no place to hide (rearranging the shrine room)

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Acharya Kaspalita (temple host) 10 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #3050

    Rearranging the shrine room & no place to hide

    Until last week on entering our shrine room two rows of chairs and two rows of cushions would be between you and the main shrine. Shakyamuni Buddha, golden and standing in the centre of our tall Georgian windows was caged by the furniture.

    Shakyamuni stands on the main shrine, in the east of the shrine room. The sun rises and streams through those big windows behind him and our morning services are filled with the most amazing light..

    In the west we have an Amida shrine. Amida sits on a beautiful peacock chest that Sahishnu bought back from India. It’s appropriate that the Amida shrine is in the west, as in the Larger Pure Land Sutra, the Pure Land is described as being many millions of miles to the west.

    And yet the Amida shrine has felt overlooked, ironically, in a Pureland Buddhist temple. The chairs point to the east, where the big windows are, and we have sat with our backs to Amida. You might say that it’s good to know Amida Buddha has your back – and there is something in that. You might also say its bad form to turn your back on any shrine, but there are Buddha’s all over the place in our temple, so you are always facing one Buddha, and facing away from another – there are Buddhas all around!

    For a while I’d been wondering how to include the Amida shrine more appropriately. I’d noticed that question coming to me more powerfully recently, since Kris has started making flower offerings on the Amida shrine.

    I’d even had some sense of how to lay out the room. In our ordination ceremonies we sit with our backs to the side walls, facing inwards, leaving a clear space between Shakyamuni in the east and Amida in the west. We place a long white cloth between the two shrines, representing the path in Shan Tao’s analogy – with Shakyamuni urging us onward, and Amida calling to us, we walk the white path to the Pureland, from east to west. I imagined this layout could serve us more regularly.

    If I’d been having these thoughts for a while, what had been stopping me?  My own shyness and my worries about what other people might think. Worrying about what other people think can be used in the service of the dharma, when it becomes empathy and care for others experience. It can also be used in the service of the ego – in my case serving the part of me that wants to please everyone for my own good, and often leads me to doing nothing at all.

    Some of this ego-worry seems to have dropped away recently, which is making life much easier at the moment. If I don’t have to please everyone (which means doing an impossibly perfect job) then I can actually do something.

    I could have forced my way thought that worry, by force of will power, but I suspect that in doing that I would have to work myself up into a different ego position, one where I was right and damn the consequences.

    Yesterday, something became ready, the worry had gone, and I was able to move around the chairs and cushions and consider how this might be for others without that stifling my creative and best-interests-at-heart impulse. I rearranged out the room, tried sitting out in a few different places, and then I invited Satya in to get some feedback from her. We did some fine tuning, and then were ready to experience practice in the new space.

    Satya was leading evening service last night, and she shared some of her own initial mixed feelings about walking into the shrine room and seeing the different arrangement. I hope this naming of her own feelings allowed everyone to feel okay about their own experience.

    Dharmavidya says that the Buddha diagnosed conceit as the cause of human suffering: pretending to be something that we are not. Hiding from ourselves. That means noticing our disappointments as well as what pleases us.

    In the new arrangement it’s harder to hide – there is no ‘back row’ to sit on. For some people this might be a little edgy, but the path of the Buddhist is the path away from hiding. It is the path of holding the Buddha in mind, knowing that you are loved — just as you are.

    I don’t think Satya was the only person to have mixed feelings when they walked through the door, but after service the feedback was very good. Personally I love the clear space between the two shrines now. I’m reminded of the opening of the Larger Pure Land Sutra, when Ananda notices the Buddha’s radiance and asks the Buddha if he is communing with the other Buddhas.” Yes!” the Buddha says, “and particularly with Amida”. In that moment Shakyamuni glows with the light of Amida, and now that is true in our shrine room as well.

    Namo Amida Bu

  • #3055

    From JulesPage, in response to my words.

    Presence Represented

    (for Kaspa)


    When you face forward

    There is always something

    Or someone behind you


    Even in your most private spaces

    The emotional traces

    Jockey for position


    Some treasures are hidden

    So we rearrange our thoughts

    To try and gift light of day


    With mounting bad and sad news

    I see the Good News outlet

    Where there is no hiding


    Everyday heroes who just believe

    That doing the right thing is as

    Easy as crossing the street to help


    Rather than closing one’s eyes – failing

    To act for the faults that attempt to define

    Those who have fallen – be there


    There is “No need to hide” –

    From asking for or being recognized

    For the gift of the present self


    So, rearrange thoughts or furniture

    Inhale the good, and in all languages

    recite the mantra of Lovingkindness



  • #3060

    Vajrapala Moerman

    Looks very nice!!! It looks more like a circle with the Buddha’s in between. With the priest in the middle off the room ? It is as we too could better communicate with the Buddha’s in this way … being together, sharing the temple together, grateful for the grace that we recieve, Namo Amida Bu

  • #3061

    Peter Adamson

    It looks good to me Kaspa. Obviously you should include the Amida buddha as fully as possible in the shrine room.
    Da iawn, as we say in wales.

    • #3076

      Hi @vajrapalamoerman, yes much more like a circle. The priests are also in the circle, sitting next to the peacock chest – at the back of the room, looking towards the main shrine. You can see my bench and Satya’s red cushion in the second photo.

      Thanks, Peter. Namo Amida Bu.

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