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Altar. The Gates to Supreme World

Nowadays, a sacred concept of altar is associated with religious rituals and sacrifices.

Our houses are now filled with material things and instead of sound of prayer, we have neverending sound of television and radio.

While it was only two or three generations ago that there was a "Red Corner" (A secluded area for spiritual practices) in almost every house.

Note how different from others are people whose spiritual life is the priority. People who begin and end their day with prayer.

If you go India or Tibet, go away from big cities in Russian hinterland, not putting all attention to the poverty and devastation - you will see bright, open faces of people who dedicate their lives to spiritual serving from the birth.

They are calm and not driven by emotions. They have a rare quality of mind - independence from worldliness. All conflicts disappear when you are near them. It is a special power - a power of the spirit.

Every religion or tradition have their heroes - great saints of human and gods world. Buddha, Christ, Shiva or Mohammed - all of them are an example and the light on the path to which we aspire and for which we are equal.

We can adopt their features with concentration on their images - mentally or visually. We can interact with them: ask for help or thank for their invisible presence. Enlightened beings are always open for us.

Nowadays for modern people it is diffucult to visualize the image of God. Human mind is too restless, too addicted to the external world.

Practice with altar is a way to clean it.

Creation of altar is a necessary tradition which allow not only to bring the offerings and store important relics and Scriptures, but first of all - to purify your spirit.

Little by little the real material altar will appear in your consciousness. And you will be able to communicate with higher powers at any moment. You will open it inside you.

Different traditions have different nuances of the way an altar shoud be. It is connected with existence of different spiritual forms. But we ought to remember that eventually all these forms are parts of one.

It is important to choose a right place for the altar. It can be a secluded place, hidden from strangers eyes. Preferably facing North (for example North-East or East). This side of world is responsible for spiritual development while South is connected with physical one .

Its effective, if you make you altar at eye level or higher, when you sit in front of it. Right altar has clear boundaries also.

It is insult to stretch your legs in the direction of the sacred texts and images. So do not place the altar at the foot of the bed.

The altar embodies your mind. So keep it clean.

You can cover it with fabric. Use good new material for this. Or you can use special veil for altar in traditional colors.

You can put sacred things which inspire you: images and statues of deities, photos of teachers, texts, rosary. Something that you find important for the spiritual development.

The energy of these things will fill your space.

Above the altar - you can hung images or thangkas. According to Buddhist tradition,  the center - there is a statuette of Buddha: Holy body.

On the left side - there are Dharma texts: Holy speech.

On the right side - there is Stupa, as a symbol of the enlightened Buddha mind.

Also pure and enlightened mind of the Buddha is shown with a bell and vajra. You can put them instead of stupa.

Be attentive and respectful to every relic on the altar. Dont forget that they are spiritual images. Do not put anything on Dharma books, even just images. Right to treat them as a personification of light of wisdom. Stupas and statues can contain important sacred items.

Offerings on the altar is a daily practice. By their nature Higher beings dont need our offerings. To tell the true we need it.

When you make offering - you can connect with them mentally. Already this action will clean negative karma and help you to receive blessings. And it is a reason for

abundance and prosperity in future lives.

It is necessary to make offerings with a completely pure and sincere intention.

All offerings must be clean, new and produced an honest way.

In different traditions offerings can be different. They may include all basic elements: water, air, earth, fire.

Buddhist tradition different offerings: water for drinking, water for washing the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume, food and music. Offerings can be symbolized by water. Traditionally offerings to be done at dawn and cleaned before dark. This practice eliminates the avarice and allows you to gain control over sensual pleasures.

In buddhism, typical material offerings involve simple objects such as a lit candle or oil lamp, burning incense, flowers, food, fruit, water and music. Traditionally people make offerings at sunrise and take it away before the darkness. This practice eliminates the avarice and allows you to gain control over sensual pleasures.

Making physically offerings, mentally you can bring any beautiful things: rivers, sea, sun and moon. And thinking about your yidam ( the divine image ) you can make offerings to all sentient beings in all worlds in all directions. Thus, you get not only the incredible achievement because of offerings, but also expand your karma.

Incense and candles are often used as the offerings. When you light them, you can also mentally dedicate this action to all sentient beings. You can say a prayer or mantra. In the Buddhist tradition mantra OM AH HUM is very poplular. It eliminates the effects of noise, which, by acting on the mind, can make it unclear or unstable.

Also they do believe, that its not right to blow out the flame of fire - better to make it with tweezers or fingers.

Lama Tsenzhab Rinpoche advised to think in such way: "Let all the benefits of making offerings return not to me - but return to all living beings." Such perseption creates an enlightened attitude of mind - bodhichitta.

Every your action near the altar shoud be deliberate and symbolic. It can connect you body and your mind. Dont move automatically. Dont hurry up. Find a practice close to you and make it totall involve in a process. Don't forget an important think. All divines, which you honor, appear near your altar. Even if you see only images and figurines - it is because karmic obscurations do not allow you to see.

The last but not the least, the effectiveness of prayer is proved even scientifically - in St.Petersburg Psychoneurological Research Institute of V.M. Bekhterev.

Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.

Mahatma Gandhi

The article by Yulia Bezhina, Oum.ru yoga teacher