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:
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 DANGBy paying homage, making offerings, JE SU YI RANG KUL SHING SOL WA YIConfessing and rejoicing, requesting and beseeching, GE WA CHING SED DAG GI CHI SAG PAWhatever virtue I have gained through these efforts,THAM CHED DAG GI JYANG CHUB CHIR NGO'OI dedicate it all to the enlightenment of all beings!
(Contact me via PM if you'd like the article in full via email).