ecologies of beings, attuning us to the holy within the sensible.

It is said that the first offering was performed by Shakyamuni to assuage the anger of a smallpox demoness. In the US today, smallpox is eliminated by vaccination. But the Mahayana pledge is to help all sentient beings, smallpox demonesses not forgotten. So we also burn juniper in Sang to appease — with compassion — violent emotions that infringe upon the serenity of a place.

As farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, and gardeners operating on a tight schedule, we do not hold this practice as mere whimsy but as a lucrative part of how we work. An offering performed with the intent to express gratitude refreshes both joy and attention. Gratitude is joyous; what is beheld with joy already is: the nature of Buddhas, the strength of protectors, the play of phenomena. A phenomenon enjoyed engages the attention: attention devotedly looks at what it loves and investigates with the aim of providing better service. The attitude of service makes for intensity, efficiency, compassion, and other virtues. 

In Europe, Capuchin monks performed a similar fire offering.  One expression of their resourcefulness, devotion, and love can still be tasted in the cappuccino. We could say a spiritual ecology is one which delights in serving offerings at all levels, for all beings.