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  • Good evening Andrew G.

    Setting up a meditation room depends somewhat upon the tradition of Buddhism. Tibetan shrines tend to be more complicated than Zen (Ch’an). An image of the Buddha is the main focal point in either case. Zen altars contain four additional elements: a candle on the right hand side (representing the illumination of wisdom), fresh cut flowers on the left had side (signifying impermanence), a bowl of rice or sand for incense in front of the altar (purity), and a half full bowl of water between the incense cup and Buddha (see http://www.dharma.net/monstore/article.php?article=creatingaltar&articleid=13&catPath=21_22 ).

    Tibetan Buddhist altars are more complicated. Besides the statue of the Buddha is a scripture (for example the Heart Sutra) to the right of the Buddha’s image representing the Buddha’s speech and a stupa representing the Buddha’s mind. From this point onwards it gets more involved but these are the essentials in a Tibetan altar. It is generally advised to start simple in one’s altar since too many deities and objects can be confusing (see http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/altar.html ). When I was setting up my shrine, I contacted a monastery as to the placement of some statues. The final words of the monk were that it’s the intention that is most important.

    If the altar is going in your bedroom it is best to put the altar closer to the head of the bed since it is considered disrespectful to have the Buddha toward the feet. This is according to Tibetan teachings so I’m not sure if the same applies to Zen traditions.

    In either case, keep the shrine clean and dusted but the color of the room is whatever you find to be inductive to peace and contemplation.

    I hope this helps.

    May all be at peace.

    John

  • I like the answers of others, to keep it as clean and simple as possible. In the Zen tradition, it’s “customary” (nothing is mandatory) to have a small table with a little statue of the Buddha, an incense burner, a candle, and some flowers. I find incense to be irritating. Others find candles to be distracting, flowers are prettier on the plant, and some of us cling to that image of the Buddha. 😉

    I have a tiny statue that was given as a gift, a bell–also a gift–from a Korean monastery, and a little vase that I sometimes use to hold flowers from my garden. My “rule of thumb” is to have things that are meaningful to me. But don’t let my approach stop you from buying a nice little bronze Buddha from Mountains and Rivers, for example. These purchases support monastic life.

  • Buddhist meditation is all about clearing your mind and relaxing, so having anything at all in the room would be a waste of time. Just keep it clear and simple.

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