August was a busy month at Wheel of Bliss. We are always working to improve the house and grounds, but a focal point of our work in August was to build a new firepit for ritual and enjoyment. The stone and sand utilized were all of local origin. Measuring about 4 feet in diameter and 2 1/2 feet high, the center of the pit was built with Tennessee Mountain Stone, a rough grey stone that can withstand high temperatures. The flagstones in the circular perimeter around the pit itself are North Carolina Mountain Mist, which has orange and bluish hues.
The total diameter of the entire firepit measures about 16 feet across on all sides. To begin, we dug a small 2 inch trench and filled it with gravel and then sand to give a solid foundation. The mountain mist stones were arranged in the area around the center while the Tennessee mountain stone was stacked like bricks in a ring with a mortar sealant.
After several days of hard work moving the stones and setting them meticulously, it was time to do our first ritual. There are a few different types of smoke offerings in Vajrayana Buddhism, but we chose to perform a Sang offering as the inaugural ritual. Sang offerings are performed as a method of purification. Our main intention was to consecrate the new firepit, and also bless and purify the main house and surrounding mountain area. However, the prayer text itself describes a much larger spectrum.
The white smoke that billows up is offered as holy nectar first to all Enlightened beings – then, over the course of the ritual, the circle of inclusion is gradually expanded out to benefit any being that is suffering in existence.
Sang offering is taught to be particularly important during times at which the circumstances around practitioners are dire – examples of this include disorder from the micro scale (dissonance in an individual practitioner’s own life) to macro scale (a bad king or leadership, natural disasters, and war).
After the ritual was complete, we continued the fire for almost twelve hours.
We are excited for our incoming groups to conduct their own ceremonies here for the benefit of all. May this new firepit serve our community for years to come:
May all things wanted and needed descend like the rain,
And may all wealth be inexhaustible.
May there be a gathering of human beings, wealth, and food.
May learning, contemplating, and meditating increase.
May the enlightened activities be accomplished without effort.