Home Forums Lions Roar Dharma Center Forum Altar Importance

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    • Conor
      Post count: 8

      Dharma is everywhere, right? I saw an article about how monks go on retreat for extended periods. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing…. but this evening I have been wondering, “how do they bring what’s in the Temple into their retreat cave/tent/hunt?”


      All I can come up with, other than impeccable mental stability, is the created space through things like an altar. Maybe the things on my altar are just nice or cute, maybe they are representational things—like pictures, or maybe they are things where the beings they represent actually dwell. Things of each of these sorts are all around us all the time, but when set together, arranged together, we call it an altar.

      Mine is simple, but each thing is important to me. I think it’s likely that over the next few days I will add or change it a bit. It’s now more important to me than ever. It seems like a connection to things or more correctly, a reminder of the connection between things which I am a part of.

      How do the rest of you relate to or see your home altar, if you have one?

    • ElizabethZima
      Post count: 7

      I have pictures of Lama Jinpa and Geshe Damcho, several representations of Guru Rinpoche and Chenrezig, and some cards with deities on them. The rest is simple.

    • Dirk Johnson
      Post count: 16

      My altar primarily serves to set the atmosphere for my practice. It also aids my visualizations and helps me to feel the presence of my teachers.

      I’ve built up (and taken down) the things on my altar over many years, and it continuously though slowly evolves. I perform a daily water offering for which I use traditional metal Tibetan water offering bowls; use two tea light candles in lotus holders that my wife bought for me on our honeymoon; burn incense in a burner similar to the one in the Tara shrine that I’ve had for more than 20 years; have a few statues and pictures of deities that I practice and pictures of some of my closest teachers; have two serkyems for protector practice; keep my phurba there on a stand; keep tingshas and sometimes my kangling as a music offering; and a mandala offering pan of small but precious things. It isn’t particularly fancy. You’ve seen it. It’s more of a small shrine than an altar.

      It would actually be relatively easy to bring my altar with me on retreat. In the past, when I had even more altar stuff, including three large thankas, I brought all of it from my apartment to use in a storefront in the Haight every week when my teacher came to teach and practice with us. I didn’t own a car at the time.

      It was not a big deal to bring the stuff. But it helped the atmosphere tremendously.

      • This reply was modified 6 months, 2 weeks ago by Dirk Johnson.
    • SusanFarrar
      Post count: 7

      I have pictures of Lama and Geshela, HHDL and the Sravasti Abbey nuns on one small table and on the altar, items that are traditional (Buddha Shakyamuni, a stupa, water bowl, candle, incense burner, flowers) as well as gifts from Lama and Geshela.  The traditional items all have personal meaning – purchased in Nepal, gifts.  Used to have lots and lots of stuff, but it got cluttered so now is much simplified (one water bowl instead of 8 for instance).  Easier for focus.  And the room contains several thangkas too – all purchased in Nepal, or gifts or paintings by friends.

      It’s very personal although probably doesn’t look that way.

    • AndriaGiorgi
      Post count: 3

      I love reading about what you all have on your altars!

      On my altar is a combination of items that represent the time when I first started practicing through now. I find reminding myself of the continuity of practice keeps me motivated and reminds me how far I have come from where I started. One of the items is a note card that shows my practice intentions from the past eight years, this year’s intention being “gratitude.” A few valued recovery coins, a cloth I knit with the colors of the LRDC gompa, a Shakyamuni statue in the Balinese style that looks like a family member, and a statue of the Virgin Mary that I bought when I was in school twenty one years ago. My photos of Lama la and Geshe la are on the bookshelf adjacent to my altar, along with most of the dharma books I currently have. I feel like I have a “wrap around” altar in that sense, you know?

      Something weird on my altar: my dog’s extracted teeth. She had to have several teeth pulled last year and I kept the teeth taped to some gauze as a reminder of the limitations she has and how I can practice for all beings. I also have a note card reminding me to celebrate finding the obstacles and practicing with them. My altar is actually a shoe rack that I found in good shape at the Salvation Army store, so there is a shelf underneath the top. That’s where I keep all of the pamphlets and handouts gifted to my through Lion’s Roar, which is great because then they are so handy.


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