Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by Padme » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:35 am

I've been meditating using a simple alter setup that I came up with. It's a wooden chest, covered with a nice cloth, and on it is a Buddha statue in the traditional lotus position, slightly raised up on a decorative silver box. On each side of the Buddha is a candle, and I have a small plant on each back corner. In front of the Buddha I have an incense burner. On the wall behind it all I have a large wall cloth that hangs as a backdrop and has a buddhist style print. The only thing I have on the wall is a small hanging cotton scroll that has a quote of HHDL about religious diversity.

When I meditate I use mala beads, light the candles and incense and practice a basic Metta meditation (learned that a long time ago at a Theravadan retreat center and it's all I know), although I would love to know of some other meditations or meditation practices, chants, mantras, etc., especially Tibetan oriented ones, if anyone has any suggestions or links!

SO: Now I am learning more about the Tibetan tradition, and wanting to learn more about it and try some of the Tibetan practices. Are there any items typically found on a Tibetan alter that I'm missing or should add? Or any other items in general. I've noticed some pics of various alters seem to have a lot of photographs hanging. Who are the pics of and why are they hung? Are they just photos of various lamas and buddhist spiritual leaders, etc?

Thanks for any input.

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Re: Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by Tilopa » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:22 am

http://www.khandro.net/practice_shrine.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by Padme » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:54 am

Wow, seven bowls of water? Glad I asked, I had no idea. Looking forward to reading this article in more depth!
Thank you kindly.

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Re: Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by plwk » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:32 am

Then there's the 8 Offerings of...the 'sensory offerings'
2 bowls of water: one as offering for the Buddha's drink and the other for washing the feet, flower, incense, light, perfume, food and music...
http://viewonbuddhism.org/general_symbols_buddhism.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Eight Offerings:
Offering water to cleanse the mouth or face: It signifies auspiciousness or all the positive causes and conditions which bring positive effects. So, make an offering of water which is clean, fresh, cool, smooth, light, delicious, comfortable to the throat and stomach - these qualities are the qualities of auspiciousness.

Offering water to wash the feet: This is clear water mixed with incense or sandalwood which is made as an offering to all enlightened beings' feet. The symbolic meaning is purification. By cleansing the feet of the enlightened beings, we cleanse all our own negative karma and obscurations. By making offerings to clean the enlightened beings feet, we are really cleaning the "feet" of our own mind.

Offering incense symbolises moral ethics or discipline.

Offering light signifies the stability and clarity of patience, the beauty which dispels all ignorance.
According to Ven. Norlha Rinpoche: "It is also excellent to offer the butterlamps, candles or light because this act of offering this light symbolizes burning away our mental afflictions of desire, aggression, greed, jealousy, pride and so forth. The other part of the symbolism is that it is a way to burn away our illness."
"Offering butter lamps is the most powerful offering because their light symbolizes wisdom. Just as a lamp dispels darkness, offering light from a butter lamp represents removing the darkness of ignorance in order to attain Buddha’s luminous clear wisdom. The lamp offering is a sense offering to the Buddha’s eyes. Because Buddha’s eyes are wisdom eyes, they do not have the extremes of clarity or non-clarity. Our ordinary eyes, however, are obscured by the darkness of the two defilements –gross afflictive emotional defilements and subtle habitual defilements. While the Buddha does not have desire for offerings, we make offerings for the purpose of our own accumulation of merit & wisdom. Through the power of this accumulation, we can remove the cataracts of our ignorance eyes in order to gain Buddha’s supreme luminous wisdom eyes. When we offer light, the results are the realization of Clear Light wisdom phenomena in this life; the clarification of dualistic mind and the dispersal of confusion and realization of Clear Light in the bardo; and the increase of wisdom in each lifetime until one has reached enlightenment.
Traditionally, butter lamps are also offered as a dedication to the dead in order to guide them through the bardo by wisdom light. We can pray as well that this light guide all beings of the six realms, removing their obscurations so that they may awaken to their true wisdom nature.
With genuine faith & devotion, visualize that with your offerings, countless offering goddesses offer immeasurable light to all enlightened beings. You may recite the ‘Butter Lamp Offering Prayer’ from the Collection of Offering Prayers.” Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
Offering of perfume or the fragrance from saffron or sandalwood. It signifies perseverance or joyous effort. Through that one quality, one develops all the qualities of enlightenment.

Offering of food which has a lot of different tastes signifies samadhi, which is a nectar or ambrosia to feed the mind.

Offering of musical instruments. There are different types of instruments -- cymbals, bells, guitars, lutes - - all of these are offered. Their nature is wisdom, which makes an offering to the ears of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and all the enlightened beings. Sound represents wisdom because wisdom is a special power of the mind which penetrates phenomena. Compassion is achieved through great wisdom; interdependence of all phenomena is realised through great wisdom. of course all phenomena have the nature of interdependence, causes and conditions, but sound is especially easy to understand.
Another simple guide: Altars Made Easy

A sample of what my altar used to look as attached...
1.jpg (63.46 KiB) Viewed 2024 times

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Re: Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by Blue Garuda » Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:00 pm

Padme wrote:
Wow, seven bowls of water? Glad I asked, I had no idea. Looking forward to reading this article in more depth!
Thank you kindly.

Just to clarify.

You may have 7 bowls plus a representation of the 8th offering of 'music', like a bell.

Others have 8 bowls of water which represents all 8.

Others use actual substances as listed, in which case the first 2 bowls on the left are water, and possibly another for scented water.

Having a row entirely of water bowls is very convenient for making a fresh offering each day and I would recommend that if you are starting out.

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Re: Tibetan Meditation Alter Setup?

Post by catmoon » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:58 am

That's a sweet setup you got there Yeshe. Of course, you don't possess it, and there's no you to possess it anyways, and the objects are all impermanent and empty, and what they represent are just concepts, but still - it's wonderful.

Speaking of which I just upgraded from a single ordinary bowl of water to a set of clear glass bowls with molded flower designs. Looks great when candlelight is shining through. Next on my list is a cloth to put under everything, then some kind of pedestal or dais for the rupa.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.

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