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Is it inappropriate to have shrines to people in my home?
The purpose of a Buddhist shrine or altar is to remind us of our objects of refuge—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha— and also of our potential to attain Buddhahood by actualizing the Dharma through practice. The central figure of a shrine is typically the historical Buddha Shakyamuni represented by a statue, picture or thanka of him. The Dharma he taught is represented by a Buddhist sutra, text or commentary. And the Sangha is represented by a stupa. Sometimes practitioners include photos of their main teachers on their shrine, but it is not appropriate to include photos of family, friends, pets or non-Buddhist teachers on a Buddhist shrine.
After a loved one dies, Asian Buddhists often set up a small shrine with a photo of their dear one with a few momentos in their home. Sometimes they will put a statue or picture of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha on that shrine, because this bodhisattva with compassion looks over beings born in the lower realms. This small shrine is separate from the larger altar for the Three Jewels—the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
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