About Buddhist AltarBuddhism Your Questions Answered (171 FAQ)

Q&A 87. Making Oil offerings

Q: We want to offer oil to the Bodhisattvas at the Guan Yin Citta Centre. Should we place a bottle of oil in front of the statues or images of the Bodhisattvas on the altar, or should we light an oil lamp?  Thank you.

A:

  • Making offerings of vegetable oil to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will result in blessings of improved eyesight, hearing and wisdom.
  • Generally, vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola seed oil, corn oil, and lotus oil can be used for oil offerings.
  • Sesame oil, peanut oil, or any oil with an aroma should not be used for oil lamps, as oils with an aroma are considered impure. Their strong aroma would overpower the scent of the sandalwood incense; they are not suitable for offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Soybean oil is too concentrated to burn easily; it is thus also unsuitable for oil offerings.
  • After removing the packaging and the label, you can offer the entire bottle of oil before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the altar. This would be considered an oil offering, too.
  • However, the best way of making oil offerings is to light oil lamps and refill the oil lamps with the oil that you wish to offer. You should refill the oil lamps frequently by adding a small amount of fresh oil every day, just as you would with offerings of fresh flowers, fruit and water.
  • Ensure that the oil that has been offered to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas must not be used to cook non-vegetarian dishes, otherwise that will lead to negative karma. We can consume the fruits and water after offering them to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas directly. But for the oil that we offered, it has to be cooked before consumption. For example, you may use the offered oil to cook vegetarian dishes.
  • When you make oil offerings in a public place, for example, at the Guan Yin Citta Centre, you can bring your own bottle of oil to fill up the oil lamps on the altar. Afterwards, you can take the bottle home and use the remaining oil for vegetarian cooking.
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