Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

wei wu wei wrote: Mon Feb 21, 2022 11:56 pm Do you feel any pull towards setting up an altar that is in keeping with your tradition (e.g., a more Tibetan altar would look pretty different from a Zen altar)? Or do you go more universal or simply go with personal preference? What happens if you've changed traditions--do you feel any need to re-align your altar with your new tradition? Should one try to keep an altar in line with their tradition or simply go with whatever inspires them?
As far as altars go I follow the Tibetan tradition loosely, as it was taught to me… but truthfully during my time in Zen no one ever talked or asked about how to set one up, so I have no comparison. Mine is also technically wrong in many ways I’m sure, but the teachers whom I talked to about it were always very encouraging and not doctrinaire about it.

At any rate, to keep up with one in my experience it has to be meaningful to you, aesthetically, symbolically, etc.
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nyonchung
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Re: Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

Post by nyonchung »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 2:10 am
As far as altars go I follow the Tibetan tradition loosely, as it was taught to me… but truthfully during my time in Zen no one ever talked or asked about how to set one up, so I have no comparison. Mine is also technically wrong in many ways I’m sure, but the teachers whom I talked to about it were always very encouraging and not doctrinaire about it.

At any rate, to keep up with one in my experience it has to be meaningful to you, aesthetically, symbolically, etc.
One (alas late) good dharma-friend of mine had been a close disciple and translater of Taishen Deshimaru (1914-1982) , who introduced Zen practice in France and Europe; I'm not in the impression that he encouraged things as shrines etc.
An empty wall ...
In a Tibetan context, when Bokar Rinpoché (1940-2004) built the 3 years-retreat center in Mirik, he showed me the cells, with a concrete shelf high-up the wall ( over 6 feet) where retreatants will store their their stuff (if any) and empty walls and a window - so they will not be distracted, said he smilingly - but an elaborate collective shrine and two gönkhang (Protectors' chapels)

Rinpoché gave some advice on shrine maintenance (if I remember well) in "The Day of a Buddhist Practitioner", Clearpoint Press, 1998, a rather small volume, but specifically dedicated to Western practitioners eager to actively practice and meditate without entering 3 years-retreat.

As for the Tsurphu retreat center when rebuilt around 1987, stone cells less than 6x6x6 feet, no shrines
The drugpa-kagyüpa monastery of Dingboché, near Gongkar, even had no cells, square holes dug in the ground some 5x5 feet, even less shrines
"Me and the sky don't hold views - Me and the river have no fixed practice
Me and the madman don't have a guide- Me and the rainbow have no experiences
Me, the sun and the moon have no certitudes - Me and the jewel bear no fruit" - Dampa Sanggyé as quoted by Domar Mingyur Dorjé (born 1675)
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curtstein
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Re: Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

Post by curtstein »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 1:34 am I’m a big fan of Godzilla, so there is a small one standing in as Dharma protector.
pictures or didn't happen. totally serious.
Here is a picture of me wearing one of my Godzilla t-shirts sitting in front of one of my altars:
Image
"there's no one here. there's only you and me." leonard cohen
https://www.mindisbuddha.org/
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tony_montana
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Re: Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

Post by tony_montana »

curtstein wrote: Tue Sep 13, 2022 10:45 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 1:34 am I’m a big fan of Godzilla, so there is a small one standing in as Dharma protector.
pictures or didn't happen. totally serious.
Here is a picture of me wearing one of my Godzilla t-shirts sitting in front of one of my altars:
Image
That's a beautiful statue of Panchamukha Hanuman!! :namaste:
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It'sYa1UPBoy
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Re: Tradition-specific Altar Accoutrement

Post by It'sYa1UPBoy »

wei wu wei wrote: Mon Feb 21, 2022 11:56 pm Do you feel any pull towards setting up an altar that is in keeping with your tradition (e.g., a more Tibetan altar would look pretty different from a Zen altar)? Or do you go more universal or simply go with personal preference? What happens if you've changed traditions--do you feel any need to re-align your altar with your new tradition? Should one try to keep an altar in line with their tradition or simply go with whatever inspires them?
I don't have much space, so I try to keep mine small and simple. I offer incense and light, because for various reasons food and water offerings are not very convenient or feasible for me. It's also not very oriented to a specific tradition; I don't even have an icon of Amitabha, despite affiliating myself with Amitabha devotional practice. (This is for personal/internal reasons, which would take too long to explain and would result in me going way off-topic, but I will say that I am often confused by a lot of stuff in Mahayana, and for me my devotional practice is a form of upaya for cultivation of certain positive traits/habits.)
In any case, unless your tradition is rather sectarian or exclusivist, you can pretty much go with what inspires you. Remember that Shakyamuni didn't really want icons made of him, and that for a long time Buddhism was in fact an aniconic tradition. But, it is human nature to make icons, as a way to remember and contemplate the Buddha and his admirable qualities; we are, after all, very visual creatures. If you want to cultivate compassion and love, icons of Amitabha and Guan Yin can be skillful additions; if you admire certain teachers, such as the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh, displaying photos of them will help you to remember what qualities of theirs that you wish to emulate. I've seen online Zen stores that sell not just namarin and mokugyo, but also various icons and offering implements. The only traditions I know of that ask their followers to keep a very "orthodox" altar are Nichiren Shoshu and SGI, which unlike Nichiren Shu don't even encourage icons of Shakyamuni Buddha on the altar, or ihai/ancestor veneration on the gohonzon-butsudan.
In the end, it depends on the purpose of your altar. I try to practice non-attachment, loving-kindness, and contemplation of impermanence, in addition to nembutsu to Amitabha and gratitude to Shakyamuni. My altar serves my needs. If you practice a more meditative tradition, it would be most skillful for your altar to facilitate the meditative process. If you practice in a more esoteric tradition such as Tibetan Vajrayana or Shingon, your altar will probably have many ritual implements, icons, etc. on it and need more surface space. And, if you are Nichiren, you'll probably have your gohonzon, your juzu, and your butsugu around a slim butsudan.
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