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This  is my shrine...
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Here are the explanations in order to setup your own shrine at home and some tricks ,
 according to the advices of Bokar Rinpoche

What you need :

- a support
- a statue or a photo
- seven bowls
- an oil lamp or a candle

and also:

- water
- rice - a flower
- incense
- a fruit or biscuits
- a small musical instrument or a shell
- oil
- wicks

All things considered, nothing really difficult to get.
The principle is easier:  the statue (or photo) represents in a obvious way the Awakening, the transcendence, in front of which are presented the offerings, expression of our devotion.

The support:

A shelf, the top of a chest of drawers, the shelf of a chimney looks lovely, or a small sideboard which is closed. The direction of the shrine does no matter.
By definition, it is always at the East : not the east of geographers , but the within East. Because it is known as:

"Where faces the yogi,  here is the East of the yogi".

The buddhist politeness wants that one places high what one respects. Therefore, one does not place the shrine close to the floor, but with height of the waist or higher. The same politeness regards as an offence of outstretch the legs towards a lama or a holy representation. Therefore, one cannot  install the shrine at the bottom of his bed. If needed, one can cover this support with a beautiful cloth (dark red, yellow, white...) and, if one wants, to put on this one a pane or a mirror cutted up to measurements. It is easier to clean: just with a sponge....


The statue or photo:

One put on the shrine, if possible more higher than to the main support, a statue or a photo, usually of the Buddha, but it can be also of Chenrezig, Tara, Manjoushri, another Yidam or a spiritual Master of past or present. One can of course put several of them: the manifestations of the Awakening are boundless. In this case, the statue of the Buddha occupies the central place and the more highest.

The statue can be painted: the face and the neck of gold color (or gilded with the sheet), the hair ( dark blue and not blacks), eyes, the mouth. It can also be dressed with a yellow square of brocade. The photo can be surrounded by a khata (white silk scarf). In all cases, it is essential that they are " alive " and, for that, to be blessed. More than one simple representation, they consequently become the presence itself of what they represents.

An "alive" statue means here to be " loaded ": one puts  inside at least written mantras and, if one can, relics, the blessed substances and the precious substances (it is necessary that the statues are hollow inside). Better ask a lama to proceed for this operation. Do not forget to join an offering to your request, as required in the customs. For a tanka or the photo of a Master, it is blessed by the inscription to the back, one below the other of the three syllables OM, AH, HUM, (respectively on the level of the forehead, the throat and the heart) in tibetan, symbols of the Body, the Speech of Awakened Mind. One can do that oneself, or even ask a lama.

So, here is placed the alive representation for who our offerings are intended. We  will lay in front of it the eight traditional offerings. In starting from the left to the right: water for drink, water for wash, flowers, incense,  light, perfumed water, food, music. That is to say seven bowls and a lamp.


Choice of bowls:

One needs seven identical bowls, of the right size for the shrine, generally, rather small. More the material will be precious, beautiful and noble, more our offering will be precisous, beautiful and noble. Would we welcome guests of quality with kitchen dishes ? In  tibet, bowls were in silver by tradition or in copper and of an unchanging form. Silver is undoubtedly the ideal matter, because of its great value. This great value is nevertheless the reason of its high price, out of reach of many purses. If nevertheless you have this possibility, do not hesitate. Coppers bowls have the benefit to be manufactured according to the traditional usage and well polished,  shines extremely. But they tarnish quickly and require much upkeep; if one does not want to present his offerings  covered  with dark stains, even stained of green of gray, violent poison.

Remember that one can find in Occident, crystal glasses or porcelain or even in silvered  crystal, it is possible, by doing oneself a little effort, to find out pretty things. The range of the small bowls gives the possibility to be close to the traditional form. The gold rule: that needs to be beautiful, worthy and clean.


Offerings one by one

First and second bowls water for drinking and water for wash  :

In practice, although the destination is different, same water is used to fill up the first two bowls: a clear, clean and drinkable water. One can make the offering more invaluable by making saffroned water.
Recipe for saffroned water: to pick a little dose of saffron , preferably in filaments, and  boil it in one liter of water. It is necessary to put enough saffron in order to obtain a pretty orange yellow color, such the petals of marigold. Saffron in filaments gives better results than its equivalent in powder, but it is sometimes difficult to find  and expensive. To prepare saffroned water every morning would be tiresome. Better is to fill up a bottle  (when the water is cool, otherwise be careful to the breakage!) one will pour out a small part each day in the carafe used for the offerings (see how to fill up the bowls each morning and to empty them each evening).

Third bowl : the flowers

When a bowl is not intended to contain water, it is filled up of rice upon which one put the offered thing, here a flower. One uses white, round rice preferably. One can,  the same as the water, to enrich rice with saffron.
Recipe of saffroned rice: 1 kilo of rice, if possible round, especially not pre-cooked because it would be quiclky crumbed and badly colored.

Prepare in first one or two decilitres of very concentrated saffroned water. It will be used hot or cold, it does no matter. At the same time one washes rice with plenty of water to clear the dust of starch and  lets it dry by spreading out in a plate. When rice is dried, put it in a salad bowl, sprinkle it with saffroned water without wetting it too much, and mix it until it takes uniformly a pale yellow color. If one wants to prepare much rice, it is necessary to do this last operation in several times.
The bowl will be first filled up of rice in abundance. Then, in rice, put one or two flowers, natural or silk flower. One can also put on rice a small vase with flowers. In addition to this flowered bowl, one can also, at the occasion, decorate the shrien with a bouquet or a flowered pot.

Fourth bowl : Incense

The fourth bowl receives incense: simply put some stick into rice. Tibetan incense, Indian incense, Japanese incense, according to our own taste. Caution: this incense sticked in the bowl is not intended to be burned. The incense intended to be burned  is placed in another container, for example a simple bowl  filled up of sand or rice, placed on the floor in front of the shrine. Burn your favorite incense. If you have tibetan guest, remember however that usually they don't appreciate the too " sweetened "  smell. You will enjoy them by burning Tibetan incense , or if you do not have it,  sandalwood or Japanese incense is good.

Be aware with the burned incense sticks that leaves an indelible mark on the parquet floor or the carpet. It is more wise to place a plate under the bowl receiving the incense which one burns.

The light :

The tibetan butter-lamps, with a defined shape are in silver or copper. They have the same advantages and the same disadvantages as the bowls made in this same metal. One can substitute them by a glass or sandstone container. Glass offers the benefit to let the flame visible even when goes down the level of oil. One can also substitute the oil lamp by a candle. If one uses  " heating-dish " candles it should be placed on filled up water saucers. The disadvantage of the candles is by not providing a perpetual light, not being able to be consumed without danger in our absence. One can use an electric "candle" or a bulb of very low power, Tibetans, far from scorning electricity makes abundant offerings of them on theirs altar. The tradition wants that one never blows on a flame: it would be to extinguish the breath of its own life. One can put out a candle by gripping the wick between his wet fingers, or well by agitating the hand, or using an extinguisher (a small spoon for example).


Fifth bowl : Perfumed water

It is same as the first two bowls of water. One can add some perfume drops : rose water, lavender water,  rosemary water, etc. Some perfumes emulsify in contact with water, others, with the time damage metals, be aware.


Sixth bowl : food

The bowl is filled with rice, on which is placed a beautiful fruit, a biscuit, etc. Renew it before the offering spread some mildewed smell. One can also place on this bowl a small "torma" of flour, called " chelzai ", representing the offering of food.


Seventh bowl : music

One put on the filled bowl of rice the symbol of a musical instrument, generally a shell (representing the conch) or a small bell or a tsa-tsa. 


The seven bowls must be scrupulously aligned and separated one from the other of the space of a rice seed; it is said that too much space between the bowls would predict a distance from the Master. The lamp is placed either in front of the statue (behind the bowls), or inserted between the fourth and the fifth bowls.


Method for the daily offerings:

bowls containing  water must be filled up each morning and be emptied each evening. Those which contain rice remain continuously in place. One can change rice each full moon, then the old rice will be spreading  in nature for the birds, fish or other animals.

The morning :

The three bowls intended to contain water are presented empties and turned over. One will use for fill up them a special container reserved for this purpose. One will fill up the bowls from left to the right. to put the first bowl (water for drinking) turn it on the right side and pour water until the third of it. Then turn the second bowl (water for wash) by holding the first bowl in the right hand, pour in the second a part of the water which it contains. Make the same way for the fifth bowl, by using this time the water of the second. In short and more easier way, one pours a little water in the first bowl, from this one a little in the second, then from the second a little in the fifth, so that a little water covers the bottom of the three bowls. Then, one fills each bowl, generously but not fully.

Bless  the offerings :

After what it is necessary to bless the offerings. One can do it in following various methods, of which we will see here simply.

For the dedication, one takes some water in the perfumed water bowl (fifth bowl), either by soaking there an incense stick, or by moistening the right annular finger there, and one sprinkles the offerings while one recites three times the mantra OM AH HUNG (representing the Body, the Speech and Mind of the Buddhas). A method slightly more elaborate consists in saying three times the mantra RAM YAM KAM OM AH HUM. In this case, the first three syllables purify, while the three following ones bless.

- RAM, represents the fire which burns the impurities
- YAM, the wind which sweeps them away
- KAM, the water which washes them

After the blessing, as a sign of homage, one does three prostrations on front of the shrine.


The evening :

One empties the water bowls from right to the left, then dust them and  turn them   until the next morning. One pours this water in a clean place: in the nature, in a flowered pot,etc...

There is a simplified method of offerings, which consists in only filling the seven bowls of water. In this case, one fills up seven bowls each morning and one empties them each evenings.

Other altar things:

One can also  put on his shrine the following things :

- the bell and the dorje (Sanskrit: vajra) respectively representing wisdom and emptiness, the compassion and skilful means
- a holy text, symbolizing the Speech of the Buddha
- a tsa-tsa, or a small cheuten (Sanskrit: stupa), symbols of the Mind of Buddhas
- two small kapalas, containers in the shape of skull, symbol of desctruction of the ego, containing substances representing wisdom and compassion
- tormas, ritual effigies in flour or earth , symbolically representing the Lama, yidams and protectors.

These last two types of things however are used only in relatively complex practices of Vajrayana; they are generally superfluous on a small domestic shrine.