Generally speaking, we make offerings to the Dharma Protectors to remove any outer or inner obstacles to our practice. We do this by reminding them of the oath they made to Guru Rinpoche or Machig Labdrön or some other great teacher from the past to assist and protect their lineage, the teachings of the Buddha and those who practice them. When we are making offerings to the Guardians of the Dharma we are asking them to protect us yogis and yoginis by warding off all outer and inner obstacles that may hinder our practice, our Dharma centers and monasteries. We are also asking them to assist our practice and support all our Dharmic aspirations. This is the purpose of our offering. There are stories that when Longchenpa was writing The Seven Treasures Rahula was actually present assisting him by preparing the ink. Some protectors were present in Tibet before Buddhism and then enlisted by Padma Sambhava to become Buddhist protectors like Dorje Legpa (Vajra Sadhu) was a Bön protector before. When Lonchenpa was restoring the Zha temple in Uru Dorje Legpa emanated as a boy wearing a turquoise earring and helped the craftsmen each day.
The Serkyem Offering Container
When we make our offering to the Guardians of the Dharma we use what is known as a serkyem (gser skyem, the golden beverage). A serkyem consists of two pieces stacked; a tall thin chalice placed inside a container.
How to Arrange the Offering
When you are making offerings to the Protectors, the cup/chalice should be placed upright and black tea or dark alcohol (like dark rum) is poured in and a small amount of raw mixed grains are added. The liquid is poured into the top of the chalice and allowed to overflow into the bottom. The top offering represents the offering to the Three Roots—Lama, Yidam and Dakini and the bottom the offering to the Protectors. You let the tea run over into the bottom from the top symbolizing the offering from the Three Roots to the Protectors. Add some mixed grains to both the top and bottom of the serkyem representing food offerings. The offering should be arranged in a calm and respectful manner. When it is placed on the shrine it is always offered together with incense. When the serkyem is not being used the chalice should be cleaned and placed on its side within the bottom dish beside the shrine (not on the shrine). It is important to not leave the cup upright and empty on the shrine because this would be inauspicious.
When the Offering is Made
Before starting the first session of the day, you would fill the serkyem and place it on your shrine together with an incense offering and a candle. If you have a separate Protector’s shrine you would place the offering on that shrine. This could be just a separate small table with pictures of the Protectors or statues on it. In retreat, when one is following a retreat schedule that consists of four practice sessions, the serkyem would be offered in the third session of the day. This late afternoon time period, which occurs around sunset, is associated with magnetizing activities. However, if you only do one session during the day, then you should offer the serkyem at the end of your session. If no incense is lit, before you start your Protectors practice be sure to light some incense and a candle then offer to the Three Roots and Protectors.
Making the OfferingWhen it is time to perform the Protectors’ offering prayer, the serkyem is offered while visualizing yourselves as the deity. While maintaining the vajra pride of being the deity, light rays issue forth from your heart purifying, consecrating, and vastly multiplying your offering. Your offering has now been transformed into the drink of nectar that delights the senses.
Once you have completed all the closing prayers, take the serkyem outside and hold the top in one hand and the bottom in the other. First offer the top liquid in an upward motion away from you. While you are doing this visualize that you are making offerings to the Three Roots and they are receiving it and then offer the bottom liquid in the same way, however, this time you visualize that you are making offerings to the Protectors. In both cases, feel that they are delighted by your offerings and accept your offering of the golden drink and food. If circumstances don't permit you to make the offering outside right away pour the liquid in a clean container and make the offering in a nearby park when you have time. You can let it accumulate for a few days. In a group practice, the Chopön makes the offering outside immediately after the Protector’s practice is completed.
In summation, through the power of our offering we are beseeching and commanding the Protectors to uphold their vow to support the flourishing and spread of the Dharma teachings and support practitioners by making everything auspicious. Protectors are very lineage specific and are like allied energies supporting the Dharma.