Author Topic: Why do we have altars?  (Read 40546 times)


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #30 on: March 16, 2012, 10:08:14 AM »
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?

Well, I believe having a personal altar is very important. What you said is very true, an altar can bring many benefits to a person. Having an altar really is a personal space for us to retreat into to do our daily sadhanas. It can also serve as a reminder for us to carry out virtuous deeds and even as inspiration to achieve the qualities of the Buddha (just like aspiring baseball players hanging posters of their favourite  professional baseball players... hoping to be like their idol). Also, having an altar gives us the opportunity to collect merits through making extensive offerings to our personal altar.

The offerings that we make on the altar, we should use the ones that are the best of quality, according to our affordability. I do not think that investing in expensive offering bowls or ritual items is considered materialism as we could have used the money spent on something else (ie samsaric enjoyment etc) but instead we use the money to spend on aquiring items to improve or furthur our spiritual growth. Serious practitioners will continuously think on how they can further beautify their altar as they understand that when they make their altar beautiful, it is also a form of offering to the Buddhas. The extent of how much attention a person places on their altars shows us how serious a practitioner is. Therefore I believe making extensive offerings, using great quality offering bowls infact is a practice of renunciation (rather than the other way round) and generosity.


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #31 on: March 25, 2012, 10:33:47 AM »
I wouldn't say that this would be known as materialism as it has a meaning for what's worth of it. Materialism is a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values, but in this case, the fact is that buying these materials are a part of the process of spirituality, I would not consider buying things such as butter lamps or silver offering bowls...materialistic.

Some would say, one's alter can tell quite a lot about that  particular person/group; the way it's positioned, his/her/their sense of style etc. Ones alter represents to his/her/their personality. Expensive offering items and statues are brought not because we want to show off but it's because it represents a release of attachment of money by offering the best and most affordable quality to buddha. When you bargain it shows how much attachment you still have and that your not even willing to sacrifice your money for your spiritualism.

When your having an alter, there are some important steps you may need to follow. Which includes:
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.

Dolce Vita

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #32 on: April 08, 2012, 02:33:36 PM »
Items on the altar usually are:
1) Buddha statue or Buddha Image (represents action)
2) Dharma text (represents speech)
3) Stupa (represents mind)

A Buddha statue will bless our living environment, because of the positive energy it brings. Combined with Dharma text and Stupa, they remind us our purpose of doing the practice. Ie to act and to speak in accordance to what we think.

Where we place the altar becomes our corner of peace. This is where we contemplate and do our daily prayer. Whenever we feel down, this is where we find our spirit back.


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2012, 12:21:00 AM »
An altar is essential for us to generate merits. When we make offerings onto the altar, we are collecting merits. It is also a platform for us to do our practices (sadhannas) and have our own Buddha statues invited onto it.

I mean I do not know much in Buddhism but by having an altar is as simple as I see it as making offerings to the Buddha staties that we have invited onto it. The altar can be of simple arrangements or made of extravangant set ups and it is also a channel for us to offer your attachments and miserliness to the Lord Buddhas. 


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #34 on: April 14, 2012, 12:39:07 AM »
There are many benefits from having an altar. Normally we will have Buddha statues, Dharma text, stupa which reperesent Body, speech and mind of buddha along with other offering on the altar.
1) The Buddha statue represent Buddha body which help to remind us of the quality of buddha and what we want to achieve each time we see him.
2) The Dharma text is represent buddha teaching, it remind us to study and follow the teaching of buddha as we want our mind to be liberate.
3) The stupa is represent buddha mind so it also remind us what buddha have learnt and gain enlightenment and what direction we need to train our mind.

Apart from that the altar also the object for us to collect merit by making offering, doing prayer to buddha. its also help us to cut out our attachment and gain more generosity by having the best quality of object including the offering, instead of only invest in thing that can give us direct benefit.


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #35 on: April 14, 2012, 04:07:21 AM »
How nice it is when we can afford nice silver offerings, beautiful statues plus hand crafted altar and offer to the Buddhas.
Instead of splashing all the cash on to designer pieces on ourselves which will only leads us to dwell into the world of impermanence further. Although the mentioned above in regards to buying but it has a different meaning all together.

Setting up an altar will help us to gain merits by making offerings and prayers daily, by making expensive offerings also help us to cut down our attachments and practice altruism. It will also act as an reminder for us about the quality of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha since we can't talk to Him directly just yet.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #36 on: March 04, 2015, 10:42:57 AM »
Making offerings to the Buddhas is one method of attaining merits. 

Instead of spending money on oneself, use the same amount to be spend in making our altars beautiful.  The advantage of having a beautiful altar is to be happy when we are saying our prayers.  In this aspect whatever we offer the Buddhas eventually benefit us.  The Buddhas need nothing and want nothing. 

In making offerings to the Buddhas and installing a beautiful altar is for us to always have our eyes on the Body, Speech and Mind of the Buddhas in our view and to remind us of their virtuous nature.

It is also a way of letting go of selfishness because whatever is offered may be from time spent to obtain them and also a sacrifice of not getting something for oneself but getting for the Buddhas.  A form of virtuous ''sacrifice''.


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #37 on: March 08, 2015, 11:05:09 AM »

 Creating a personal altar and worshipping at this altar provides us with a simple act which we can perform on a regular basis, to fit in with any schedule, and which can form a major cornerstone of an individual's spiritual health.  Altars are part of ancient traditions and have been used as places of worship for thousands of years.  A home altar is a more personal place of worship including those elements that represent the sacred to each one of us. A deeper connection is possible when we worship alone in the quiet space of our home.  It reinforces spirituality into our everyday lives.


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #38 on: March 13, 2015, 04:10:18 PM »
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and understanding as sometimes I do wonder why we should have an altar at home and same time why is all altar differs from each individual..


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Re: Why do we have altars?
« Reply #39 on: October 02, 2019, 07:57:43 AM »
A Buddhist altar can bring positive energy to the environment. The Buddha statue on the altar can bless seen and unseen beings. We can also make offerings to the Buddha every day to collect merits.

In some places where there are natural disasters or accidents, people will install a Buddha statue or small shrine to pacify the place. This proves to be very effective. For example, the Lantau Island Big Buddha in Hong Kong is installed to pacify the environment so there is less natural disaster.

To set up an altar is very simple, we don't need a statue, it can be a picture of a Buddha. Offerings can be as simple as a cup of water.