If conditions allow, it is best to have an altar at home for you to pay respects and make offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. You should also invite a statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva to your altar.
The basic requirements for altar decoration at home are as follows:
- The altar must not be near a toilet (the toilet door should be closed at all times).
- The altar must not face the kitchen directly.
- The altar must not be placed on top of the television.
- The altar should not be too high or too low. It would be best if the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on your altar are slightly above the eye level (if they are too low, you can place something underneath to increase the height).
- The altar should have oil lamps and water (one cup of water for each statue or image of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, and the water should be changed daily. Please do not drink the water directly from the cup used for offering).
- The altar should have an urn for the offering of incense. You can make incense offering once in the morning and once at night. The time for incense offering should be kept consistent and the best times in the morning are 6AM, 8AM and 10AM, and the best times at night are 6PM, 8PM and 10PM.
- If conditions allow, you can make offerings of fresh fruits and flowers.
- The best location for the altar is sitting south and facing north (for the southern hemisphere), or sitting north and facing south (for the northern hemisphere). However, if your current conditions do not allow you to place the altar this way, other directions are also acceptable.
If you are limited by your living circumstances and you cannot have an altar at home to pay respects and make offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or when you are on business trips or on holidays, you can offer the Heart Incense.
Method: When you offer the Heart Incense, you are visualising that the image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva is in front of you. You visualise that you are making an oil lamp offering, followed by taking an incense stick and lighting the incense, joining your palms together, and then raising the incense above your forehead between your eyebrows. Then you visualise that you are placing the incense into the urn, making full prostrations, and saying your prayers in your mind.
Please note: You can only make incense offerings if you have an altar at home where you pay respects and make offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas every day. For images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on computer screens, printed on sutra booklets, or other statues and images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that you do not pay respects and make offerings to every day, they would not have the energy field of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you are making incense offerings to these statues or images, then you are actually making offerings to heaven and Earth, and all the spiritual beings around you would be able to come and accept your offerings. This involves risks and may invite unnecessary trouble.
 Please refer to Q&A 094 “Regarding the difference between offering the Heart Incense and real incense”.