Guide to setting up an Buddhist Altar


22/08/2021 |    

Master Jun Hong Lu’s
Public Talk
Sydney, Australia
5 September 2010

When paying respect to the Buddhas, offering flowers will improve your appearance, and offering oil is good for our eyesight and for gaining wisdom. Some wise people suggest children spend their pocket money in buying a bottle of oil as an offering to the Bodhisattva and to pray for more wisdom. Offering water can ease and calm our mind while also helping us eliminate greed as water doesn’t cost anything. Many people are even attached to the offerings made to Bodhisattva. A novice Buddhist practitioner will feel secure once they offer water to Bodhisattvas. Their mind will be as pure as water. Therefore, if one prays for a sense of security, it’s best to offer water. The water offered on the altar needs to be changed every day. Furthermore, offering fruit can help you to achieve what you wish at a sooner time if you pray for something specific. For example, if you pray for a smooth career path or job security, offering fruit such as oranges and apples could speed things up, so you’ll get the outcome sooner. Offering fruit makes the wishes of a kind-hearted person come true sooner. For evil people, even though they make fruit offerings, karmic retributions come due earlier, too. The severity of the karmic retributions would be reduced if they take place earlier, which is better than suffering harsh retributions at a later stage. This is the law of cause and effect.



5.5 Flower Offerings


Types of flowers that are usually offered on an altar (For reference only):

Lily, Lotus Flower, Peony, Gladiolus (Sword Lily), Narcissus, Tulip, Chrysanthemum, Carnation

Those who look dignified must have had spiritual cultivation in their previous life. Our appearance will look kind and compassionate when we offer flowers to the Buddha.

Offering flowers to the Buddha more often will smoothen our skin and make us better looking.

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

It’s good to offer lucky bamboo on the altar

Flowers such as chrysanthemums, lilies, orchids, daffodils, peonies, carnations, etc. can be offered to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Roses are not suitable for offerings due to their thorns.

You can tell whether a flower is suitable for offerings or not by its Chinese name. For example, flowers such as peach blossoms or Japanese morning glories are not suitable offerings.

Do not place potted plants with soil on Buddhist altars.

Sunflowers are not suitable to be used as offerings.


Number of flowers

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

In general, when offering lucky bamboo, place one vase on each side of the altar. It is fine to offer one, two, or three stems of lucky bamboo in each vase, but not too many. There is no quantity requirement for the offering of fresh flowers.

Wenda20110417 23:21
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Flowers offered to the Bodhisattva will be imbued with divine energy. They will improve the energy field in our home.


Best to separate lucky bamboo and lily on the altar

Wenda20160207B 10:39
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Should we place lucky bamboo and lilies in the same vase, or separate them?

Master Lu: Either way is fine, but it is best to separate them. Use different vases for lucky bamboo and other plants. Understand?


What kind of flower is more suitable to offer? The number of flower stalks should be even.

Wenda20160401 01:14:40
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Master, what kind of flower should we offer to Bodhisattva? For example, lily, orchid, water lily, lotus flower, etc. Does Bodhisattva prefer one over another?

Master Lu: Lotus flower and bamboo are okay. A famous place for Guan Yin Bodhisattva is the “Purple Bamboo Forest”. Those bamboos are lucky bamboo.

Caller: Yes. Many practitioners offer lilies. There are red, yellow and pink lilies.

Master Lu: That’s good.

Caller: Which colour is the best?

Master Lu: Yellow and white ones are better.

Caller: The amount of flower stalks on both sides should add up to an even number. But some stalks have several flowers. Should we have even number for stalks or flowers?

Master Lu: Stalks.


<Regarding the vases on the altar>

NOTE: Vases on both sides of the altar should look symmetrical and not vary in size;


Porcelain vases are best

Wenda20120527B 55:04
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Is it correct that we shouldn’t use glass or crystal vases?

Master Lu: It is best to use a porcelain vase.


Avoid using vases with characters, poems or animal patterns

Wenda20140509 01:26:48
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: If a vase has lotus flower patterns on the front and a few poems on the back, can this be placed on an altar?

Master Lu: Lotus flower patterns are okay but not poems. The poems were written by deceased people a long time ago or even in ancient times. It’s not good for an altar. (I see.)


Different kinds of flowers can be placed in one vase

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

Different types of flowers can be offered together in one flower vase.


We can use white vases for lucky bamboo

A practitioner wants to keep some lucky bamboo as decoration in the living room. What should be the colour of the vase?

Lucky bamboo is green. They go well with a white vase. White represents pureness. But don’t use transparent vases, as spirits are all transparent.


<Regarding tidying and organising flowers on an altar>

To clean up flower pollen

Wenda20120610B 45:59
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Lilies produce a lot of pollen. Can we remove the pollen?

Master Lu: Yes.

Caller: Should we remove it before offering the flowers on the altar?

Master Lu: You can clean it up after the pollen drops on the altar surface. You can prune the flower stalks too but make sure you invite the vases off the altar before doing so. After pruning, you can put them back on the altar.


The plants need to be taken off the altar before pruning

Can we remove yellowed bamboo leaves?

Yes, but you will need to invite the bamboo off the altar first. Don’t trim them while it’s on the altar. You cannot touch the items on the altar. If you have to tidy things up on the altar, you need to recite the Heart Sutra at the same time. Alternatively, you can keep apologising to Bodhisattva. Otherwise, your hands will be burnt by the incense.


Flowers on the altar need to be replaced once every week

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

Ensure the flowers or fruits offered remain fresh. They should not be left on the Buddhist altar for longer than one week. If the flowers or fruits on the Buddhist altar are not fresh, remove or replace them as soon as possible. Do not leave any wilted flowers or spoiled fruits on the Buddhist altar even if there are no immediate replacements.
Also, replace all the fruit on the offering plate. In other words, do not just remove the spoiled ones and leave the others on the plate.