HOWTO ARRANGE AN ALTAR

:
Attractive altars can be made without elaborate cabinetry. A shelf, small table or dres$er top is all that you nced. Ideally, your altar should be placed so that it occupies a prominent place in the room, about four to five feet above the floor. A hernmed cloth can be an attractive addition to an otherwise plain surface. The following photograph illustrates the layout for a basic home altar.

Altars
stands

Symbolism
and use:
a,"t"tnr scrves as a focal

A candle for the

An

light of wisdom. or reli*{ions in-

point. and e xpression of,
one'$ Buddhist

sight, that comes forth
{rom our True
Self. Wisdom is

training. It

is

not a collection

ursual to r:il'er a stick of incense at the altar bcfore beginning

of ideas
standirrg

or

knawleclge but a

genuirre under-

il period ot
meditatiCIn,
r.vhile reciting sc rip t ure s or when offering

of

the

way things are. Like a bright lamp brought

into a

dark

merit I'or
friend in

rcltrm, r,visdonr
has the power to

il

neecl.

dispel ignorancs and fear

An altar
lor
gr"r

mft)'

also be used as a rneans to ask
tl"le

and ill umine
what needs to be

help and

idance of

clone. A simplc candle or elec-

one's True Sell'

lric light is
sqLrate.

ad-

(Budclha Naturc). The $)'nl-

bolism for this "call ancl ern$.wef " ciltt be fbunil r,r,ithin tl"le altar aruangernent itself.

trncense symbalizcs training. We may affer incense at the altar for several rea-

sons:

to ask for

Water represents bofh the stillness and flow of nreditatian. The urater offering cup occupies the ver)-' center o{'the altar- Likewise, when we arc quiet r,r'ithin ourselves rve ian hear the still, small voics of our Bucldha Nature r,vhich is oftcn drownecl out by the noise of our thoughts and opiniorts. To a.qk a true question one mu$t be still enough to hear the ilnswcr. Keep the cup filled arrd change the water regularrll,'. It'lowers are an attractirre but fleeting phenomena" Likewise, all things ale constantly changing ;rncl cannot be grasped as a lasting refuge" To undcrstand this is to see irnperrnarlence. To rccognize impermanence is to awaken the Mind that Seeks the Way rvhich looks beyond the surface appcararlce of things to Tl"rat which is Eternal anrl Unchanging" Silk flowers or n pottecl plant are pre{'erahtre to of'fering cut flowers. A statue of a Bucldha ar Bodhisattva reprssents That which ';r'e seek reunion q'ittr, ourTrue Self. It rnay be good to place the statue on a plinth or bax to raisc it above the altar surface. The meaning lrere is that clne must be willing to elevate oneself to the level of thc Teaching ancl not attempt to hring It down to one.'s own lerrel of undcrstancling. The Cosr::ic Buddha meets us half-wayn bul we are the ones who must make the eifort to chanqe.

Irelp with nn attitude of mind that we ,'vish to change, as an offering of gratitude or merit, or the wish to unclerstand a Teaching more dccpl,v*" Having sat still (water) and looked beyond impermanence {flowers) for help f'rom Thert rn'hich is Greerter than self (Buddha / Bodhisattvn statue) we hear the voice of our own Buddha Nature speaking to us (candle flame). Insight alone, however, is nct enor.rgh" One must be willing to put that I'eaching into practice. Thus. incense symbolizes our res$lve to train. When lit by the f'larne nf n'isdom and offered in the incensc [run]er. rvhat was $nce hard iind brittlc is gradrrally transformed irrttt the fragrance of the Dharmer which permeates all

things.
The incense burner itself is slurped Iike a srnall cauldron. anofher symbol for resolve. Just as great heat can melt various obiects int* one milst; of tnetal so, too, by turning up the fire under our own Burlclhist training {i.e., by becaming sufficicntly motivated) we trecome One t'ith the Truth. Fill the bruner with fine sarrrl or incense ash. anci sitt out the incense stubs pcriorJicnrlly through a rvire strainer. An incense wheel nlay *lso be Lrscd tsec page 23). The fitatue pictured above can be tound on pagc I 0, the Lion Dogs on page 18, and all other items on pages 6 to 7,