Home altars


Maybe you have had an altar for a long time, or perhaps one is just coming together now.


Jintei Roshi teaches, "All Altars are a reflection of our practice. All Altars are Buddha’s Altar."


Altars should have two elements: 1) A symbol of Buddha. This is usually a statue, although it can be another representation. 2) Our offering. This is usually light and something that will die, such as a flower arrangement.


Sharing a photo of your home altar with the sangha is a way to encourage each other and learn from each other. If you haven't yet, please share your home altar. Email a photo and words to the Ino  to add an image of your home altar to this gallery.


All things are subject to change.
合掌 (gasshō)



Shinkyoho Rachel



Meditating Buddha. Various stones that I have collected over the years with special meaning. A bamboo plant given to me that I thought was dead, but came back beautifully. A pin I received after completing the recovery program at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission, and my recovery chips thereafter.






This picture of a sculpture of the head of the Buddha is from Thailand, though it lives in the V&A Museum in London, where I see it when I am there. I hadn't realized until now, but the other things on my altar are gifts from people I love who are far away (Laurie), or dead (my mum), or very ill (Lance).




This altar is composed of several nonsentient beings expressing the way. 
The Buddha was a gift from my teacher and sangha. I do not have words for the trust and encouragement received that day.

Buddha's seat is a brick from a building that was demolished that once housed the PATS center. It was a glorious magnet program that was sort of like Hogwarts in real life. Every Friday in 6-8th grade I went to this school along with other weirdos and eccentrics from several other district schools, public and private. We got to sign up for our own curriculum and had classes like film photography, architecture, marine biology, game theory, calculus, garment construction, improvisational theatre, programming, sculpture, creative writing, anatomy & physiology, and environmental ecology all taught by specialists and subject matter experts. It was very hard work and was the only place I ever really felt like myself before I found Ashland Zen Center. 

To Buddha's right is a chestnut from the 2019 Rohatsu Mujo Seppo teaching.
In front is a birthday candle from that same sesshin. It reminds me of the gratitude I received from the sangha for making the big effort to be there. That was all very embarrassing and it makes me smile to be embarrassed about being loved and reminds me that the effort I make affects other people. 
In front of that is my first son's first tooth. 
To Buddha's left is a rock from a spot in Ashland Creek that I ran to during Buddha's birthday in 2004 while throwing a fit about my practice. I won't ruin the next part by making it into a story but I went back to my cushion and am grateful for that spot.
This Quan Yin on a turtle watches the bodhisattvas at AZC wash dishes. I'm sure the turtle has some ancient asian symbolism, but it delights me because of this story: 

After a lecture on cosmology and the structure of the solar system, the philosopher William James was accosted by a little old lady.

"Your theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and the earth is a ball which rotates around it has a very convincing ring to it, Mr. James, but it's wrong. I've got a better theory," said the little old lady.

"And what is that, madam?" inquired James politely.

"That we live on a crust of earth which is on the back of a giant turtle."

Not wishing to demolish this absurd little theory by bringing to bear the masses of scientific evidence he had at his command, James decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see some of the inadequacies of her position.

"If your theory is correct, madam," he asked, "what does this turtle stand on?"

"You're a very clever man, Mr. James, and that's a very good question," replied the little old lady, "but I have an answer to it. And it's this: The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him."

"But what does this second turtle stand on?" persisted James patiently.

To this, the little old lady crowed triumphantly,

"It's no use, Mr. James—it's turtles all the way down!"

Dharma Gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.


The books I have been reading for the past few years have mostly been winners of the Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature. “The Cat Who Went to Heaven” won this award in 1931. The story is set in ancient Japan and it was a breakthrough introduction to Zen Buddhism for children of the western world. I easily let go of the few areas I thought were inaccurate.


After telling another cat lover about this book and how much I valued it and my Zen Buddhist practice, she sent me this wooden Buddha Cat sitting in Zazen. She hand painted it herself.


As we now go through our AZC book study about what a Bodhisattva is, I have come to believe the role of the cat in this story was that of a Bodhisattva.


This Buddha-Cat statue, along with other highly valued objects, has been on my window sill since last winter. This is my special place of peace. I often look at it and the mountains, sky and stars out my window then reflect on being my “best me”.


“Aciu jums visiems” (Thank you all,,, in my mother’s language)




My home alter includes a Buddha statue that is Thai and a gift to Marvin from a good friend of his.  The incenser is an antique from my fathers family.


Etsuho Barbara

Ninsho Eileen



There is a Buddha at the center of the altar. At equidistance on either side of the Buddha are some flowers and a candle. In front of the Buddha is an incense holder and burning incense. Behind the altar is a blockprint of Avalokitasvara.


Zennen Leslie


My home altar has a variety of pieces that encourage me in daily practice. A stone buddha, items from my Jukai ceremony such as the framed precepts, the list of ancestral lineage (Kechimiyaku), the paramitas,  the naming paper prepared by my teacher for the ceremony,  a candle, a picture of a priest's robe on the Jizo altar at the Zen Center from Dakudo Mike's ordination and a bell for zazen.  It is a draped shelf with storage underneath for incense, my Oryoki eating bowls, and a wooden box to keep a variety of practice-related cards, correspondences, and photographs.


Jikishi Leslie




My altar is in a multipurpose room where (before COVID19) I met with counseling clients.  I still use the room to have virtual meetings (with AZC and clients) to work on my desktop (which lately includes 2-4 hours a day of Sierra Club texting) to watch the news with my husband and sometimes to meditate (if not outdoors).  The altar helps me remember to set intention and dedicate merit.    While facing the altar, I sometimes  do three prostrations before and after an activity.  The altar is immediately visible to anyone entering the room.  When I met there with clients in person, the altar encouraged us to set intention for the counseling session (What are we practicing together in this session?) as opposed to only setting a goal (What do you hope to take from this session?).   When I met with clients in person, those clients who had mediation practices and sanghas of their own sometimes commented on the windowsill altar.  Others probably just saw it as ornamental, but perhaps it contributed to their feedback about the office being a peaceful place.


Chudo Joan


Kakuga Cyndi and Dakudo Mike


Medicine Kannon, Buddha and the Paramitas with offerings of flowers, light and incense.


Tendo Stacy and Kigetsu Ramana

All Altars are a reflection of our practice.

All Altars are Buddha’s Altar.

Please share your home altar with the sangha! Email a photo and words to the Ino.



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