Q005: Could Master Lu advise on the basic requirements and areas of concern regarding the decoration of an altar at home from the metaphysics perspective?
A005: 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, refrigerator, or below an air conditioner. If it is close to the television or if it is in an untidy environment, you can use a shelf with a wooden door as the altar. During the day when you are not offering incense, you can close the door. When you are offering incense, please do not switch on the television. In addition, you should not use a transparent glass screen to cover the statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.
- You should not place the altar in the bedroom of a couple (the bedroom of an elderly couple would be alright).
- You can place the altar in single bedrooms, but the foot of the bed should not face the altar.
- You should not place the altar on a balcony that is extended out from the building (i.e. it is not attached to the ground). However, if the balcony is inside the building then it would be alright, e.g. sunroom.
- All statues and images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well as other Dharma instruments, including oil lamps, urn, etc should not be placed on an extended fixture, i.e. it must have tables, chairs, or frames etc that is connected to the ground to hold up the surface.
- The best location to make offerings and pay respects to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is near a window where it is bright. The back of the altar should not be facing a window. The altar must be placed against a wall, and the surrounding should not have any mirrors.
- Please do not place unrelated objects or books underneath the altar. Sutras and Dharma instruments would be alright.
- 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 (offering of oil lamps can improve your eye health), and water (one cup of water for each statue or image of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and 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.
- It is best not to have too many statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the altar.
- If conditions allow, you can make offerings of fresh fruits (change the fruits once a week) and fresh flowers (offering fresh flowers can improve your physical attractiveness). Generally, fruit and flower offerings should be made once a week.
- 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.