Shrines and Images
it is difficult to imagine Buddhism without the Buddha image
or Rupa, it was not until about 500 years after the passing
away (Parinirvana) that the practice of making images of the
Buddha started. Since that time, Buddha images have been the
object of Buddhist devotion and identify for over 2000 years,
acting as the inspirational focus and the means for devotees
to express their reverence and gratitude for the Buddha's Dharma
reasons for the Buddha image on the shrine are:
to remind one of the qualities of Perfect Wisdom and Perfect
Compassion of the Buddha,
it serves to inspire us to develop these qualities as we recall
the greatness of the Buddha and His Teachings.
days, we may feel agitated, angry or depressed. When we pass
by a shrine in our homes or visit a temple, and see the peaceful
image of the Buddha, it helps us to remember that there are
beings that are peaceful and we can become like them too. Automatically,
our minds settle down.
pay respect to the Buddha to show their gratitude to Him for
showing the way to Enlightenment and liberation by:
Place the palms together and raise them to the level of the
This gesture expresses our deep reverence to the Triple Gem
- Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Prostrating before an image of the Buddha or members of the
Sangha expresses our deep veneration.
This also helps us to overcome egoistic feelings (pride) to
become more ready to listen to the Teaching of the Buddha.
As we prostrate before the Buddha images, we recall the qualities
of the Buddha and develop respect for their qualities such as
loving-kindness, compassion, virtue, patience, concentration
and wisdom. Showing respect to the Buddha and his qualities
inspires us to develop these extraordinary qualities ourselves.
manner of prostration as observed
in a Theravada temple (e.g. temples of
Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese traditions)
is the purpose of making offerings to the Buddha?
We make offerings not because the Buddha needs them -
the Buddha is an enlightened being, He certainly does not need
an incense stick to be happy!
do we make offerings to win the Buddha's favour. The Buddha
developed universal loving-kindness and compassion long ago
and won't be swayed by flattery and bribery the way we ordinary
make offerings to create positive energy and develop good qualities
such as giving with a respectful attitude and gratitude.
Moreover, the offerings remind us of certain teachings of the
of Light (Lamp/Candle)
Light symbolizes wisdom.
Light drives away darkness.
Similarly, the light of wisdom dispels the darkness of ignorance.
When incense is lit, its fragrance spreads.
symbolizes the fragrance of pure moral conduct.
This reminds us to cultivate good conduct.
Water symbolizes purity, clarity and calmness.
This reminds us to practise the Buddha's teachings, so as to
cleanse our minds, which are full of desire, ill-will and ignorance,
and to attain the state of purity.
Fruit symbolizes the ultimate fruit of Enlightenment which is
Fruit also reminds us that all actions will have their effect.
The freshness, fragrance and beauty of flowers are impermanent.
Fresh and beautiful flowers will soon become withered, scentless
This reminds us of the Buddha's teaching that all things are
We should value what we have now and live in the present.
most common flower seen in Buddhist shrines, or on the base
of statues, are lotuses, as they represent the potential or
actuality of Enlightenment.
The lotus grows out of the mud and blossoms above the water
surface, yet it is not dirtied by the mud from which it grows.
The Buddha is likened to the lotus. Like a lotus that rises
out of a muddy pond, the Buddha rose above the defilements and
sufferings of life.
We are right now surrounded by defilements and sufferings, just
as the lotus seed is surrounded by dirt, mud and filth. We should
rise above our defilements and sufferings, just like the lotus
flower arising above the muddy water.
This serves to remind us of our own potential Buddhahood. We
may have defilements today, but we all have the potential of
growing out of defilements and achieving wisdom like the Buddha.