Author Topic: Why do we have altars?  (Read 40469 times)

whitelion

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2011, 09:42:25 PM »
I was told that as lay Buddhists, we should have an altar with representations of the Body, Speech and Mind of the Buddha. The representations and offerings should be the best quality that we can afford and making offerings is to collect lots of merits so it will fuel our spiritual transformation and eventually attainments. Why do we even need to do that? I was told never to bargain for Dharma items or offerings as it will demean our practice.

Also, isn't investing in expensive silver offerings bowls, butter lamps and gold Nepalese statues increasing materialism and desire, which is contrary to teachings on renunciation? Why do you guys think?


From my understanding to have an altar with the representations of the "Body (Statue), Speech (Dharma text) and Mind (Stupa/pagoda) of the Buddha it's kind of an reminder to keep reminding us we should focus to achieve the Buddha state of Body, speech and mind, which is totally free from suffering and always thinking of benefiting others. Like what Barzin mentioned earlier most of the people nowadays can't really focus on the spiritual practice, our mind is extremely unstable to and very easy to distracted from the samsara world. To owned any images of the enlighten being, remind us not to just focus from the outside materialistic world but also inner peace, and remind us to always help others in anyway.

The offering that we offered to any images of Buddha or enlighten beings need to be "Pure". Pure in a sense of when we offer anything, we shouldn't use the value of the items to offer but sincerity. Most of the time when we buying something for ourselves, we're so used to cut down on the price, but at the same time we forgot the offering that we are getting is to offer to enlighten beings, we're actually generate merit for us to clear our obstacle on the spiritual path and this are priceless, hence we shouldn't ask for any discount on the offering items. It will not demean our practice but it will be good if we offer anything based on sincerity.

The reason why in most of the different religions people used to the most precious items to decorated the shrine, churches, offering item or even priest's robe. This is because when we offered up the the most precious material which we always think is the most important in our life for the enlighten being, but the value of the teaching that we can receive is much much more that what we offered. Another reason is we are cutting down on our attachment to worldly material. Offer up gold or silver is NOT a must, but if we can, why not ? Buddha will never want anything from us but we need the teaching to transform our mind. Ex: If someone is meeting a King, he will prepare the best to offer to the King, and Buddha will be the King in this case.

I hope i answer your question, this forum is really good, we can just share what we have learn from different master.

Thanks




Aurore

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2011, 09:55:06 PM »
Altars is a representation of our spiritual path. Why we have altars is because we need to collect merits! The Buddha images on the altar is a reminder of the qualities we want to achieve. The qualities of a Buddha which is perfect and flawless.

Altar is also where we make offerings. Buddhas do not need our offerings or whatsoever. We need the merits. Hence, having an altar gives us the opportunity to make offerings and collect merits by practicing generosity. We also create a connection with the enlightened ones daily.

Manjushri

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2011, 10:30:32 PM »
I feel that people have altars for different reasons.

1. to create a field of merit, so that they are able to generate the merits by making offerings in this field of merit on a daily basis. very powerful and strong, when people clean their altars and do prayers within this field of merit

2. for them to stay connected with the supreme beings

3. for them to bless and plant seeds into the mindstream of others, their family members who are not pracitsing, as well as the animals that have the fortune to lay eyes on the altar.

4 For them to do their prayers to, so visualisation can be done through the help of the statues/thangkas/pictures on the altar. At least it helps one to focus, and people have a point of association with.

5. For people to create the aspiration to achieve the Buddha's body, speech and mind

6. It is said that when you are angry, one look at the Buddha's holy image can pacify your mind down. Since this is the case, the powerful ability for us to calm, pacify and plant seeds in our mindstreams, by having an altar close to us is extremely beneficial. Making an altar look beautiful cuts away our attachment to our senses.

7. But when people have altars, respect has to be shown irregardless of conditions and situations as this is your guide to liberation. The price to pay in you having an opportunity to get out of samsara is priceless.

I believe that having an altar does aid in one spiritual growth especially when prayers are being done as there is an object to make a connection and association with. Since I've had an altar, I have been much more motivated to be mindful of my surroundings as I have now created a field of merit, I am more motivated to do my prayers, and I now have a chance to gain merit by doing offerings. Of course, the motivation to your actions has to be pure in order for you that gain the merit.

Just a quick question though...is it necessary to have an altar? What is the consequences one faces if they do not have an altar?

Klein

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2011, 07:36:26 PM »
I feel that people have altars for different reasons.

1. to create a field of merit, so that they are able to generate the merits by making offerings in this field of merit on a daily basis. very powerful and strong, when people clean their altars and do prayers within this field of merit

2. for them to stay connected with the supreme beings

3. for them to bless and plant seeds into the mindstream of others, their family members who are not pracitsing, as well as the animals that have the fortune to lay eyes on the altar.

4 For them to do their prayers to, so visualisation can be done through the help of the statues/thangkas/pictures on the altar. At least it helps one to focus, and people have a point of association with.

5. For people to create the aspiration to achieve the Buddha's body, speech and mind

6. It is said that when you are angry, one look at the Buddha's holy image can pacify your mind down. Since this is the case, the powerful ability for us to calm, pacify and plant seeds in our mindstreams, by having an altar close to us is extremely beneficial. Making an altar look beautiful cuts away our attachment to our senses.

7. But when people have altars, respect has to be shown irregardless of conditions and situations as this is your guide to liberation. The price to pay in you having an opportunity to get out of samsara is priceless.

I believe that having an altar does aid in one spiritual growth especially when prayers are being done as there is an object to make a connection and association with. Since I've had an altar, I have been much more motivated to be mindful of my surroundings as I have now created a field of merit, I am more motivated to do my prayers, and I now have a chance to gain merit by doing offerings. Of course, the motivation to your actions has to be pure in order for you that gain the merit.

Just a quick question though...is it necessary to have an altar? What is the consequences one faces if they do not have an altar?

Dear Manjushri,

Having an altar is an avenue for creating merits along with all the benefits that you stated. Merits are important for gaining attainments. So if we're serious about practising Buddhism, then we should definitely have an altar.

So the consequences for not having an altar is one less avenue to collect merits.

Tenzin K

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2011, 06:39:18 PM »
Like most of the comments stated, having an altar is a platform for us to collect merits. As due to this degenerate time and we believe that we have accumulated so much of negative karma, we need to do a lot of purification practice in order for us to be able to be in a conducive condition to learn and practice dharma.

Offering the best quality to the buddha is for us to practice gratitude, generosity and at the same time to cut off our stinginess.

bambi

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2011, 05:48:28 PM »
Having a Buddha statue on the altar remind us of the qualities that He have, the sacrifices He made in attaining Enlightenment so that we can have the chance to learn what He realized and also because we dont have the merits to meet Buddha in person.  As Buddha said, when He is not around anymore, making offerings to a statue of His image is the same as making offerings to Him in person.  We also collect merits by making offerings with the best quality we can AFFORD.  One of the reasons I understand, is to remind us of impermanence and detachment when we make these offerings.

puccachip

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #21 on: December 30, 2011, 06:10:14 PM »
What is  a basic altars item for  Dorje  Shugden?  can i just do the mantra ?

nagaseeker

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2011, 05:38:18 AM »
What is  a basic altars item for  Dorje  Shugden?  can i just do the mantra ?

Dear puccachip,
you should hv
1)image of your lama
2)image of lama tsongkhapa
3)image of dorje shugden ( the best is to hv a statue )
4)dharma text on the left (can be any dharma books like Lamrim)
5) a stupa on the right
if your altar is big enough , try to offer as many sets of water offering as you can and also if you afford to offer eight auspicious signs.

it is actually depends on you,it is not the wealth of the objects that is being offered but our surrendering of our attachment to that wealth. you can just do the mantra of Dorje Shugden , but i guess it will be better if you hv an altar and make offering to protector everyday ~

Tammy

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2011, 08:47:02 AM »
One of the most important reasons to have an altar is, in my humble opinion, for us to focus on the image of our guru and yidam while doing daily sdhana. This will help our mind to focus and be very familiar with the image of our yidam and protector. This will be very very helpful during bardo.

By recognizing our guru, yidam and protector during bardo, we stand a good chance to get a good rebirth. Of course this is an extremely shallow explanation to the process of dying, one should medicate of this topic.
Down with the BAN!!!

pgdharma

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2011, 10:36:40 AM »
For most lay people, it is sometime difficult to visualize when praying. Altars therefore provide a strong focus for our practice and meditation. It is also a place for us to make offerings to the representation of the enlightened beings. Making beautiful offerings on the altar creates a deep and profound connection to the enlightened beings and collection of merits.  Besides that having an altar in our home brings many blessings for our self and our family. It also acts as a daily reminder of the enlightened qualities we wish to attain. An altar can be set up to what we find most beautiful, pleasing and conducive to our practice.

Poonlarp

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2011, 05:56:41 PM »
I think altar is the first step to train us to be more discipline and aware.

When we started an altar at home, we need to think about how to set it up, what to offer, anything need to handle with care; it also remind us to do our daily prayers.

As for the ritual items like offering bowls and incense casing etc, it's exactly mean to destroy our attachment to material thing, as we are not buying this for our own personal use, but to offer up to Buddha. Buddha does not require us to buy the best for him, or buy anything he likes for him, but it's our sincerity to invite Buddha to us. This also a practice of generosity, how much we would spend for enlightenment instead of our own pleasure.

So I think having altar is a best start to practice more, and of course like mentioned in most of the posted comments, it allows us to gain more merits to learn more. Merit is our spiritual dollars which can give us more spiritual grow when we gain more.

RedLantern

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2012, 02:49:49 AM »
Altars create a sacred place for spiritual practice.The intention or purpose we place our altars and what it represents is more important than what you actually place on your altar.
Altars are set up as a reminder of our practice.By gazing at Buddhas,lighting lamps or candles,burning incense,offering flowers,prostrations etc,the function of the five sense organs are completely absorbed in the Buddhist practice and hence the purification of the practitioner's mind is enhanced and accelerated.
We can go to a temple on a regular basis and worship,but it is more easily conducted at an altar at home.

ratanasutra

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2012, 03:12:00 AM »
iThe best offering and buddha statue that you have for your altar should help you to cut out the attachment instead of make you have more attach.  Why? because in order for you to get the silver offering items and gold finishing statue it mean you must spend lot of money on it, and if you still attach to your money so definitely you could not get it..

When we want anything for ourself ie house, car, watch, handphone etc we always choose the best for ourself because people can see it and it make us look good therefore we attached with it.. but when come to offering items most of people will choose to buy the cheapest one as nobody will see and talk about how nice of our altar therefore we keep money to buy other things.. and that how it show our attachment.




Jessie Fong

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2012, 04:27:44 AM »
An altar is a physical location where we put our statue, dharma texts, stupa and other offerings to the Buddhas.  It should be kept clean and does not need to be lavish.  Whatever offerings we have to the Buddhas is just a method of cutting our attachment - this then becomes a practice, it does not represent an attachment to "collecting" expensive items.  The quality of offerings is the best that we can afford for now.  Since we do not have the merits to see Buddha, making offerings to an image of Him is equivalent to making offerings directly to Him.

jeremyg

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #29 on: March 14, 2012, 01:59:13 PM »
Of course we can go pray to public altars, or we can pray with no altar at all. But the purpose of an altar, is an offering in itself. If we have the nicest altar we can have, within our means, it acts as an offering in itself. In addition having an altar is the simplest way to receive blessings. Even if we cannot do dharma work, or pray, we will still get blessed by having an altar which we can access, or on our room is even better. Finally I find that an altar helps me visualize and give me something to pray to, which helps my weak mind focus better.