Buddha figure on altar

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Buddha figure on altar

Post by elfin » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:37 pm

Hi guys,

I finally decided to put up an altar and I am not sure on which buddha figure to decide.

It's usually said that a Buddha Shakyamuni figure needs to go on the altar. Unfortunately I don't find a nice one. I would find Taras and Vajradharas I like, though.

Although I don't practice Tara, would it matter if I put a Tara figure on the altar instead of a Shakyamuni one?

Does anyone know?

Thanks for your answers and best wishes,

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by ronnewmexico » Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:08 pm

I am just a layperson and uneducated at that but there appear no responses for quite a while so I will venture one.

The teacher buddha is usually to my observation the focal point or center. There is however to my knowledge any strict prohibition against other considered equilivent enlightened persons in the tibetan tradition being sole issue. Most commonly the teacher buddha is at the center or some representation of him which may not necessarily be a statue. A picture of something to remind us of his nature may be all that is required.
Others would be to the side, not lesser but equal if they are equal. If I had the teacher buddha in a alter I would not have him lower than another.

Offerings of a symbolic sort would be to the front.
Water being most common in a daily practice to my observation. Quite a few bowls and each filled in a certain way and direction. But the internet shouild supply the specifics.

I frequent wilderness at times and cannot carry a alter with me. As such a sparkling light in a speck of dew or raindrop piece of sap may reflect a rainbow may serve as my alter.

If you use such symbols such as picture or statue I would consider them as real. Don't treat them with disrespect walk over them or put things in front directly of their faces. When filled statues are moved or carried closely one may consider blindfolding the statue. A filled statue is pretty much like having a real person in that place so I would conduct myself accordingly. NOnfilled...a symbol or representation but still as intended holy to be treated in a holy manner.

So that's my obervation. Others may provide definitive answers of better quality.
Other traditions to my experience...... this varies greatly. I have heard of some traditions that will set a altar with a purposely empty place in center to emphasize empty nature. So I'd say it varies greatly.

It's to a degree with what you have. If you have no money or circumstance like I say a drop of dew may do :smile: Any altar may be better than none. Mailirepa seemingly did not lug around altars in his places of retreat. So I wouldn't worry. What ever you do is bound to be good as long as you don't inadvertantly disrespect things by unthinking actions.
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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by catmoon » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:01 am

I think it has a lot to do with how you view a given bit of statuary. Fer instance, the main figure on my shrine is actually an amitahba buddha done in the Japanese style, but it serves as a Shakyamuni for me because it has a very nice feel to it and just looks right to me. It always makes me think of peace and kindness when I look at it.
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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by elfin » Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:52 am


I was thinking along the same lines.

Tara, after all, is one form of enlightened energy and for me it is her beauty and the delicate features of her face that are very inspiring to me and make me want to emulate her and do my practice. :-)

Best wishes,

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by plwk » Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:15 am

When one seeks an Enlightened Mind, does which name and form matter on a table? :sage:

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by kirtu » Fri Oct 08, 2010 3:20 pm

elfin wrote: Although I don't practice Tara, would it matter if I put a Tara figure on the altar instead of a Shakyamuni one?
The traditional answers (at least from Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism) are either Buddha Shakyamuni or Buddha Amitabha. However if you have Tara or Vajradhara as you said then they are also excellent as they are Buddhas. Any Buddha with whom you have a connection will be excellent even if you don't do a practice involving them.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by spiritnoname » Sat Nov 06, 2010 12:33 am

Buddha Shakyamuni is best I think.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by Tatsuo » Sat Nov 06, 2010 12:47 am

I think any statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva is ok. Of course it's best to have a statue of the Buddha/Bodhisattva you do related practices with.
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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by shrtyp1 » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:30 am

It doesn't matter as long as you praise it.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by mudra » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:18 am

No matter what it is made of, or how skilled or artistic the craftsman was, as Buddhist we still respect all representations as Buddhas themselves. It's preferrable to put Buddha Shakyamuni as the central figure on your altar.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by Adamantine » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:26 am

If you practice in the Vajrayana tradition then it can't be a bad thing to have either Tara or Vajradhara on your altar. Shakyamuni is wonderful to have on the altar, but better to wait until you find a representation that speaks to you: you can keep the aspiration until you make that connection. If you have discovered renditions of these other Buddhas that speak to you then certainly use them as supports for your refuge and meditation. But once you get them, have them filled properly by a qualified Lama and then blessed. This is very important, you should not leave your statues empty, this can cause problems. At the very least, put some dutsi inside until you can have them properly filled.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:52 pm

I was instructed that in setting up a shrine (altar) one needs representation of three things, The Buddha, the Dharma and The Sangha. At the time of refuge I was given a folded card with a picture of the buddha on one side, the refuge prayer on the inside and a picture of HH Karmapa on the back. My teacher said that even this card was sufficient, even if there was nothing else,as it included representations of the three things mentioned above ("triple gems") which are the objects of refuge.
I am sure that if you want Tara there, Buddha won't complain.

An altar, or shrine, is a very interesting thing. It can be simple or busy, but it usually reflects one's own mind. I was once advised not to let it become a "model train set". People who build model train displays put a lot of time into adding little details here and there, tiny trees and buildings, trying to make it perfect.
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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by Chaz » Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:18 pm

Not wanting to contradict PadmaVonSamba, but I was instructed that a different set of three things should be present on a shrine altar, namely something that represents enlightened body, enlightened speech and enlightened mind.

Elfin's question seems to focus on a representation of Enlightened body - a form of some sort representing the Buddha. This can be a statue, a picture or some other symbol. It does not have to be a statue per se. A thangka or a print should be more that adequate. I'm not so sure the form needs to be blessed or consecrated, either. I recently re-purposed an unused room in our house to a shrine room. I asked my sangha's resident lama about what should be done, if anything, to consecrate the room. He said that there was nothing that needed to be done, save that I use it for practice and treat the room with the same respect I would offer any other sacred space. He said my practice alone would be blessing enough.

That's not to say that a statue of the Buddha, intended for shrine use, shouldn't be blessed ( or "filled" as another member posted). Many cast metal staues are hollow for the purpose of being filled with written mantras, a life pole, etc. If you know of a monastic who is willing and able to do this (it's not as simple as just stuffing the statues), having the statue properly consecrated is never a bad thing.

As far as a statue of Tara goes, I have both Tara and Chenrezig represented on my main shrine (framed altar cards), but in a position subordinate to the Buddha.

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by Adamantine » Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:39 am

Re: consecration-- it's generally said that without
proper consecration using a statue as a support
can be problematic since the wisdom-mind-energy
of the Buddha in question has not been properly
invited into the correctly coordinated housing (filled statue)
and thus there is no assurance it is residing there--> in
which case any manner of etheric being/spirit could choose
to dwell there and possibly cause obstacles or mischief.
A temporary resolution according to the Nyingma POV is to use some
dutsi(Amrita) which is a sacred Dharma medicine empowered
with mantra during Drupchen retreats by putting it inside
the statue until it can be properly filled and consecrated.
At least this is the Nyingma tradition that I am familiar with.
There may be a different understanding according to the other lineages.
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by Jangchup Donden » Sat Jul 09, 2011 6:50 am

There's no real difference between Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha or Vajradhara. Their realization and qualities are the same. Go with whatever you have devotion towards.

And Noble Lady Tara is just wonderful to have around. :)

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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by dontknowmind » Sat Jul 09, 2011 4:48 pm

I Have an Amitabha Buddha and a copy of the Lotus Sutra that I bought while I was in Japan Last year, and energy crystal, two sets of melody balls, an hour glass, and an origami offering box with some yen in it.

the melody balls represent bells
the hour glass acts as a devotion of my time to practice and meditation
and the yen is a stand in for other offerings.

I have to keep things kind of inconspicuous at home, so for me to be offering fruit and water would draw too much attention.

I don't think it matters what figures you have on your altar. As long as they are sacred and meaningful to you, that is all that counts. :)
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Re: Buddha figure on altar

Post by denice » Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:06 pm

i have shakyamuni buddha as the central buddha ,chenrezig & medicine buddha are also on my shrine .
keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and free from any attachment to appearances."
"So I say to you -
This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:"
"Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream."
"So is all conditioned existence to be seen."
Thus spoke Buddha.

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