The Term "Altar"

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The Term "Altar"

Postby theravada_guy » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:06 am

Greetings all,

Does anyone else prefer to call their place of devotion at home a "shrine" instead of an "altar"? To me, "altar" just seems associated with sacrificial worship. I know it doesn't really matter, it just seems, to me, that "shrine" fits more with the purpose of the place of devotion at home: a place to meditate, take Refuge in the Triple Gem, take the Precepts (whether five or eight, depending on the day), study, and quiet contemplation. A place of honor, rather than sacrifice. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
With metta,

Justin
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:13 am

Hi Justin
I don't think it matters what you call it.
metta

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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:15 am

I share that thought although it doesn't matter, as Ben said, because these words carry connotation difference
more than functional difference.

But, all the same, I call it a shrine and not altar.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Butrfly_Nirvana » Sat Jan 23, 2010 2:44 am

I call it an altar, but have also referred to it as my refuge. Mostly because my husband keeps inquiring "..and so you don't pray to it, right?" lol. Basically it helps to clarify it's purpose to those in my family who are not Buddhist. Plus it helps my husband to remember that when I'm found there I don't want to be disturbed--as I am trying to seek refuge from the chaos that is this house at times!
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Bankei » Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:33 am

Hmmm, did the Buddha have an altar or a shrine?
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:20 am

Bankei
Your rhetorical question is irrelevant.
We can't compare ourselves to the Buddha in this instance. While he did not have a shrine, he was the embodiment of the highest human spiritual ideal. Except for the previous Buddhas, none before or since have achieved what he has achieved, the perfect Sammasambuddha. The Buddha embodied the triple gem. Since many of us live in societies far removed from the 5th Century BCE, I think it is little wonder that many people like to have a shrine in their homes to assist them with their practice of developing all the enlightenment factors not least of all saddha.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:16 am

I rather like the idea of calling it a refuge... except that the word 'refuge' generally refers to the triplegem. Maybe calling it a 'sanctuary' would be better. I don't know. Mine is in a box and is set up before use and put away afterwards. Then again, my wife does not mind what religious practices I undertake so I could call it whatever :)

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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Butrfly_Nirvana » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:37 am

Whether you refer to it as an altar, shrine, refuge, sanctuary, etc etc...isn't the point the PURPOSE, not the name? While I understand this thread is to inquire about what others call it, it must be remembered that what is important is what is represents/mean to the practitioner. Furthermore, although Buddha may not have had an altar/shrine, he did/does encourage others to do what is right for themselves, regardless of what others do or do not do.

A bird could be called a robin, eagle, or pigeon, but are they not all "birds" as well?

ETA: In response to 'refuge' referring to the Triple Gem...it works on that level as well, since that is usually where it all "goes down" so to speak! lol
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 23, 2010 10:21 am

the two terms do denote different things, an alter is where religious ceremonies are conducted from, and a shrine is a where objects of reverence are kept, a place of reverence or spiritual significance on a permanent basis. a shrine may have an altar but an alter isn't necesarily a shrine, or guaranteed to have a shrine incorporated as it is a functional table or structure.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Re: The Term "Altar"

Postby Bankei » Sat Jan 23, 2010 10:26 am

Do you think it necessary to maintain a shrine or altar?

IN my Thai house I have a whole room set aside as a shrine room. But in Australia I have nothing.

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