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According to a resource from the Bhutan Cultural Library, “Sur is the offering of scents. In the Buddhist world view, there are many kinds of 

sentient beings. Some of them survive by eating solid food, some by consuming smell, and some merely through touch or psychological nutrition through the force of the mind.” There are numerous texts, liturgies, and traditions of sur offering, such as practices focused on White and Red Offering practices, Red Tara, Green Tara, Chenrezig, and so forth. It is particularly beneficial to perform this concise practice for the deceased daily during the 49 days following death, and it is also an excellent auxiliary practice for retreat. Lama Zopa Rinpoche referred to this method as “practicing aroma charity” and said it is also very good for Dharma centers to make this offering daily.

The offering substances used for this practice range from a very elaborate list of 25 particular ingredients, to the more simple versions of using a mixture of the “three whites and three sweets” (milk, butter, yogurt or “curd”, sugar, molasses, and honey), sometimes also used for making tormas (ritual offering cakes.) The most simple recipe is combining roasted barley flour and water. These are mixed and usually applied in small amounts to a burning coal or small fire.  A liturgy that includes taking “refuge and bodhicitta vows” and simple prayers is chanted with an accompanying mantra.


Sur offerings differ from another smoke offering called "sang", or Riwo Sang Chod, in that a sang offering is generally made to the environment and local deities, and sur's intention is offer scent to those in the ghost realm and the bardo following death. Both are very convenient to practice and allow us to easily accumulate vast merit and to benefit countless beings, particularly those who suffer the most. One can make their own sur offering substance or it can be purchased inexpensively in the form of a fine powder from numerous online and local Dharma shops, and texts are available at various Dharma centers and online. The simpler versions of this powerful and meritorious practice can be accomplished in a short amount of time involving very little smoke and are suitable to be done at home. 

Please join TLC in supporting beings by learning to practice sur offerings. May we all accomplish virtue and be freed of suffering. The practice pictured here was dedicated to the benefit of all beings and the removal of our obstacles, and for the swift rebirth of the Venerable Domang Gyatrul Rinpoche.

All that is required to accomplish sur practice is a liturgy, the offering substance, small charcoals used for burning incense, a safe burner, and tingshas. “When one offers sur for a deceased person, one often uses a small bell to call the spirit or the consciousness of the deceased to come and have sur.” Tingshas are small, metal bell-like cymbals, usually joined by a leather strap that when tapped, ring out and attract the consciousnesses of those who have passed and are transitioning through the bardo after death.

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The Benefits of Sur Offering Practice by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche / Sera Je Monastery, Bylakuppe, India (Archive # 1943)


Sur: Scent Offerings / Bhutan Cultural Library


Sang and Sur Cleansing Smoke and Singed Offering Practices by Lama Tashi Topgyal


Photo credits: Susan Goldberg



On May 21st, 2023, TLC invited Lama Jamie Kalfas of Chagdud Gompa to give the lung (reading transmission) and teachings for Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s Red Tara Sur offering practice, and to lead a small group in this practice in Ashland, OR. A lovely gathering resulted. Sur practice is a simple smoke offering ritual done to repay our karmic debts to bardo beings, pacify negative forces, benefit those who are deceased and, according to Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, to resolve karmic debts with animals. It also pacifies obstacles and creates the merit to be reborn in the pure realms.

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