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[This version: 30 July 1993]
This text addresses some of the most fundamental and delicate religious issues.
Therefore, it should be read, quoted and analysed in a mindful way.

by Lama Choedak

[reprinted with permission from the CLEAR MIND QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER No 6,
Nov 1990-Jan 1991]
Copyright 1993 (c) by Lama Choedak Yuthok, Sakya Losal Choe Dzong, Canberra

It is our human nature to keep precious things in a safe place when we have
them. We can tell ourselves what are the most important objects we own by
examining where and how we keep them.  For a practising Buddhist, an image or a
drawing of the Buddha and other Buddhist symbols are important objects which
enhance his faith and remembrance of the teachings.  The time and effort
required to keep the shrine clean and replenished with flowers and other
offerings is considered a skilful activity to focus one's mind in the spiritual
practices. It will be more than interesting if we can realize the reason why we
arrange and keep our things around the house reflect our state of minds.   It
appears that things can and have meanings as much as our minds can project upon
them.  We are not going to tell our children that  their toys are not real and
have no significance. Your 15 year old Holden may seem unreal when you see your
friend's  new sports car. When you walk into a Buddhist shrine, you can tell
that your heart-felt devotion or lack of it, is expressed through your body
language.  Just as all objects have some kind of power or influence to our
minds, the serene Buddha image and nicely arranged flowers and aromatic incense
cause our minds to reflect within ourselves in the deep meditative
concentration.  The positive impact of seeing a Buddha image on our minds cannot
be underestimated.  The Buddha images are purposely consecrated and blessed to
radiate the spiritual power and  blessings so that whoever happen to see them
experiences the positive feeling through the medium of the statue.  As long as
our minds are dependent upon sensory objects, it is important to have
appropriate objects conducive to our minds.  A Buddhist would find it inspiring
and motivating to see a Buddha image, which helps him to remember the qualities
of a Buddha and his teachings.  He or she  shows  devotion by bowing down, offer
flowers and light a candle or two before taking a seat to meditate.  Bowing down
purifies pride and cultivates humility.  One cannot meditate properly if one
cannot let go off such negativities.  The shrine enables us to remind ourselves
to surrender all the negativities in order to feel peace, serenity, tranquility,
freedom and light.  Keeping the shrine clean represents the sanctification of
our spiritual self and acknowledges the purity of an enlightened being.  In
Tibetan Buddhist shrines, many water bowls are arranged on the altar to
cultivate its manyfold qualities, fluidity, continuity, universality and purity
in our practice and faith.  Flowers, candles, fruits and incense are brought as
offerings to the Buddha  and they give us an opportunity to practise generosity
and test our understanding of the Law of Karma.  When you come to attend a
session, rearrange the offerings on the altar, clean the water bowls and fill
them with fresh water [start from left to right], remove  withered flowers and
old fruits and light a candle before you take a seat. You will be surprized with
the difference it makes to your meditation.  While you are doing these, you can
pray your wishful thoughts in the following manner: Water: May I and others
cultivate pure and continuous faith in our spiritual practices!  Flower: May my
heart blossom with the gift of love and compassion so that I can share it to
others and grace them with happiness! Incense: May all the negative vibrations
accumulated due to my selfishness, ignorance, greed and hatred be purified by
the aroma of  the practice of morality! Light: May the light of understanding,
faith, awareness and wisdom illuminate the darkness of confusion, mistrust and
all defilements! Perfume: May the aroma of unshakable faith and confidence have
the ability to please anybody who come in contact with me! Fruit: May I be able
to satisfy the needs of sentient beings by sustaining the mind with the abundant
food of meditation and wisdom!  Now, you can practice this when you go to the
centre next time or  visit a temple, or you can perhaps rearrange the Buddha
image in your house to enrich the spiritual vibration around your house.
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