How to set up a simple altar

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The main focal point of your altar should be an image of a Buddha (a statue, tsa-tsa, photograph or painting). You can choose any Buddha statue that you like, and you can place more than one statue. The more the merrier. Don’t worry, Buddhas don’t get jealous of each other!

It is better to get Buddha statues that have all their features correct. To make sure the statue represents the Buddha exactly as it is supposed to, ask your parents to bring you to a Kechara Paradise store where there are plenty to choose from, and you’re sure they are all correct! This represents the Buddha’s body.

To the left of the altar, place any Dharma text. This could be the Lamrim, a copy of the scripture in Tibetan language, a Dharma book or even a Tsongkhapa comic book! This represents the Buddha’s speech.

To the right of the altar, place a stupa. The stupa could be of any material, glass, ceramic or metal. Inside the stupa there would be holy relics or mani pills. This represents the Buddha’s mind.

At the altar, near the Buddha, it is good to place your Guru’s framed photo. This represents the Guru and also the Sangha. Your Guru is your closest link to the Buddhas.

In front of the Buddha statue, get at least seven water bowls. You can use any set of nice clean new bowls that can be made of any material – stainless steel, glass, porcelain, copper or even silver and gold. If you can afford it, buy the best.

Many Tibetan altars use real silver bowls. They are expensive, but hey, you are making an offering to the Buddhas to learn to be generous, so should you be stingy while doing that? Start somewhere, and slowly save up to buy better ones later.

Get some incense, if possible with an incense holder to be safe, and nice scented candles.

In the morning, fill the water bowls with a clean jug from left to right while reciting OM AH HUM. Light the candle and purify your offerings with incense. Remember that if nobody is going to be in the house, put out the candle flame before you leave, not by blowing with your breath of course.

At night before you go to sleep, clear the water bowls from right to left, wiping them dry with a clean towel, then placing the empty bowls upside down.

It is important to make offerings with generosity and think that whatever virtue you have created be dedicated to the welfare of all beings and with the wish that they be free from suffering and attain enlightenment.

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