Q049: Hi Master Lu, I would like to ask a question. The altar at home was arranged by my mother-in-law. Originally there was only a bronze statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva placed in the centre of the altar. Later on she did not stay here often so I have been performing the incense and water offerings. Then since I began learning about Buddhism, I have been given some photo images of Ksitigarbha (Earth Store) Bodhisattva (Ti Tsang Pu Sa) and a Buddha statue, all of which I have placed on the altar. Now I would like to just keep one image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and one image of Shakyamuni Buddha (Shih Chia Mou Ni Fo) on the altar and invite all the other images down from the altar. What should I do?

A049: 

  • If statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas have been accepting incense offerings, it is best to continue your offerings in the long term. You should not invite them to come down from the altar unceremoniously.
  • In your case, if you would like to invite statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas down from the altar because there are too many, you need to recite at least 7 Little Houses (Hsiao Fang Tzu) for each statue or image. Address the Little House to “The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas being offered by <your full name>”. At the same time, for each statue or image, you should recite the Great Compassion Mantra (Ta Pei Chou) 7 times, Heart Sutra (Hsin Ching) 7 times, and Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance (Li Fo Ta Chan Hui Wen) 7 times.
  • For your situation, because you are inviting several images of the same Bodhisattva down from the altar, you can recite the Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance for a total of 21 times. Before you recite you should say, “Thank you Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for helping me, <your full name>, and my family in the past. Thank you, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Thank you, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.” (You should never say, “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, please come down from the altar.”)
  • It is best to take these images to temples and give them to others.
  • In addition, if you have had a dream or you realise that there are foreign spirits occupying the statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas on your altar, you need to recite 21 Little Houses, and address them to “Karmic Creditor of the house of <full name of the occupant>”. Then you can continue to mindfully and sincerely make offerings and pay respects to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at your altar.

 

[Updated 2012.04.25]