The power of the liberated is inconceivable,
With wonderful functions more numerous than the Ganges sands.
They would not refuse to make the four offerings
To one who can accept ten thousand ounces of gold.
To have body broken and bones reduced to dust is not enough to repay
The words that enlighten, transcending countless eons.
You have to be willing to offer what you consider most precious. What is most precious depends on the person. In Sakyamuni’s time, there was a poor woman who had only one chipped bowl. She begged for oil and burned it as an offering to the Buddha. Rich men offered thousands of lanterns, but Sakyamuni said that the woman’s offering was the most precious in the world, because she offered the only thing she had.
Furthermore, making offerings is not as important for the recipient as it is for the donor. Buddha does not care if you give him anything. Neither do the Three Jewels, patriarchs and masters. Recently, someone told me, “Shih-fu, I’d really like to offer you something in order to show my gratitude for your teaching, but it seems like you don’t need anything, so I’ll just thank you instead.”
I said, “Making offerings is for your benefit, not mine. It’s your affair. It has nothing to do with me.”
You should be grateful to the Three Jewels for the Dharma teachings that you receive, and you should express your gratitude in an offering. What kind of offering? Any offering is a sincere offering if it is made unconditionally. I do not want you to reach into your pockets and give me every cent you have. The first offering I require from you is that you believe, accept, follow, and put immediately into practice what you have learned. Have confidence and faith in yourselves. Use that confidence and faith to increase your concentration and settle your minds. Every person, every event, every moment in this center during retreat can help your practice. Work hard. That is your offering.
— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 218-219)