Q: Dear Master Lu, how do we invite the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the Buddhist altar in our homes? How can we bless the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on our own? Is there anything we should take note of afterwards?
- If you are following Master Lu’s Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door to cultivate your mind and practise Buddhism, it is best to invite a statue or an image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva to the Buddhist altar in your home. At the same time, we must respect all religions, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and all spiritual beings.
As for the selection of statue or image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva, it is better to choose a porcelain statue in a standing posture, holding the purification vase and the willow branch. Avoid those that contain images of dragons or other auspicious creatures.
It is also recommended that you select a new statue or image that has not been blessed. You can bring the statue or image home and perform the ceremony on your own to invite Bodhisattva to enter the statue. Nevertheless, it is better to have Master Lu, or other esteemed, knowledgeable and greatly virtuous Buddhist monastics or lay Buddhist practitioners bless the statue or image for you.
- You can go to a Buddhist shop to select a statue or image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. If you favour a particular statue or image, or if you feel that the statue or image of Bodhisattva is smiling at you, then you should select that statue or image. Otherwise, you can also print the image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva of the Guan Yin Citta Centre in colour and frame it.
- In most cases, if you have not attained a great spiritual state, you do not possess the ability to bless statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas yourself. However, you can still invite Guan Yin Bodhisattva to enter the statue or image on your altar. You can choose to do so on an auspicious day such as the 1st or 15th day of the lunar month, and pick an auspicious time such as 6am or 8am (or 4pm if it is not possible in the morning). Find an ideal place to set up your altar. After you have invited the statue or image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva to the altar, you can make offerings of water, fruit, oil, and incense.
It is best to make incense offerings with three incense sticks. Join your palms together and raise the incense sticks slightly above your head, and bow to Guan Yin Bodhisattva 3 times. After you place the incense sticks into the incense burner in front of the statue or image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva, you can say the following prayer: “I sincerely invite the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva to perform miracles, and enter the sacred <statue or image> offered by me, <your full name>”. You should then recite the Great Compassion Mantra 7 times and the Heart Sutra 7 times, and then kneel and make 3 full bows. The more recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra and the Heart Sutra you do, the better the result.
- Before beginning your recitation, you can say your prayers to Guan Yin Bodhisattva. For example, you can sincerely pray to Guan Yin Bodhisattva for protection and blessings, and to grant your family safety and harmony. You can also make vows such as paying respect to Guan Yin Bodhisattva twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, etc. Ensure that your incense sticks are burning during the entire recitation process.
- After you have invited the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas onto your altar, avoid touching them unless necessary. In general, you are not required to clean the statues or images frequently. If too much dust has accumulated, you may gently clean it with a new piece of dry cloth during the daytime. Recite the Heart Sutra while cleaning.
If you ever need to relocate the statues or images, you should first make an incense offering, and tell Buddhas and Bodhisattvas about the relocation. Then you should recite the Great Compassion Mantra 3 times, and the Heart Sutra 3 times. After the incense has completely finished burning, you can relocate the statues or images (during the daytime) while reciting the Heart Sutra.
- If you are out of town on a business trip and nobody can offer incense in your home, then leave the altar uncovered and offerings untouched. Make offerings of fresh water, fruit and flowers before you leave. You may choose not to offer fruit and flowers if you will be away for a long period of time. During the time you are away from home, you should offer the “Heart Incense” (visualise yourself making incense offerings), and pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in your home twice a day— once in the morning and once at night.
- If you will be staying at a particular place away from home for an extended period of time, you may take a photo of the Buddhist altar in your home. You can print the picture, frame it, and set it up at your temporary residence for praying. You can later pack the framed photo and offering utensils when you need to go back home.