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.



5.6 Offerings of Fruit


Making fruit offering more often helps fulfil your wishes sooner

Excerpt from Master Jun Hong Lu’s Dharma Talk

A caller asked me, if a person offers fruit when his retribution is due, will his retribution arrive sooner. My answer was “Yes”. Although this retribution may arrive sooner, it’s still far better than having it happen in the future as it may be more severe then.


<You can offer the following fruit>

Options for Offering Fruit

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

It’s better to offer fruit with fragrance such as apple, pomelo, orange, mandarin, mango, pineapple, watermelon and dragon fruit.


<You should avoid offering these fruit>

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

Fruit such as banana, peach and pear should not be offered to Bodhisattvas.

Offering green-coloured fruit should also be avoided.


Pears should not be offered.

Wenda 20120812A 08:52
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Pears should not be offered to Bodhisattvas as pears are less presentable. There is no need to explore this further.


Dried fruit and nuts should not be offered to Bodhisattvas.

Wenda 20130728B 32:56
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Male caller: The fruit offered to Bodhisattvas are usually fresh, can we offer nuts or dried fruit such as walnuts or dried dates?

Master Lu: No, you can’t offer dried fruit or nuts, you can only offer fresh fruit. Different offerings relate to different spiritual realms. There are many people who offer roasted suckling pig, but they have little idea what kind of spirits will be attracted. Bodhisattvas will never come if they offer such things.


Cooked dishes and rice should not be offered to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Can we offer a cooked vegetarian dish and cooked rice to Bodhisattvas? Some temples usually make such offerings.

Master Lu: Actually, it’s the scent of incense that Bodhisattvas accept, as it is something refined from energy field. There are many shrines for mountain spirits or immortals. These immortals can be Underworld officers rather than Bodhisattvas in Heaven. They are different. Regarding the vegetarian dishes, it’s not an offering to a heavenly being because vegetables and rice are materials of the Human Realm and Underworld. Different offerings relate to different realms. For example, people offer rice to the spirits in the Realm of the Hungry Ghost. The spirits there have very spindly throats, a large belly and are constantly starving. When a ritual is undertaken to feed the hungry ghosts, it’s like blowing the rice grain by grain into their belly with a pipe. They suffer intensively as they are never full.

Caller: I got it.

Master Lu: Some people think they should offer roasted suckling pig and even freshly slaughtered chicken and ducks to Bodhisattvas. How ridiculous. Imagine what kind of spirits would be attracted by such offerings.

Caller: Now I understand.


Artificial fruit can’t be placed on the altar.

Wenda 20160529B 15:44
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Can we offer artificial fruit on the altar if we have to go on a business trip and leave the house empty?

Master Lu: How about I get you some artificial fruit to eat? Can’t you offer something else on the altar if you have to be away for a while? Some fruit can last longer. You can simply ask the seller if the fruit can last for one month or three months. You would be better off not making fruit offerings on the altar than to offer artificial ones as it’s very disrespectful.


<The Fruit Arrangement>


Fruit that are offered to Bodhisattvas must be an odd number at each level when stacking them on a plate.

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q26
(An excerpt)

Question: Dear Master Lu, is there anything that we should take note of regarding the quantity of fruit that we offer to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Does it have to be an odd number?
• The quantity of fruit offered to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas should be an odd number. Specifically, the amount for each layer of fruit should be an odd number, not the total amount
of fruit.
• For example, if you offer 4 apples, place 3 apples on the bottom layer and 1 apple on the top layer, you will then have an odd number for each layer.
• It does not matter how many plates of fruit are offered.


Fruit trays on the altar can be either odd or even in number

Wenda 20110930 13:03
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: The pieces of fruit on the plate should be an odd number at each level. What about the number of plates on the altar?

Master Lu: Either an odd number or an even number will be fine.


Fruit cannot be placed on the altar without a plate.

Wenda 20120304 18:50
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Some practitioners’ altars are quite small. Can they place the fruit on the altar without a plate and take them down later one by one?

Master Lu: No, they can’t. That’s disrespectful.

Caller: Do they have to place the fruit on a plate?

Master Lu: Yes, there has to be a plate no matter how small the altar is. Let’s draw an analogy, if I serve you some rice directly on the table because I don’t have a bowl at home and the table is too small to place tableware, would you eat the rice? It’s disrespectful.


Fruit of the same kind can be placed on one plate; a mixture is not permitted.

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q42
(An excerpt)

Offer only one type of fruit on each plate. Several types of fruit should not be mixed together on a single plate.


Fruits on the altar should not be cut into slices before offering.

Wenda 20110417 13:10
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Should we wash the watermelon and pineapple and cut them into slices before offering?

Master Lu: You don’t need to cut the fruit, just place them on the altar directly. When you make offerings to Bodhisattvas, it is your sincerity that matters. Bodhisattvas will not physically eat your fruit, it’s a reception of energy field. It’s similar to offering flowers. Flowers are not edible, but you feel joyful smelling its fragrance. The joy resides in your consciousness. Watermelons are not to be cut for the Bodhisattvas to eat. Once you place the watermelon on the altar, the energy field that you exude can be received by the Bodhisattvas.


Fruit offered to ancestors should not be consumed.

Reply from the Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door Secretariat on 11 March 2016 10.41am


How should we deal with fruit offerings to the deceased?

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(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Master, generally during the Ching Ming and Zhong Yuan Festival, we will make offerings to our deceased parents at home. At the end of the ceremony, how should we handle these fruits and other consumables? Master has said before that for prayers performed at the cemetery, we can leave the offerings behind. What about those food offerings made at home, Master?

Master Jun Hong Lu: Not very good. It is best not to consume offerings made to the deceased. You aren’t able to see, and Master can’t describe to you in detail. For the deceased that have become ghosts, they will stick out their tongues …their saliva will flow down as they ‘consume’ the offerings. It’s very disgusting and yet, you still want to eat them. Go ahead if you dare to.

Caller: No, I don’t eat these offerings, Master.

Master Jun Hong Lu: Dispose it.

Caller: Alright!

Master Jun Hong Lu: You can consume offerings made to Bodhisattvas, but not those offered to the deceased.

Caller: Yes, Master.


If fruit falls on the ground, can we still offer it?

Reply from the Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door Secretariat on 26 October 2014 12.11pm

When we change the fruit on the altar and lift up the plate, the fruit on the top falls on the ground. Can we put it back to the altar after washing it? Is it proper to do so?

Dear Buddhist friend, it is inappropriate. Once the fruit falls on the ground, it cannot be offered on the altar anymore.


<The Efficacy and Purpose of Offering Fruit>


The fruit offered to Bodhisattvas will be blessed by Bodhisattvas. Eating these fruit are beneficial.

Wenda 20160619B 26:32
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Master, we usually offer some seasonal fruit such as apples, oranges and watermelons on the altar to show respect to Bodhisattvas. Can we also understand this as an expression of compassion from Bodhisattvas that they would like us to eat more fruit by offering them? Please enlighten us.

Master Lu: When you offer the fruit, you are offering them to Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas will be very happy because you have a kind heart. But Bodhisattvas won’t accept the actual fruit, they will only bless the fruit so that you can eat the blessed fruit later. How wonderful is that!

Male caller: Master, as Buddhists, should we eat fruit more often?

Master Lu: Fruit are very beneficial.


Eating offered fruit can help you take in divine energy.

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(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Master Lu: Fruit on the altar can take in Bodhisattvas’ energy and bask in the light of Buddhas, but you must take them down once they start to spoil.

Caller: After we eat the fruit offered on the altar, can we take in the divine energy and the light of Buddhas as well?

Master Lu: Of course you can. It’s best to eat the fruit that was offered. Bodhisattvas don’t eat the fruit you offer, they just form a connection with you after the offering and they are happy about such connections. Fruit are natural things. Bodhisattvas don’t swallow them physically, it’s just a kind of connection. That’s why the apples on the altar don’t disappear. When you eat the fruit, they will be blessed and the energy will be different.