We accumulate merit through the practice of mandala by cutting the root of attachment or desire. The actual practice of generosity is not having a stingy mind or a mind full of desire. When you give up all attachment to external material belongings, then that is generosity. When you have that kind of practice of generosity, then you have the accumulation of merit. If we give a little thing, we accumulate some merit. If we give more, we also accumulate merit. If we give a great, huge thing, we also accumulate merit. According to the quantity, we accumulate that much merit.
For the mandala practice, we visualize offering the whole universe to all the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, the Dharma and the Sangha. All the wealth of the whole universe is symbolized by the rice held in your hand. You visualize the rice as every jewel and precious stone, all the wealth of the universe, and you offer it all the the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Dharma and the Sangha. When you really do it, when you really feel that you have made a great offering, then you accumulate lots of merit. It is a special technique. If you don’t understand in a deeper way and just go through the motions of chanting and throwing rice, it is child’s play. you need to understand everything you are doing. Only then can you accumulate merit.
Image of mandala offered on shrinePractitioners who wish to accomplish Ngöndro accumulations will perform 100,000 of the shorter Mandala offering prayer and utilize the Mandala offering plate.
At the summer 1999 retreat, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche clarified the way he wishes his students to practice the Mandala. It is possible that other masters may instruct their students differently. For those who have had teachings in mandala offering from a qualified master, we are providing the diagram developed from His Holiness’ instructions here and the short prayer here (marked with the piles) for those who wish to carry through the practice.