Symbolism and other traditions
Buddha: A title for one who has realized the cause of life’s suffering and the way to overcome them.
Four Noble Truths: The most basic expression of Buddha’s teachings; the truth of suffering; the truth of the origin of suffering; the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the way that leads to the cessation of suffering.
Karma: Sanskrit word meaning ‘action’. The law of cause and effect in which all actions and thoughts have future consequences.
Nirvana: Liberation from suffering and samsara, in which all desire is extinguished.
Noble Eightfold Path: A detailed description of the Fourth Noble Truth. It is the basis of all Buddhist practices, which consists of: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
The Buddha Stage: The main altar displays the sutras, ceremonial instruments and offerings of respect to the Buddha. Offerings range from candles, fruits, flowers and incense. It is here that the Bathing of the Buddha is placed. The young Prince is surrounded by flowers, representing the Garden of Lumbini, where he was born.
Chanting ceremony: Sutras are used during chanting ceremonies, it is also a form of meditation and a method to cultivate wisdom or pay respect to the Buddha.
The tradition of offerings: Most Buddhist altars display some sort of offering. Making offerings allows one to practice giving, express gratitude and respect and reflect upon the life sustaining law of interdependence. A Buddhist offering is not a sacrifice; it never involves killing and it is an act of veneration for the Triple Gem. As such, making an offering develops wholesomeness and positive karma. While tangible objects may be given in abundance, the most perfect gift is an honest and sincere heart. Examples of offerings follow:
- Flower offering: Flowers are beautiful and fragrant, yet their splendour will not last forever, as such they illustrate the impermanence of all things.
- Fruit offering: Fruit is nutritious, as well as pleasing to the tastes. It represents the result of our spiritual cultivation and helps us to be mindful of the law of cause and effect.
- Grain: Grain is a basic dietary staple necessary to sustain the foundations of life.
- Incense: Aromatic incense purifies the air as well as the mind. Just as the fragrance of the incense travels afar, so do the good deeds that extend to the benefit of all. The burning of incense also embodies the transience and dissolution of phenomena.
- Light offering: Light offering are used to shine the “light of peace”, prayers (mantras) made whilst offering a candle represent the light extinguishing darkness in the same way that wisdom dispels ignorance.
- Water offering: Water signifies the force of life and washes away impurities.