Altar Without A Statue

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Raham.karma
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Altar Without A Statue

Post by Raham.karma »

Tashi delek, I'm asking if it is ok to have a home shrine that doesn't have a statue, thangka, or picture of the Buddha or any deity, rather just the offering bowls, butter lamps, etc.

The reasons are a few, but I'm mainly afraid that some guests I may have over may insult an image of the Buddha. I was Muslim for 20 years, and still have connections to that community that are very close, and I'd rather keep my leaving the religion private for now. The house I live in is very small with no where to have a "hidden" shrine. I'll be building a separate little house / garden shed that will be my shrine room and there I can have statues, thangka, etc without issue, but it will take a little time as lumber is so expensive now.

I wanted to know if there are examples of altars without statues in any cultures that are predominantly Buddhist (Tibet, Tuva, Mongolia, etc) thanks.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

No problem.
In fact, the Buddha was not really fond of statues and for a long time he was represented by a wheel or a set of footprints.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Kim O'Hara »

The Japanese (who are also known for very small homes) have a thing called a butsudan which may be what you need. It's a shallow cupboard which can be table-mounted or wall-mounted. The doors open to reveal the shrine when you want.
Here's wikipedia's article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butsudan
Here's a page of image search results which shows just how fancy they can get - https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=butsud ... &ia=images - and a home-made butsudan - https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/27286 - to reassure you that yes, you can make a good one yourself. :smile:

If I needed one and wasn't sure of my skills, I would look around for a nice second-hand wall-mounted cupboard so that I only had to do the fittings.
:thinking:
Actually, you could buy a new bathroom cabinet, if you can find one with double doors and no mirrors. It would be about the right dimensions.

Good luck!

:namaste:
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Inedible
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Inedible »

Could you keep some pictures of Buddha on your phone and put the phone on your altar when you are using it?
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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Dorje Shedrub »

Many Dzogchen practitioners simply have a candle and the letter A in Tibetan font within a Thigle.
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Raham.karma
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Raham.karma »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:09 am No problem.
In fact, the Buddha was not really fond of statues and for a long time he was represented by a wheel or a set of footprints.
Thank you for this, I didn't know that!
Kim O'Hara wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 11:31 am The Japanese (who are also known for very small homes) have a thing called a butsudan which may be what you need.
Thank you so much for this and the links, this is a very good idea!
Inedible wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 2:38 pm Could you keep some pictures of Buddha on your phone and put the phone on your altar when you are using it?
Very good idea!
Dorje Shedrub wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 3:19 pm Many Dzogchen practitioners simply have a candle and the letter A in Tibetan font within a Thigle.
This is very appealing to me, do you have any photos you could share with me, and tell me what is a thigle, thank you
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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Dorje Shedrub »

Raham.karma wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 5:38 pm
This is very appealing to me, do you have any photos you could share with me, and tell me what is a thigle, thank you
https://www.google.com/search?q=a+thigl ... o7rEDL0k_M
Homage to the Precious Dzogchen Master
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Ayu
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Ayu »

Don't the zen people only need a white wall for meditation?
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narhwal90
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by narhwal90 »

Some zen groups do the wall thing, but there are often other elements in the practice space; statuary, bell and so on.

Some Nichiren-land altars are quite simple, others very complex but they use the butsudans to hold the gohonzon scroll. The classical student starter setup was a cheap butsudan on top of an arrangement of milk crates covered with a sheet or blanket.
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明安 Myoan
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by 明安 Myoan »

I got a butsudan from Nakayama Butsudans. They have all different sizes and prices, and they ship internationally. Some other altar equipment too, like offering cups, trays, bells.

In Japanese Pure Land, sometimes just a written scroll of the nembutsu (name of Amida Buddha) is the central object.
Honen Shonin strongly recommended enshrining images of Amida Buddha, Kannon Bosatsu, and Seishi Bosatsu.
And Master Shantao recommended making Buddhist art and images as a way to keep up your resolve to practice.

So a butsudan is a great way to keep other eyes (and pets) away from the images inside. You can even drape a cloth over it when not in use, to make it more discreet.

Otherwise, there's a lot of lovely symbolism in Buddhism.
The Eight Auspicious Signs come to mind. I have a big, beautiful conch that belonged to my grandma. For me, it's a Dharma reminder as one of the Eight Signs. For others, it's just a beautiful shell, so they stopped looking at it pretty fast.
Privacy is its own protection.

Good luck!
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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Ayu
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Ayu »

When I was a buddhist newbie, my altar was only a small table with a candle and a vase with a flower.
Now it is nearly as full as a bazar. :lol:
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Genjo Conan
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Re: Altar Without A Statue

Post by Genjo Conan »

Ayu wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:19 am Don't the zen people only need a white wall for meditation?
Zen temples all have an altar. (For example, here's Green Gulch temple in Marin, California; you can see the altar on the left.) Many individual practitioners keep a small home altar as well.

Image
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