Dharma demystified: Golden Drink Offering (Serkyem)

During the offering, we visualize the Serkyem multiplying before offering to Dorje Shugden

By: Steve Lee

The Golden Drink Offering or Serkyem, part of the Dorje Shugden Kangsol, is central to a Dharma Protector’s practice. In Tibetan, Ser means golden and Kyem means beverage. Despite the existence of Serkyem-offering liturgies composed by High Lamas to certain Yidams, it remains largely a unique aspect of the Dharma Protector practice.

Ancient lineage lamas developed this practice as an extended offering to the Dharma Protector to request for swift assistance. Hence, the Serkyem offering has become extremely popular among modern practitioners who seek assistance especially in times of dire need.

The Serkyem offering is traditionally offered by pouring the beverage into a two-tiered vessel, which consists of a taller vessel placed into a lower bowl. Naturally, the Serkyem offering is offered from a jug or a suitable pot.

During the offering, the beverage is poured into the taller vessel to the point where the liquid overflows down into the lower bowl. In Buddhism, the symbolism of the overflowing liquid is highly auspicious because it represents an abundant flow of merits, virtues, material resources and conditions that are conducive for one’s Dharma practice.

The beverage can either be poured fully into the vessel prior to the recitation of the Serkyem verses, or it can be poured a little at a time during the recitation of relevant passages throughout the liturgy. In the case of Dorje Shugden’s Serkyem, the beverage is poured a little on the third line of each stanza when it says, “Offering you nectar that bestows bliss…

An offering of tea into a traditional Serkyem vessel

The Serkyem vessel can be of any material such as gold, silver, copper, brass or even glass. Offering vessels that are made of precious materials are considered highly propitious, especially for lay practitioners who want to create tremendous merits and establish the closest affinity with the Protector.

In addition, the traditional Serkyem vessel that is made up of a taller central vessel and lower bowl is optional although the overflowing symbolism is an auspicious offering to the Protector. In some cases practitioners even use a tall wine glass placed inside a glass bowl as a Serkyem vessel.

Tea is traditionally offered as Serkyem because in ancient times, it was considered a precious beverage and a valuable commodity that the Tibetans imported from China. Due to its exquisite taste, it is usually offered to the Lamas, Yidams and Dharma Protectors and its golden color reflects the meaning of Serkyem. When tea is offered, it is traditionally offered piping hot as a direct request to the Dharma Protector for the swiftest assistance, heat being symbolic of rapidity.

Besides tea, Tibetan beer or alcohol can also be offered because of the Tantric meaning behind such substances. During a Tsog offering that the Tantrikas perform, a little bit of consecrated alcohol and meat is partaken to symbolize the psychic winds and bodily elements used in Tantric meditation. Hence, beer or alcohol represents Tantric attainments and is offered to the Dharma Protector as a direct request to overcome all obstacles that obstruct spiritual attainments and to bring about beneficial conditions swiftly.

Other suitable beverages that can be offered as Serkyem include milk, which symbolizes spiritual nourishment and also various types of fizzy drinks such as Coca-Cola.

The actual Serkyem offering ritual begins with the pouring of a little of the beverage into the vessel so it’s not empty (if its not already poured in full) along with a few grains of rice. The Serkyem is consecrated with three repetitions of the mantra Om Ah Hum, while purifying with incense. Then, the Serkyem liturgy is recited with each stanza describing an offering of the Serkyem to a particular being or a class of beings that play a defined role in our spiritual practice.

During the offering, the Serkyem is visualized to be divine nectar that expands to fill an entire ocean. This ocean is made out of not just the beverage that the practitioner offered but of all the desirable things in the world that excite and please the 5 senses.

This vast ocean is offered to the Protector and to the other special beings mentioned in the liturgy. In addition, the request or what the practitioner wants to achieve is visualized to come into fruition with the assistance of the Protector.

The following is a brief explanation of the Serkyem liturgy:-

Gurus who rain down two purposes,
Yidams who bestow the two siddhis,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

The first stanza is an offering to the root lama whose blessings and teachings guide us along the path of attaining Compassion (Bodhichitta) and realization of Emptiness (Shunyata), the two main qualities of a Buddha.

Then, Serkyem is offered to the Yidam that has been received as a practice from our lama. Examples of yidams include Lama Tsongkapa, Manjushri, Vajrayogini, or Yamantaka. Through the yidam’s sadhana practice, we can achieve ordinary (health, wealth, clairvoyance and so forth) and extraordinary attainments (wisdom and compassion).

Three places’ heroes and dakinis,
Mighty hosts of sworn dharmapalas,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

The offering of Serkyem continues by making offerings to the enlightened Dakas and Dakinis, the celestial enlightened beings that play a significant role in higher Tantric practices. This is to rouse them to come to our aid especially to make our practice successful.

Six-armed and White Mahakalas, Dharmaraja, outer, inner, secret,
Palden Lhamo, Tent and Four-faced Mahakalas, and Vaishravana,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

Manjusri’s attendant, sworn Dharmaraj,
And oceans of outer, inner, and secret entourage,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

Then, we offer Serkyem to the various Dharma Protectors like Mahakala, Palden Lhamo, Vaishravana, Kalarupa and so forth to create the merit to receive protection. In particular, there is a stanza dedicated to the outer, inner and secret emanations of the Protector Kalarupa whose name is also known as Damchen Chogyel in Tibetan and is translated as sworn Dharmaraj.

Transcendent supreme dharmapala,
Dorje Shugden, strict and swift of power
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!
(3x, 7x, 21x, 108x or more)

Then comes the main stanza dedicated to the offering of Serkyem to Dorje Shugden and this stanza is usually repeated a number of times, depending on the urgency of the request. When time is short, the practitioner may also just recite this stanza instead of reciting the entire liturgy.

Offering more Serkyem to Dorje Shugden is not to quench his divine thirst but to generate merit and affinity with the Protector so the practitioner would be able to receive his assistance and blessings.

Five types that bestow unimpeded
Acts of peace, increase, control, and wrath,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

The stanza after that is an offering to the 4 other emanations of Dorje Shugden. They are Shize – the peaceful aspect, Trakze – the wrathful aspect, Wangze – the control aspect and Gyenze – the increasing aspect. All five including the main form, which is known as Duldzin Dorje Shugden are collectively referred to as the 5 families of Dorje Shugden. These emanations represent the enlightened activities that Dorje Shugden performs to benefit the practitioner.

Nine beautiful consorts, eight guide monks,
Ten young wrathful agents, and the rest,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

After that, Serkyem is offered to the 9 mothers, 8 guiding monks and 10 youthful and wrathful assistants. The 9 mothers aid our Tantric practice, the 8 guiding monks assist in the holding of the Vinaya (vows and commitments) and the 10 youthful and wrathful assistants help with the clearing of obstacles, creating suitable conditions for our Dharma practice.

Especially, principal guardian of Buddhadharma,
Setrab Chen and your entourage,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish! (3x)

Life-taker of those with broken bonds,
Fierce Kache Marpo, invincible,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

Vow-breakers’ heart-blood purified like gold,
This drink of fully boiling Serkyem,
I offer to Namka Bardzin and entourage
Accepting, accomplish the yogi’s intended purpose!

The next stanza is an offering to the Protector Setrab who has a special connection with Dorje Shugden and who resides within the same mandala (divine abode) above Dorje Shugden.

The other two stanzas are an offering to the two main ministers of Dorje Shugden, Kache Marpo and Namkar Barzin. They are powerful Dharma Protectors in their own right and are also the main assistants to Dorje Shugden.

Emanations, beyond thought, as well,
Attendants that rock the billion worlds,
Offering you nectar that bestows bliss,
Spontaneously grant our every wish!

Being thus honored and exhorted,
Unslacking in four activities,
Through the six times, always protect us
Like a father caring for his son!

Hosts of fierce attendants, remember
Your sworn oaths before Lord Dulzin and,
Swiftly, now, perform, unslackingly,
Each and every action I request!

After that, Serkyem is offered to the millions of worldly spirits and various beings that surround Dorje Shugden and assist him according to their capacities. The last two stanzas are to request for Dorje Shugden to extend skillful assistance to the practitioner and to remind the entourage of Dorje Shugden to uphold their vows and commitments that they had sworn before Dorje Shugden.

In conclusion, the Serkyem offering can be performed as part of a daily practice together with invocation, praise, kawang and mantras to Dorje Shugden to create a strong affinity with Dorje Shugden or it can done on its own in times of dire need or emergencies. Serkyem is one the more powerful ways to create a special bond of merits for Dorje Shugden to come to our assistance, and the Serkyem offering as narrated above is the same practice that has been done in the monasteries over the ages due to its proven efficacy.

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12 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Very well explained but where can I get the vase

  2. Very informative post. I have better understanding after reading this well explained article about the Serkyem offering. Will share this information to others

    Thank you !

  3. Thanks Steve Lee for sharing such informative and easy steps that able to help a Beginner to do Serkyem to Dorje Shugden…

    Through Golden Drink Offering (Serkyem) as much possible may help to clear our obstacle swiftly _/|\_

  4. This post is informative and it shocked me for what I’ve been doing is not so correct. I did not offer my serkym while it’s sizzling hot, often it’s cold when i offered. Now i understand that when we offer hot tea, it represents rapidity. And i didn’t know that we could visualize the Serkyem is visualized to be divine nectar that expands to fill an entire ocean, and the ocean is also filled with 5 senses that fulfill our desire.

    Thank you for this post! I learned something..

  5. Thank you for sharing the teaching on Serkym. I especially learned a lot from the explanation of each stanzas of the Serkym prayer.
    May more people will learn on Dorje Shugden and do his Serkym so that can help them to clear their inner & outer obstacles for their spiritual advancement!

  6. Thank you for the explanation.

  7. Is any form of empowerment or initiation required for this ritual ? Can I pour the tea into the sink immediately after the ritual ?

  8. Please i want someone To do dharma protector ritual for me.I was To do it but i dont know how To do it.i need to do it for prosperity.

  9. Great explanation about Serkym. I thought this website is all about the controversy, but it’s great that there are articles that teach us about Dorje Shugden’s practice, which is so difficult to find online. Thank you for sharing, truly appreciate it.

  10. i’d like to refer to the 4th movie about Dalajlama – what an arrogant, rude woman stripped of decency and knowledge… saying (repeating) to old man – stop lying.. deprivation of humanity, level of unicellular organism. Man who is a tulku, who study, practice and teaches Dharma 60, 70 years, where is respect. Poor people who stuck to some protector leaving behind the essence of Dharma. Any way you can follow whatever you wish but dont behave like demons like herd of hyenas, vultures.

  11. Do we need to fill both taller central vessel and lower bowl or not?

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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