Individual wrote:What kinds of flowers and decorations are good for an altar?
An altar can be a nice idea, very positive part of one's house or room.
I'm Zen, not Tibetan, so I keep it simple:
- Buddha-statue from Wal-mart (cheaply made: its head fell off once and I had to glue it back on! )
- Mirror, to practice mirror meditation, and symbolize Buddha-nature
- Little Guan Yin
- Little Maitreya
Although actual price isn't that important at all, the effort that we make in setting up the altar is important. If you can only afford this now, no problem. But see if you can find some more enduring images in the future!
Wanted to add a little Manjusri, but the Tibetan Buddhist gift-shop didn't have one -- second time in a row. The stuff they did have (but didn't want) was too expensive anyway. Decided to put an athame I had from my Wicca days there, for Manjusri.
You could always put a copy of Prajnaparamita there for Manjusri. Many altars use the idea of images of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha: A buddha image (statue or picture), the Dharma in sutra, and the Sangha in pictures of great teachers, past or present.
Right now, my flowers are plastic.
Again, if that is all you can find, it is the thought that counts. But if you can even (legally!) pick some flowers near your home, then that is better.
What's on your altar? (if you have one: not having one is OK too!)
A couple of jade Buddha images, two Guan Yin's, flowers, censer, two oil lamps, and the usual Dharma instruments.
It'd be helpful to know what flowers are good... Stuff like roses are nice, but they don't last very long and they're too expensive and it's too wasteful to keep replacing them all the time. What flowers and plants are good indoors for this purpose?
Depends on where you are. One good idea is to actually have potted plants, that one can water and keep fresh. Just remember to trim / prune. And make sure they get enough light and air.
I don't believe in any kind of superstitions, but like a girl at school the other day said, it's good to keep stuff around the house to remind you of what you love. So, a lot of western people have a "family altar" (of photos) whether they call it that or not.
Exactly. These are just prompts for the mind, and it is easier to train the mind when some external item is there. As Sakyaputra and Sakyaduhitra, an altar is also a "family altar", too, the preservation of the Buddha gotra.