Q: Master Lu, I would like to ask a question. The Buddhist altar in my home was set up by my mother-in-law. Originally, there was only a bronze statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva placed at the centre of the altar. Later, as she did not come here often, I was the one who made incense and water offerings. After I started learning Buddhism, I placed several images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and the Buddha on the altar.
Now I am planning to keep just one picture of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and one picture of Shakyamuni Buddha on the altar, and invite all the other images off the altar. How should I go about it?
- If you have already made incense offerings to the statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, it is best that you continue praying to the statues. It is best not to invite them to come down from the altar, as it is very disrespectful.
- As a general rule, you should not casually invite statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas to come down from the altar. In your case, if you have too many images of the same Buddha or Bodhisattva, it is still recommended that you continue praying to them as usual. Do not casually make changes to your altar as it is very disrespectful.
However, if you insist on inviting them to come down from the altar, you need to recite at least 7 to 21 Little Houses for each statue or image. Address them to the “Karmic Creditor of the house of <full name of the occupant>”.
At the same time, for each statue or image, you should recite the Great Compassion Mantra 7 times, the Heart Sutra 7 times, and the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance 7 times. Before reciting them, you should say: “Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva for helping me <your full name> and my family in the past. Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva. Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva”.
You must not say, “Please come down from the altar, XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva”. In addition, be mindful that after inviting the statues or images down from the altar, you will definitely have trouble.
- It is best to wrap these images in a piece of red fabric, and take them to a temple and give them to other people.
- Moreover, if you have dreams or simply realise that foreign spirits have entered the statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas on your altar, you need to recite 21 Little Houses, and address them to the “Karmic Creditor of the house of <your full name>”. Then you can continue to pray and make incense offerings.
- In the case of a statue or image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva being broken or damaged, you need to recite the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance 49 times and 21 Little Houses addressed to the karmic creditor of the house of <your full name>. Then you need to replace the stature or image with a new one as soon as possible, and wrap the damaged one properly and bring it to a temple.