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Setting Up A Home Shrine

A Reader recently wrote:

Do you know anything about setting up a Buddhist shrine like if there is a specific way to set it up, what offering to have/statues/pictures ect.

My Response:

Much like conversion ceremonies, there is no single set requirement, although some groups do have specific arrangements. I’m sure there are plenty of opinions and recommendations on the Net. This is something you really need to research yourself depending on what style of buddhism you are practicing. You can get by with a simple photograph and a candle, or get extremely fancy and pay a fortune for one. I just did a quick Google search on the topic, and found a company selling a cabinet for $2500 that looked more like an entertainment center than a shrine.

I once knew someone who took one of the photographs I took of a Japanese Buddha statue and used it in a little shrine. Personally, I don’t have a shrine or even a Buddha statue; I haven’t found one that really appeals to me, and my place is pretty small. I guess I could use a photo as well, but it’s just something that I keep neglecting. I can meditate just fine without one, and I’m not really comfortable with the idea of offerings. Then again, that’s MY choice- as always, it can be different for each of us. My thinking on this subject just about mirrors my thoughts on conversion ceremonies as we discussed a few days ago: Whatever makes you feel as if you are doing the right thing for you (i.e. relieves suffering) is right. This is one of those areas, though, where my Zen background may not mesh with other groups; Tibetans are heavily into rituals and offerings, which are a crucial part of their tradition.

No matter which ‚Äúdenomination‚Äù of Buddhism you practice, you can set up a shrine if you want; it’s certainly not prohibited for any of them. If you do decide to set up a shrine, you’ll need some representation of Buddha or one of the Bodhisattvas, as well as perhaps a photo of your Master, Lama, Rinpoche, or other teacher. If you learned last week that you’ve actually been using a Budai/Hotei statue in your shrine, it doesn’t hurt anything; it’s the right thought and right intention that matter; otherwise, it’s just a chunk of stone, wood, plastic, or whatever. Then again, if you’ve gotten in the habit of rubbing his belly as you walk past, maybe you need a more serious representation for a shrine.

Some sects of Buddhism, for example, Tibetans, make offerings on their shrines. They will set up seven bowls, and fill each one, left to right, with water while doing a chant. It’s not unusual to use an offering of incense, tea, candles, flowers, or cookies too. Depending on the group, there are many various rituals which can be performed. The idea is to gain merit to increase one’s karma through making offerings.
Once again, though, if you choose not to have a shrine, that’s perfectly acceptable.

And now a request: Do YOU have a shrine already set up? I’d love to see photo of it. Email me your photo and next week, I’ll make a post showing all the readers’ shrines. It’ll be fun!

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