In Honen Shonin's Senchakushu, he quotes a passage from Master Shantao concerning the Four Modes of Practice.
One of these practices is that of "veneration." In it is good advice for daily life, as well as activities which support faith and continuous practice:
Especially this advice on reverence helps me avoid problems with other people. It led me to develop friendships with other Pure Land Buddhists. I discovered an enjoyment for photography, because Shantao (and Lama Zopa) helped me see that art can be an offering to Amida Buddha and the Sangha.Shantao wrote:[The practice of veneration] has five variations.
1. The first is to venerate the Holy Persons with whom one has a karmic relationship; whether moving or standing still, sitting or lying down, one should never turn one’s back on the West; and one should never blow one’s nose, spit, or relieve oneself while facing the West.
2. The second variation is to venerate the images and holy scriptures of those with whom one has a karmic relationship. For the former, one should make images and pictures of Amida in the Western Paradise. If one should be unable to create many images, then only one Buddha and two Bodhisattvas are enough. As for venerating the holy scriptures, one should place the Amida Sutra and the other Pure Land sutras in a covering of the five colors and should read them oneself and teach them to others. One should enshrine these images and sutras in a room and there one should come six times a day and bow to them, repent one’s sins before them, and, offering flowers and incense, specially esteem them.
3. The third is to venerate the good teachers with whom one has a karmic relationship. That is, if there is such a person who propagates the Pure Land teachings, even if he should be a hundred or a thousand miles away or more, still one should go to him, associate intimately with him, honor him, and make offerings to him. One should also cultivate a respectful attitude toward all people who follow different teachings and should show deep respect for those who do not agree with one’s views. Once one gives way to scorn and pride, the resulting sins will have no bounds. Therefore, one should show respect to all people and thus avoid creating obstacles which would impede one’s practice.
4. The fourth is to respect the fellows with whom one shares a karmic relationship, that is, those who engage in the same practice. Even those who are not able to practice alone because of heavy karmic hindrances will certainly be able to practice well by relying on good friends. Thus they will be rescued from danger and saved from misfortune. Thus they are able to help and assist each other. People should deeply appreciate and esteem the good karmic relationship they have with their fellows.
5. The fifth is to reverence the Three Treasures. One should deeply reverence them whether taken together as a single entity or in their separate appearances. This matter will not be treated here in detail because people [of today], capable of only shallow effort, are unable to put its teachings into practice. Nevertheless, the Three Treasures in their represented forms produce great favorable karma in today’s people of shallow understanding, and so I shall now briefly consider this matter.
* As regards the Buddha treasure, his images should be carved in sandalwood, embroidered in brocade, made of plain materials, gilded with gold leaf, inlaid with precious stones, painted on silk, sculpted of stone, or molded from clay. One should give special reverence to the hallowed images. If anyone only briefly contemplates these forms, his sins will vanish and his merit will increase. Whenever anyone succumbs to even the slightest pride, then his evil will increase and his goodness will vanish. But contemplating the venerable images is equal to seeing the real Buddha.
* The Dharma treasure is the teaching of the Three Vehicles expressed in words and phrases and flows out of the Dharmadhatu. It is the cause that gives birth to our understanding. Therefore it deserves exceptional reverence. It is the ground that gives rise to wisdom. One should copy the sacred sutras. They should always be placed in consecrated rooms, stored there in special boxes, and deeply revered. Before chanting them, one should cleanse one’s body and hands.
* Regarding the Sangha treasure, one should awaken in one’s heart an equal respect for holy monks, Bodhisattvas, and those who break the precepts. Do not give rise to proud thoughts.
Namu Amida Butsu.