All About Altars

Whether elaborate or spartan, what a true home altar really needs is attention and faith.

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In a famous Tibetan teaching tale, an old woman venerates a dog's tooth she believes is a holy relic of the Buddha, brought from India by her son. Her constant prayers and devotion transform her, and bring blessings and inspiration to her entire hamlet. (Read this story in the Snow Lion's Turquoise Mane: Wisdom Tales From Tibet by Lama Surya Das) In the same way, our own devotional practices can support our inner development.

Of course, altars can be exceedingly simple. You could just place a cement garden Buddha in your yard, and sit where you can see it through a window. Or put a single object on a small table, perhaps along with a candle or some flowers. You could also use a picture of your spiritual teacher as the altar's focus, or place it alongside a main Buddha image. I have a meditation room in my house, since I have been practicing daily for three decades. But when short of space, I have used a corner of my bedroom, walk-in closet, attic, basement, garage, outdoor tool shed, screened-in porch, tent, yurt, cave, and any number of other quiet nooks and crannies for my meditation seat and shrine. I love to create sacred spaces, temples and shrines, as well as retreats where people can join in this joyous, timeless path of awakening.

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