Altar set-up

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Altar set-up

Postby chokyi lodro » Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:47 pm

I've been wanting to ask about home shrine/altars.

I have a little statue of Chenrezig that I wanted to put in some place where I could take some time and space to meditate. Then I thought of doing something with a little more symbol.

Because I am more drawn to the tibetan tradition, I wanted to ask what would be the normal/minimum altar configuration. I ask because I've found some materials online that contradict each other and I was getting confused...
:oops:

I know normally there is the Buddha there, a holy text, and a stupa. What does the stupa represent? And what if you don't have one!?

Regarding lights or offerings, is it seven, or is it eight? And what do they represent?

Regarding offering the bowls, this reminds me of the worship found in Hinduism (arcana/arati). How are the bowls offered? Is it purely mentally? Or is there any kind of verse/gesture that would go along with it?

At one point I lived in a Hindu ashram in America where there was this kind of worship, and although there was a bit of ritual, it was simple and yet dignified. So I wondered if it had crossed over at all into Buddhism.

And where would you put candles/lights? Anywhere in particular?

Thank you all in advance!
~ Chökyi Lodrö
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby Bonsai Doug » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:29 pm

I have no idea what might constitute a "normal" set up.

I took my Refuge Vows in the Theravada tradition, but find I'm also drawn to the Tibetan tradition.
I've set aside a small area in my home-office where I sit to meditate. Very simple, atop a file cabinet.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby dakini_boi » Fri Aug 10, 2012 5:06 pm

markadm wrote:I've been wanting to ask about home shrine/altars.

I have a little statue of Chenrezig that I wanted to put in some place where I could take some time and space to meditate. Then I thought of doing something with a little more symbol.

Because I am more drawn to the tibetan tradition, I wanted to ask what would be the normal/minimum altar configuration. I ask because I've found some materials online that contradict each other and I was getting confused...
:oops:

I know normally there is the Buddha there, a holy text, and a stupa. What does the stupa represent? And what if you don't have one!?

Regarding lights or offerings, is it seven, or is it eight? And what do they represent?

Regarding offering the bowls, this reminds me of the worship found in Hinduism (arcana/arati). How are the bowls offered? Is it purely mentally? Or is there any kind of verse/gesture that would go along with it?

At one point I lived in a Hindu ashram in America where there was this kind of worship, and although there was a bit of ritual, it was simple and yet dignified. So I wondered if it had crossed over at all into Buddhism.

And where would you put candles/lights? Anywhere in particular?

Thank you all in advance!


Yes, usually there is a Buddha image/statue, a dharma text, and a stupa. To represent body, speech, and mind of Buddha. I don't have a stupa either, so I placed a small dropper-bottle of special flower and gem essences. It has a similar shape to a stupa, and the symbolism works for me. Another possible substitution to represent Buddha mind could be a crystal or crystal ball. Or perhaps even a prism.

Usually there are 7 water bowl offerings, to represent the offerings of water for drinking and bathing, flowers, incense, light, scented water and food. The eighth offering is music, so sometimes there are 8, but usually I have seen 7. Also, sometimes you will see actual flowers, incense, light and food in the respective bowls instead of water. And sometimes the music offering is represented by a musical instrument.

Usually the offerings are accompanied by a verse and/or mantra, as well as visualization.

It's great you're setting up an altar space. Have fun!
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby viniketa » Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:31 pm

If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby chokyi lodro » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:22 pm

Thank you all very much for the replies, advice and for the well-wishes.

I'm still not sure what to do in place of a stupa, but pro tem I have a little candle in a beautiful high glass dish which will have to suffice.

I had a bit of bother finding elaborate verses, so I will use the 'simple way', dakini_boi.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:42 am

You should have items that represent the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Dharma can be even one verse by the Buddha, and the sangha can be represented by a picture of your teacher or maybe a teacher whose works have inspired you.

Stupas traditionally held the relics of the Buddha or of enlightened teachers. A pagoda is actually a kind of stupa.

As far as offering (7) bowls, here is a recitation that has served me well:

To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, liberating all craving, I offer this water for drinking.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, liberating all obscurations, I offer this water for washing.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, transforming all phenomena into wisdom, I offer these flowers.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, permeating all time and space, I offer this incense.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, illuminating the darkness of ignorance, I offer this light.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, bestowing infinite blessings through profound inner meaning,
I offer this perfumed water.
To the Buddha, to the Dharma to the Sangha, realizing the inseparability of nirvana and samsara in this saha world,
I offer this music and food.

(I am not exactly sure where this comes from).
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby catmoon » Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:28 pm

I do something very similar to ze Foaming Monk, but with a variation.

Instead of a fixed recitation, with each offering I try to cultivate a strong wish that all sentient beings should enjoy the benefits of each. Now, since I find strong wishes tend to become weak with repetition, this involves constant innovation and reworking of the offering wishes. Each bowl offering ends with an "Om ah hum".

The eighth bowl is interesting, everyone does it differently. Some ignore it, some use an eighth bowl, some combine the seventh and eighth bowls into one.
I have a small singing bowl on the altar which is struck as both as the music offering and as a sort of dinner bell for the pretas.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby Knotty Veneer » Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:30 pm

I think this article gives a pretty good outline for what to include in a basic Tibetan Buddhist Shrine:

http://www.khandro.net/practice_shrine.htm
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby practitioner » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:54 am

Here is a teaching by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on the shrine offerings http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/buddhism/bec/bec05.php
And here is an inexpensive pamphlet that goes into more depth of what is needed for a proper Tibetan Buddhist style shrine and why we maintain one in the first place that I have found very helpful. http://www.namsebangdzo.com/Shrine_Khenpo_Karthar_Rinpoche_p/5838.htm
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby chokyi lodro » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:04 pm

Thank you everyone for all your responses! :thumbsup:
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby padma norbu » Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:53 pm

This is a weird question, but I have an unopened mini bottle of Kah tequila which is in the shape of a skull with a devil painted on it. I had the idea that I could use it as a permanent offering on my altar because I don't want to drink it and I thought it was perfect symbolism: devil-skull filled with alcohol. It's an all-in one symbolic offering of my commitment to the path and turning away from my old ways of selfish, careless intoxication.

Then, I read you aren't supposed to offer alcohol on buddhist shrines at all because it's actually offensive, apparently.

Then, I read the description of the particular Kah bottle design I have and it turns out it's actually sort of a Satan-worshipping bottle. So, I guess in that sense, it would be like putting the devil on my altar and honoring the devil with prayers and meditation.

I guess I've answered my own question at this point, but I'm still curious if anyone has heard of alcohol on an altar before. Or if anyone thinks it is a good idea and not offensive. To me, it makes sense because I'm giving something of value to the Buddhas and it's representative of something much more difficult for me than just parting with $75 for a nice permanent offering I can buy at a dharmashop. As far as the "satan-worshipping" aspect of the bottle design, I wouldn't see it that way, so I would hardly think it matters. If anything, I would just incorporate a sort of general "may all demons be free from suffering" vibe into my daily water bowl time.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby ngodrup » Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:07 am

Not at all, These tequilla bottles are related to ancestor worship-- dia de los muertos.
I think the colors are very convenient, white, yellow/red and black. So I would put them
on a protectors shrine for pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and destroying activity.
Of course the devil images are nice, since we would want to offer our problems, negative
emotions to wrathful deities and ultimately use the energy-- if we are engaged with tantra.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby futerko » Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:39 am

ngodrup wrote:Not at all, These tequilla bottles are related to ancestor worship-- dia de los muertos.
I think the colors are very convenient, white, yellow/red and black. So I would put them
on a protectors shrine for pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and destroying activity.
Of course the devil images are nice, since we would want to offer our problems, negative
emotions to wrathful deities and ultimately use the energy-- if we are engaged with tantra.


:good:

although as ngodrup suggests, it would depend on your practice and lineage etc.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby padma norbu » Sat Nov 16, 2013 7:26 am

ngodrup wrote:Not at all, These tequilla bottles are related to ancestor worship-- dia de los muertos.
I think the colors are very convenient, white, yellow/red and black. So I would put them
on a protectors shrine for pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and destroying activity.
Of course the devil images are nice, since we would want to offer our problems, negative
emotions to wrathful deities and ultimately use the energy-- if we are engaged with tantra.

Yes, that's pretty much it, but the devil isn't actually a wrathful deity and wrathful deities aren't devils, so I wasn't thinking of it like that. I was thinking since it is supposedly for Satan, then fine, he can have it and by that same token the demon that craved alcohol in me is represented there, too, satisfied with his skull full of alcohol... kind of an externalization of the sort of demon-dealing mentioned in the book, "Feeding Your Demons."
http://www.tequila.net/tequila-reviews/ ... osado.html
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby heart » Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:02 am

padma norbu wrote:Then, I read you aren't supposed to offer alcohol on buddhist shrines at all because it's actually offensive, apparently.


If you practice tantra you will always have alcohol on your altar since it is what one of the inner offerings are. Also during tsog you always offer alcohol.

/magnus
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby Clarence » Sat Nov 16, 2013 11:26 am

But the bottle should be open. And don't keep it forever. Few months is okay I guess but then renew.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby ClearblueSky » Sat Nov 16, 2013 8:48 pm

In my experience alcohol (typically wine) is offered in the serkyem for protector practices, and also in inner offerings/tsok, but is not supposed to be offered as a general offering to peaceful deities. The offerings are supposed to be changed, so it's better to have it in one container, then pour some of it into another one on the shrine, and empty that with the other temporary offerings. I think the substance has a bit more importance than the container itself.
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Re: Altar set-up

Postby Karma Jinpa » Sun Nov 17, 2013 8:04 am

chokyi lodro wrote:What does the stupa represent? And what if you don't have one!?

Perhaps the easiest solution is to put a photo or picture of a stupa on your shrine. I did this for a long time before I was able to acquire a stupa with some actual relics in it.

There are tons of photos available online of the famous stupas around the world. You could select one which inspires you, like the one commemorating Buddha's first sermon at Sarnath, or the Jarung Kashor in Boudha, Nepal. If you're lucky enough to have a stupa in your local area, why not go snap a photo of it and remind yourself of blessings daily?

At one point I lived in a Hindu ashram in America where there was this kind of worship, and although there was a bit of ritual, it was simple and yet dignified. So I wondered if it had crossed over at all into Buddhism.

Anyone with some historical or scholarly grounding should tell you that there's undoubtedly a sizeable Shaiva influence in Buddhist Tantra. Remember, Tantra as a movement happened in India for both Hindus and Buddhists, though understandably they aren't one and the same.

Still, there was likely quite a bit of cross-pollenization at certain points, especially where Hindus and Buddhists lived together and frequented the same charnel grounds. I doubt Vajrayana would employ the use of mantras so extensively without having learned this from Hindus. Similarly, much of the Hinduism we know today co-opted a lot of Buddhism, making it popular again and saving it from decline.

And where would you put candles/lights? Anywhere in particular?

The offering bowls go, in order from left to right:
1) water
2) water
3) flower
4) incense
5) light
6) water
7) food
8) music

Traditionally there are usually only 7 bowls, so I've seen this done on shrines in multiple ways. One is to use a butterlamp holder (instead of an offering bowl) for the light offering, thus leaving the last bowl for music. Others leave music off altogether, implicitly offering music when they chant mantras or use ritual instruments in their practice. Personally, since there are so many different levels of meaning behind the types of offerings, I like to go semi-traditional and have a small conch in the music bowl (conchs are blown like trumpets to call monastics to the monastery, and also represent enlightened speech), though I take a page from the many gompas I saw in Nepal and use a sealed, non-perishable food item

By far the easiest solution is to put water in all 7 (or 8) bowls.

Regarding offering the bowls, this reminds me of the worship found in Hinduism (arcana/arati). How are the bowls offered? Is it purely mentally? Or is there any kind of verse/gesture that would go along with it?

There's an excellent article in Palyul Clear Light's Summer 2007 edition, which includes this gem:

CHAG TSAL WA DANG CHOD CHING SHAG PA DANG
By paying homage, making offerings,
JE SU YI RANG KUL SHING SOL WA YI
Confessing and rejoicing, requesting and beseeching,
GE WA CHING SED DAG GI CHI SAG PA
Whatever virtue I have gained through these efforts,
THAM CHED DAG GI JYANG CHUB CHIR NGO'O
I dedicate it all to the enlightenment of all beings!

(Contact me via PM if you'd like the article in full via email).
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ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།


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