Something To Bow To – The Buddhist Altar

While I am traveling I carry a photograph of Rev. Master Jiyu and that is, in effect, my altar. What I bow to. The image is of her leading a procession for a ceremony done during Jukai. (Jukai is a set of ceremonies when people formally become Buddhist and receive the Buddhist Precepts during one of those ceremonies.) The procession is called Following where the Precepts Lead. She is wearing the hat worn by those on an Alms round, carries a small alms bowl and uses a staff. She is a simple monk pilgrim on the road. Anybody who wants to follow along may do so. I like this image, taken many years ago, and it seems a fitting one for me to carry with me as a travel about.

Anyway, somebody who went to Jukai this year at Throssel sent me a link to a posting on her blog in which she describes setting up an altar. I rather like the direct way she thinks about the business of having an altar – the altar gives the Buddhist something to bow in front of…. The Buddhist can always do with something to bow in front of, and if there is no altar handy – well there are lots of other things to bow in front of. I thought you would enjoy this article as much as I did. Here is the start of it.

Not long after my week long retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, I gave some thought to the Reverend’s comment “If you haven’t already got an altar, now is the time to get one”. So, looking around the room I found these items to put together to provide an area for Buddhist practice. The altar gives the Buddhist something to bow in front of, and bowing is very important to Zen Buddhism.

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