Having an altar in your place of meditation can be of help. Lighting the altar candle and offering incense can have the effect of quieting in the midst of a busy day and allow for focusing the mind before meditating.
The pictures of masters on the altar are focuses of their energy and presence. They are a reminder of the stillness found within meditation.
Making the altar beautiful and joyful with flowers and incense encourages looking up within the concerns of everyday life. Let the altar be as elaborate or as simple as is appropriate to your circumstances.
The elements of an altar are: a statue, picture of a Buddha or Bodhisattva; picture of the I Am Presence; Ascended Masters; personal Guru; flowers or a plant; a candle; a water offering cup; and an incense bowl.
In the Buddhist tradition the flowers are arranged to show aspects of the Teaching: -Single flower to show the unity of all beings; -Three flowers to represent the Three Treasures; -Four flowers may represent the Four Noble Truths of Buddhas teachings; or any expression that suits your devotion.
Flowers represent the offering of our training and may reflect the season as a reminder of impermanence.
Placing candles on the altar provide soft lighting and bring the fire element for transmutation. Through devotion to God, the human consciousness is transformed into divine consciousness. The meaning of the word altar is: altering one's consciousness. Begin to meditate with the use of decrees, prayers, and affirmations. Darkness of consciousness is transmuted into the light.
A single candle can be placed on the Buddha's left side (the right-hand side facing the altar). This represents the light of the Buddha's Teaching which comes from the compassionate heart of Buddha. For safety on a small altar, a night light or candle in a votive glass works very well.
The water offering cup placed in front of the Buddha symbolizes the cleansing power of meditation that transforms greed, anger and delusion into compassion, love and wisdom. The cup is always kept full, symbolizing that the water of the spirit is always there.
The incense bowl stands in front of the water cup. This bowl should be filled with ash or sand and should be deep enough that lit sticks of incense inserted into it can stand upright. Incense is lit and offered before a meditation period or when you feel it might be useful to have a short period of recollection to ground yourself during a busy day. The incense stick can also be used to time a meditation period. A five to six inch stick takes about 30 minutes to burn down. The perfume of the incense permeates all corners of the room and thus symbolizes the power of the Teaching to reach and transform all forms of greed, hate and delusion.
Examples of Altars
Ascended Masters Jesus and Saint Germain
The I Am Presence
Mother Mary and Kuan Yin
Masters of India and the Himalayas
Guru Paramahansa Yogananda
Ma Durga Temple