The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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It is a common custom for people to offer gifts and tokens to other as an expression of their love, appreciation or veneration. Similarly, the making of offerings at the shrine in the home or temple is a way of expressing one’s appreciation and veneration for the Triple Gem. A Buddhist offer to the Triple Gem only those things the he consider to be pleasant, pure or valuable. Some of the usual offerings at the shrine include light in form of lighted candles, oil lamp or even electric lights. Additional offerings may consists of flowers, incense, fruit, water and food.
Light symbolises wisdom as contrasted to darkness which symbolises ignorance. Thus the offering of light to the Triple Gem reminds a Buddhist that the goal of Enlightenment is attained when wisdom drives away the darkness of ignorance.
The flowers which are offered at the shrine are fresh, fragrant and beautiful at the time when they are placed before an image but will soon become withered, scentless and discoloured. The offering of flowers reminds the Buddhist of the impermanence of things, an important teaching of the Buddha.
When incense is lit, it fragrance fills the air. This is like the spreading of the purifying effect of wholesome conduct. So offering incense, a Buddhist not only express his veneration for the Triple Gem but also reminds himself of the practice of Good Conduct.
We do not make offering because the Buddha needs our offerings. When someone has purified all defilements and enjoyed the bliss that come from wisdom, he/she certainly does not need an incense stick to be happy! Neither do we made offering to win Buddha favour. The Buddha developed impartial love and compassion long ago and will not be swayed by flattery and bribery like ordinary beings! Making offering is a way to create positive potential and to develop our mind.