Butsudan - The Buddhist Shrine


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a Butsudan [仏壇] is literally a “Buddhist altar”, a shrine commonly found in temples and homes in Japan. It usually contains a number of subsidiary religious accessories, called butsugu, such as chandeliers, incense burners, bells and platforms for placing offerings like fruit , tea or rice.

Some Buddhist sects place the ihai memorial tablets, ashes of the deceased to deceased relatives inside or near the butsudan. The defined space that the butsudan occupies is referred to as Butsuma.

The butsudan arrangement

A butsudan is a defined platform, often ornamented or simply a wooden cabinet sometimes created with doors that attach and protect a religious icon or Gohonzon, usually a statue or painting of a buddha or bodhisattva, or a calligraphic mandala scroll.

If there are used doors, the sanctuary enshrines the Gohonzon icon during the observances religious and closes after use. In case there is no door, a sheet of brocade or white cloth is sometimes placed to render its sacred space.

Butsudan - o santuário budista

Meaning of Butsudan in Japanese culture

Traditional Japanese beliefs associate this shrine with a Buddha house, the Bodhisattva and the deceased relatives consecrated within it. In some Buddhist sects, when this sanctuary is replaced or repaired by the family, a restoration ceremony follows.

The shrine is commonly seen as an essential part of the life of a traditional Japanese family, as it is the center of spiritual faith within the family, especially in dealing with the death of family members or reflecting on the life of the ancestors.

This is more frequent in many rural areas, where it is common for most households to have a butsudan, in contrast to urban and suburban areas, where the rate of tenure is less frequent.

This is really unique to Japan. No other Buddhist country participates in this practice (except for some Mongols). Because there are so many temples in other Asian countries, people do not need to make altars in their homes. Shinto also has a similar sanctuary called Kamidana. This sanctuary is usually a miniature hanging from a Shinto temple.

Where to buy a Butsudan?

Unfortunately for those who live abroad they need to use the internet to buy a butsudan altar. To finish the article I will leave a list of related products on the Ebay website for you to take a little look: