Making offerings to ordained sangha and lamas is an Eastern tradition that has not yet fully taken root in the West. By making monetary offerings or sponsoring chanting, meals, or tea, we generate vast merit and accumulate positive karma. But the value of these benefits is not always well understood. The Western tradition of respect for science may provide a useful analogy: Just as scientists dedicate themselves to observing material phenomena, spiritual practitioners dedicate their time and energy to observing the mind, which, though intangible, is the basis of suffering and liberation.
In the West, support from grants, fellowships and donations frees scientists to pursue research that can lead to gains in material well-being. Similarly, in Asian societies where Buddhism has flourished for millennia, the work of ordained sangha, lamas, and dedicated practitioners is deeply respected and they are similarly supported to continue their work free from worldly concerns. Thus, making offerings can be understood as a powerful investment in the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of our own and future generations.