Saturday, January 1, 2011

Buddhist Altar

It is one of the main parts of a lay Buddhists home, the alter table. Some may call it the Gohonzon table according to what school of Buddhism you practice but it is the part that a lot of lay Buddhist’s forget about or ignore but it is one of the most important parts. Why set up a Buddha alter table in your home? Well because if you are Buddhist you should be making offerings to the Buddha as well as reaffirming your vows during certain times of the year. And above all having an alter in your home is respectable to the Buddha. According to what schools you practice with some teachings also teach that you are to have an image of the Buddha in your home for protection. And the only respectable place for an image statue of the Buddha is on a dedicated table/stand.

Some believe that having the Buddha in the home and making offerings of incense, flowers, fruit and water daily that their lives will be blessed by the Buddha and the spirits of the Bodhisattvas. Some feel that their daily offerings are the least they could do to repay the Buddha for giving his teachings to the world. Still some cannot even start their day without first doing prostrations before their home based Buddha alter. It’s a way of making your home as temple like as possible which can be a nice addition to your Buddhist lifestyle practice.

Before you decide to set up the alter in your home you first have to know what each item on the alter stands for and how to set up a proper table. Here is what you will need on the alter and how to set it up:

Image of the Buddha, Amitabha, Shakyamuni etc. according to your practice. The image can be a statue or picture or type of image and small stand for the Buddha image.

Small bowl of clean water.

Incense holder and incense.

Live flowers and or fresh fruit. If using fresh fruit on the table please have also a bowl for the fruit, never place fruit on the table itself.

Two candles in candle holders always make sure they are in holders.
Set up

The image of the Buddha should always be the focus point of your alter so always make sure image of the Buddha is set on a lifted base/stand at the back of your table so that it sits up above everything else on the table.
Place a clean bowl of water in front of the Buddha image, change this water at least a few times a week to keep it clean.
Place fresh flowers (never fake) either in a vase and set to the sides of the Buddha slightly forward of the image or place fresh cut flowers at the base of the Buddha lying on the table. If you use fruit on the table also put into a bowl and place at the foot of the Buddha.
Place incense in front of the bowl of water towards the front of the table.
Place two candles on candle holders to the sides and at the front of the alter.
Meaning of items

Image of Buddha- Symbolizes wisdom and our own Buddha nature.

Bowl of water- Reminds us how we should keep our mind and thoughts, still and pure.

Flowers/Fruit- Offerings of respect to the Buddha and bodhisattvas’.

Incense- Symbolizes the scent of the Dharma, the scent goes from the Buddha place into the world.

Candles- Symbolizes burning away the ignorance of the world.