A room set aside for worship, reflection and meditation works for those who follow the Hindu faith, Buddhists, and all who turn to devotion and meditation as the path to spiritual development or who practice regular devotions to their ancestors. A temple room will have a center of focus, minimal furniture, controlled lighting and other features to enhance concentration and serenity. If an entire room is not available, a space reserved solely for worship may suffice.
Essential Temple Room Elements
A temple room may be as simple as a dedicated space for stillness and contemplation that contains a meaningful spiritual symbol, mediation cushions or low seats, adjustable lighting, uncluttered pale walls, and art related to the spiritual path or discipline followed. The altar on which statues, pictures or representations of gods, saints or spirits are displayed may also hold tea lights, candles or lamps, a vase or bowl of fresh flowers, and other religious objects, relics or tokens from nature -- a quartz stone, a handful of acorns, a found feather. You need room in front of the altar for seated meditation, bowing, dancing or playing an instrument, or whatever activity is part of your worship. A sound system for music, chants or guided meditations may enhance your practice.
Hindu Pooja Room
A temple room for performing daily pooja is ideally situated in the northeast section of the house, on the ground floor but not below it, and never near a bathroom. The altar is placed in the west so you can face east for worship and meditation. The door should have a threshold to differentiate the room from the rest of the house. Light yellow, powder blue or white walls and light floors reflect light in the space; a woven rug creates a comfortable surface for meditation cushions and for pranaming, or prostrating, before the altar. Every Hindu temple room must have a murti, or enlivened statue of the elephant god Ganesh, and may include favorite personal deities, such as Shiva, Krishna, Laxmi, or Durga. The altar holds statues, bowls for offerings, candles or lamps, and incense. Instead of an altar, the deities may be housed in niches set into the wall behind hinged glass-fronted doors.
Tibetan Buddhist Altars
The Tibetan Buddhist altar has a rupa, or statue of the Buddha, on the highest level. The rupa, which symbolizes the enlightened body, is accompanied by symbols for enlightened speech and mind: a scripture and a stupa -- a structure that contains Buddhist relics. The lowest level of the altar holds eight brass or silver bowls, lined up for traditional offerings.The bowls contain pure water or, in separate bowls, real or symbolic offerings of flowers, incense, water for drinking, a candle for light, water for washing or purifying, scented oils or perfume, and food. Additional offerings might include some form or suggestion of music and a piece of cloth, such as silk or fine linen, to represent the clean clothes that are a sign of honor worn by each devotee as he comes before the altar. The Buddha statue is always higher than the head of the worshipper.
In Chinese culture, an altar or temple room dedicated to honoring the spirits of departed ancestors may be set up in a special shrine, burial place or your home. In a home, reserve a peaceful, well-ventilated space where the altar is placed against a wall. The exact location can be determined by a key ancestral birth date, if possible, but it should avoid areas that may collect negative chi, such as near a bathroom or bedroom door, a staircase or a fireplace. The altar itself is typically two or three tiers and holds a statue of the family's main deity -- Quan Yin, goddess of compassion, for example -- in the center of the top tier. The next tier down gets the ancestral symbols, which might be their names written in calligraphy on red paper or carved into clay tablets. An incense holder, lotus lamp or candle, flowers and offering bowls are arranged on the tiers.
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