Daily practice for becoming close with Buddha
Some of our Japanese readers have written in saying things like, "I have a Buddhist altar at home, but I don’t know what exactly I'm supposed to do with it,” and, “I grew up in a family that didn't have a Buddhist altar, and I have never been involved with Buddhist events until now.”
But you don’t have to worry. This column will be a ten-part series of explanations on the importance of getting closer to the Buddha at home and how to do it. Let us learn together.
Vol. 1 is about the “Buddhist altar.” A Buddhist altar, in a nutshell, is the place where Buddha is enshrined.
One newly married couple in Japan who are listening to Buddhism were visited by a friend who lives far away. The friend saw their new Buddhist altar and asked hesitantly, “Have you recently lost somebody in your family?” Do you think that their friend said something strange?
In Japan, it is a commonly accepted idea that the word "buddha" refers to a dead person and that a Buddhist altar is the place to enshrine the deceased to keep their souls happy. There are probably few Japanese people who question this.
“We haven’t held a funeral in my family, so we don’t have a Buddhist altar.”
“My elder brother, the eldest son in my family, took over the Buddhist altar in our parents’ house that had been handed down for generations.”
Hearing things like this probably doesn't feel strange at all for most Japanese people, because so many believe that a Buddhist altar is for enshrining dead people or their ancestors.
However, in Buddhism, a “buddha” never represents a dead person. Therefore, a Buddhist altar is not for enshrining the deceased. True Pure Land Buddhism enshrines the Name, Namu Amida Butsu, in its altars. This is because we listen to Buddhism in order to attain true happiness through the working of Namu Amida Butsu. A Buddhist altar holds the object of reverence, which we value the most, and so the altar is placed in the finest room in the house.
Regardless of whether you have lost a family member or not, you can live your life moving toward the light every day by welcoming the Name into your house and cultivating a precious bond with Buddhism.
Next time, let us learn about the “object of reverence”.
True Pure Land Buddhism enshrines the Name, Namu Amida Butsu, in its altars.
A bond with Buddhism: an opportunity to listen to Buddhism, a bond with Amida Buddha
How to properly handle a Buddhist altar?
Since a Buddhist altar enshrines the object of reverence, which we value the most, we should always adorn it beautifully.
The arrangement in this picture is an example.
We should use white gloves when we open and close the door or clean the altar.
A smaller altar is available for urban residences.