Why have a shrine?
To inspire our practice; to remind us that there is a the path to enlightenment; to remember all the excellent qualities of the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha); to focus our minds on our and others’ positive potential; to transform an ordinary space into a sacred one.
Why make offerings?
The Buddhas don’t need our offerings but we still want to offering something and make a connection with them. We offer water because (generally)it is plentiful and we can offer it with little attachment.
We make offerings to cultivate positive mental attitudes of generosity and altruism; to challenge our usual mental habits of placing me and mine as supreme (the reason for our current predicament) and to create new, more healthy habits that will lead to an end to suffering.
What goes on the shrine?
- A statue representing the Buddha’s Body
- A Dharma text representing the Buddha’s Speech
- A Stupa or Dorje and Bell representing the Buddha’s Mind
- Pictures of lineage masters and enlightened teachers
- Offering bowls of water (usually seven) and/or bowls representing the eight traditional offerings of water for drinking, water for washing the guru’s feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume, food, and music.
- Fresh flowers, incense, fruit
Steps in setting up the shrine and making offerings
- Clean the shrine room
- Carefully dust the shrine
- Make three prostrations
- Cultivate motivation/bodhicitta so that we make offerings for all beings
- Clean the bowls (they should never put empty bowl “up” on the altar) imagining that you are cleaning the minds of sentient beings with the wisdom realizing emptiness
- Stack the bowls in your hand, pour water in top bowl, pour almost all of that water into second bowl then place the first on the altar, starting on the left. Repeat while saying the syllables “Om Ah Hum”.
- Make sure the bowls are set straight, about a grain of rice apart.
- Fill bowls (not too much or little) from left to right, and while still saying “Om Ah Hum” imagine filling the Buddhas and all sentient beings with wisdom nectar. Try not to breathe on the bowls.
- After the bowls are filled, say the Cloud Offering Mantra while imagining the whole sky and universe filled with countless water bowls and endless beautiful and perfectly pleasing offerings.
OM NAMO BHAGAVATE BENZA SARWA PRAMARDANE /
TATHAGATAYA / ARHATE SAMYAKSAM BUDDHAYA /
TADYATHA / OM BENZE BENZE / MAHA BENZE / MAHA TEJA BENZE
MAHA VIDYA BENZE / MAHA BODHICITTA BENZE / MAHA BODHI
MÄNDO PASAM KRAMANA BENZE / SARVA KARMA AVARANA VISHO
DHANA BENZE SVAHA
- Dedicate the merit to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.
Closing the Shrine
- Mentally request the Buddha’s permission to take down the offerings
- Begin to empty bowls from right to left into your water pitcher being careful not to spill. Remember: this is a mindfulness practice as well!
- Wipe out bowls while saying Vajrasattva’s mantra:
OM BENZA SATTO SAMAYA MANU PALAYA BENZA SATTO TE NO PA DI TRA TRI DO MEY BAWA SUTO KAYO MEY BAWA SUPO KAYO MEY BAWA AH NU RAKTO MEY BAWA SARWA SIDDHI MEY DRA YA TSA SARWA KARMA SUT TSA MEY TSIT DANG SHRI YANG GURU HUNG HA HA HA HA HO BAGA WAN SARWA TATAGATHA BENZA MA MEY MIN TSA BENZA REY BAWA MAHA SAMAYA SATO AH HUNG PHET
OM VAJRA SATTVA HUNG
- Set the bowls upside down back on the altar, stacked or lined up neatly
- Take the water outside and offer to the grass, plants, trees, and all beings. You can also use to water your houseplants.
- Dedicate the merit.