Dharmavajra Centre Shrine
What is a Buddhist Shrine?
A shrine provides a physical focus for our devotion to Buddha and his teachings. A Buddhist shrine always includes an image of Buddha, which represents Buddha’s body; a Dharma text, which represents Buddha’s speech; and a Stupa, which represents Buddha’s mind.
What are Buddhist Deities and why do we have images?
In the Diamond Cutter Sutra Buddha said “Those who see me as form do not really see me”. This means that in reality Buddha is beyond all form. The real nature of Buddha is omniscient awareness fused with the ultimate nature of all phenomena. However, to connect with living beings this formless awareness manifests in many forms, such as the Deities that are represented on the shrine. We should understand that these Deities are not like different people; rather they are all aspects of omniscient awareness appearing in heavenly forms. Thus Enlightened Compassion appears as Avalokiteshvara and Enlightened Wisdom appears as Manjushri, but both are simply aspects of the Enlightenened mind.
When we pray and meditate we often visualize these Buddhist Deities in our mind’s eye and really come to feel their presence. This helps us come closer to the enlightened qualities they represent. For example, when we visualize Avalokiteshvara, pray to him and recite his mantra, we naturally find ourself becoming more compassionate. Focusing on Avalokiteshvara helps us tune into the energy of universal compassion and stimulates the growth of the seeds of compassion that lie within our own heart.
In Buddhism we do not pray mainly to ask Buddha favours. The principal purpose of Buddhist devotional practice is to gradually become Buddhas ourselves. Every living being has Buddha nature or Buddha seed – the potential to become fully enlightened. By nuturing this potential and removing all the mental faults and limitations that obstruct it, finally we can become a fully enlightened Buddha ourselves. We can picture the real nature of our mind as like the sky. At the moment it is overcast with the thick clouds of delusions and mental darkness, but through sincere spiritual practice we can gradually remove all obstructions until finally our mind becomes like a cloudless sky, infinitely clear, radiant with love and compassion for all living beings. Such a person is called a Buddha, a Fully Awakened One.
Just as the enlightened mind can manifest as form, so can it manifest as sound. Every Deity has their own mantra, which is an expression of the essential vibration of the inner quality the Deity embodies. When we recite this mantra we tune into the Deity and recieve their inspiring power.