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Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

The shrine is the main focus point for most group - and usually individual - worship. [See: ART & CULTURE - WORSHIP]
Western Theravadin shrines tend to be quite plain and, although many Asian shrines may look more colourful and complex, they generally contain the same basic elements.






As various Buddhist themes and symbols are explored and developed a shrine can be the place where many of your finished craft projects can be placed.

The main elements on the shrine are:

The Buddha image. There can be as many of these as you wish if there is space on the shrine. If someone makes an image of the Buddha in relation to any aspect(s) of the teaching then that image has significance - if only to the person who made it.

Flowers: These can take the form of decorative arrangements of any natural materials: flowers (fresh or dried), leaves, wreaths, etc.
Fresh flowers have a special value as their transiency indicates the level of care the shrine is receiving - quite apart from their beauty. Placing flowers is something to be encouraged and regular offerings establish a relationship with the spirit of the shrine and with the objects on it and what they represent.

Candles: There can be as many of these as you wish or one can use any variety of light medium [see: LOTSA FIRE for ideas on making candles and other lights]. There is something very beautiful about sitting quietly at night in a room lit by the candles on a shrine. Shrines are useful as part of one's spiritual practice and giving the time to light and attend to (however briefly) at least one candle is time well spent. They should be regularly lit and maintained. Clean the holder of melted wax (save it up for your next candle making venture); see if any has splashed on the shrine and remove it. Remove old candle stubs rather than just plonking a new one on top of the old.Making candle holders is an easy activity.

Incense: The combination of fire and fragrance is a lovely one. Making incense holders is a good activity. As with candles, incense should be regularly offered on the shrine and the holder and surrounding area should be kept clean. [see: OTHERS for incense making details]

Saints: These are often photographs or images of great teachers or holy beings. It can be extended to include a number of people but care should be taken as to who or what takes prominence on the shrine. It could be that photos are placed temporarily - say, a group of refugees one is offering spiritual support to or an individual who is particularly ill or for the day if it is someone's birthday or other celebration.

Sacred objects: This can include an enormous range of objects - how does something become sacred (worthy of or regarded with reverence)? It is largely in relation to one's (individual or group) perception. If the basic purpose of a shrine is generally understood it is nice if it can be available for anyone to place anything they feel is special, or sacred. There could be a 'treasures' box on the shrine in which things are put - this could occasionally be used for discussion: 'Who's treasure is this?' - 'What does it signify?'

Depending on your resources I would suggest not giving too much time to the actual supporting surface of the shrine. If you have the time, materials, skills, money, etc., to build a beautiful stand or shelf then make this work part of your spiritual practice - it is an offering in itself. In simple situations I have made do with a cardboard box covered with a cloth and then been able to spend more time discussing and preparing the detailed decorating of the shrine. You could use a small table or a piece of sheet material (plywood or chipboard) resting on boxes. If you are limited for room space then a shelf is usually sufficient to get all the four main items on.
The overall idea is to create a special place; positioning the shrine, and the objects on it, in a respectful way.
The Buddha image should be raised. If a room is either for sitting on the floor or on chairs then the Buddha image should be ideally slightly higher than eye level - according to the general use of the room. It is good if the image is raised slightly higher than the other items on the shrine - it can be on a separate box or small stand.
The wall space behind the shrine can also be decorated - perhaps a radiant, colourful halo around the Buddha's head? I have seen a painting of the previous 28 Buddha's. Perhaps a neon halo? Whatever approach you use it should ideally not detract from the status of the main image(s).
The shrine should be regularly cleaned and tidied. At odd times one should consider the objects that have been added - is the person that put them there still related to the shrine? What was sacred can become mundane through indifference. Make room for making more sacred objects.