Meet the Buddhas
A Guide to the KMC Fort Lauderdale Shrine
Modern Kadampa Buddhist shrines
Every Kadampa Center has a shrine. It provides a focus for our faith, serving as a continual reminder of the Buddhas through whose kindness living beings have the opportunity to attain permanent inner peace and the supreme happiness of enlightenment.
• The statues in a shrine represent Buddha’s body
• The Dharma books represent Buddha’s speech
• The stupas represent Buddha’s mind
These representations of Buddha’s body, speech and mind are so blessed that, even if we have no faith, just seeing them blesses our mind. A modern Kadampa Buddhist shrine includes representations of four enlightened holy beings known as the Four Kadampa Guru Deities – Buddha Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, Arya Tara and the Wisdom Dharma Protector.
Kadampas sincerely rely upon Buddha Shakyamuni because Buddha is the source of Kadam Lamrim; they sincerely rely upon Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, and upon the Wisdom Dharma Protector, indicating that their main practice is compassion and wisdom; and they sincerely rely upon Arya Tara because she promised Atisha that she would take special care of Kadampa practitioners in the future.
“One of the best methods to increase our faith in the Buddhas and to receive their blessings is to gaze at an image of a Buddha again and again, regarding it as an actual Buddha who is supremely kind to all living beings. By viewing images of Buddhas in this way, it is as if we are opening a window in our mind through which the blessings of the holy beings can enter. This special way of viewing Buddha images is based on wisdom, not ignorance, and functions to increase our faith and receive blessings.”
– Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Eight Steps to Happiness
Tour the modern Kadampa shrine at the International Kadamapa Retreat Center Grand Canyon.
Buddha Shakyamuni is the fourth of one thousand founding Buddhas who will appear in this world during this Fortunate Eon, and the founder of Buddhism in this world. He is the principal object of refuge for all Buddhists. He is holding a begging bowl filled with three nectars indicating that he has conquered the “demons” of uncontrolled death, a contaminated body and mind, and delusions, and is touching the ground indicating his power to subdue all negative forces.
4-armed Avalokiteshvara, embodies the universal compassion of all Buddhas. His first two hands pressed together at his heart symbolize respect for his Spiritual Guide, and hold a jewel symbolizing his own enlightenment. His second left hand holds a white lotus flower, symbolizing his complete purity of body, speech and mind; and his second right hand holds a crystal mala, symbolizing that he can free all living beings from samsara.
Green Tara, the female Buddha of active compassion who, as the manifestation of the ultimate wisdom of all the Buddhas, is known as the ‘Mother of the Conquerors’. She is also known as the ‘Great Liberator’ who pacifies all sickness, poverty, misfortune, fighting and quarrelling, and causes the Dharma and all good fortune to flourish.
Manjushri, the Wisdom Buddha. His right hand holds a wisdom sword symbolizing his wisdom cuts through ignorance. His left, the stem of an upala flower that supports the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, indicating that by relying on Manjushri we can develop the wisdom eye understanding the entire meaning of Buddha’s Perfection of Wisdom Sutras.
Dorje Shugden is a Buddha appearing in a protecting aspect, whose main functions are to avert inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from gaining spiritual realizations, and to arrange all the necessary conditions for their spiritual development. The Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri.
Prajnaparamita – the manifestation of Buddha’s perfection of wisdom – holds a vajra and a scripture of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Her remaining two hands are in the mudra of meditative equipoise. Her hands teach us that through training in meditation on the perfection of wisdom we can accomplish the higher perfection of wisdom, the union of great bliss and emptiness, through which we can attain enlightenment very quickly.
The Healing Buddha functions to release living beings from outer and inner sickness. His body of blue wisdom light indicates that he is an emanation of the healing power of all the Buddhas; his hands hold a bowl filled with medicinal nectar and a medicinal plant. Through relying upon Medicine Buddha with faith we develop a special power of body, speech and mind, which we can use to help others through healing actions.
Buddha Vajrapani is a Tantric enlightened being who bestows special power on our body and mind. Through receiving his blessings we will develop the inner strength to overcome our daily problems and sufferings, and to eliminate our delusions, especially our self-grasping ignorance.
Vajradhara, the founder of Vajrayana Buddhism, or Tantra, and the source of all the Tantric teachings. He is the same mental continuum as Buddha Shakyamuni but displays a different aspect. Buddha Shakyamuni appears in the aspect of an Emanation Body, and Buddha Vajradhara appears in the aspect of an Enjoyment Body.
White Tara is an enlightened being whose function is to bestow long life, wisdom and good fortune. If we rely upon her with faith, she will protect us from contagious diseases, the dangers of fire, and other disasters, as well as from untimely death. Ultimately she will guide us to the deathless state of Buddhahood.
Amitayus – the Buddha of long life, wisdom, and merit – has a red-colored body and sits with his two hands in the gesture of meditative equipoise, holding a vase filled with nectar of immortality. Amitayus is the Enjoyment Body aspect of Buddha Amitabha. He is seated on a throne supported by peacocks indicating his connection with Buddha Amitabha.
Maitreya is the Buddha of loving-kindness. His hands are in the gesture of teaching Dharma, holding two lotuses symbolizing his omniscient wisdom. The lotus on his right supports the Wheel of Dharma and the vase on his left is filled with life-giving nectars. On his crown is a stupa symbolizing his Spiritual Guide, Buddha Shakyamuni.
Vajrasattva, the Buddha of purification, the manifestation of the minds of all the Buddhas, appears specifically to purify the negativities of living beings. He is the same nature as Buddha Vajradhara, differing only in aspect.
1,000 Armed Avalokiteshvara
1,000 Armed Avalokiteshvara embodies the universal compassion of all enlightened beings. He has eleven faces—the ten faces of his emanations of the ten directions and the face of his root Guru Buddha Amitabha—indicating he benefits living beings through countless emanations. His thousand arms indicate he is the synthesis of the thousand Buddhas of this Fortunate Eon. The eye in each palm indicates that he watches over and cares for infinite living beings.
Heruka, an enlightened Deity of Highest Yoga Tantra, is the manifestation of the compassion of all Buddhas. He is the embodiment of the union of the very subtle blissful mind and emptiness, the ultimate nature of all things—the way things actually exist, symbolized by his embracing Vajravarahi. The various aspects of his body reveal the basis we need to abandon, the spiritual path that we need to practice, and the result that we need to accomplish.
Vajrayogini, a female enlightened Deity of Highest Yoga Tantra. She is standing on worldly deities demonstrating that she has destroyed attachment, hatred and ignorance. Her body is in the nature of the perfection of wisdom of all the Buddhas, and her five adornments are the other five perfections of all the Buddhas.
Meet the Buddhas
The Lineage of Modern Kadampa Buddhism
In the word Kadampa, ‘Ka’ refers to Buddha’s teachings and ‘dam’ refers to Atisha’s instructions on Lamrim (the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, also known as Kadam Lamrim). ‘Kadam’ therefore refers to the union of Buddha’s teachings and Atisha’s instructions, and sincere practitioners of Kadam Lamrim are called Kadampas.
Buddha Shakyamuni (circa 450 BC)
Buddha Shakyamuni is the founder of the Buddhist religion. Buddha is the fourth of one thousand founding Buddhas who are to appear in this world during this Fortunate Aeon. The first three were Krakuchchanda, Kanakamuni, and Kashyapa. The fifth Buddha will be Maitreya.
Atisha is the great Buddhist Master and scholar who founded the Kadampa tradition and who re-established Buddhism in Tibet. He composed and taught Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the first text written on the stages of the path, Lamrim.
Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419)
Je Tsongkhapa was a great Tibetan Buddhist Master who showed how to combine the practices of Sutra and Tantra. He was an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri – indicated by the Wisdom Sword to his left and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra to his right. His tradition later became known as the new Kadampa Tradition.
Je Phabongkhapa (1878-1941)
Phabongkha Rinpoche was a great Tibetan Lama who was an emanation of Heruka. Phabongkha Rinpoche was the holder of many lineages of Sutra and Secret Mantra. He was the root Guru of Yongdzin Trijang Dorjechang (Trijang Rinpoche).
Trijang Rinpoche (1901-1981)
Trijang Rinpoche was a special Tibetan Lama of the twentieth century who was an emanation of Buddha Shakyamuni, Heruka, Atisha, Amitabha, and Je Tsongkhapa. Also known as `Trijang Dorjechang’ and `Losang Yeshe’.
Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche (1931-2022)
Venerable Geshe Kelsang was a fully accomplished Buddhist Master and internationally renowned Teacher, and founder of the New Kadampa Tradition. He is the author of 21 highly acclaimed books that transmit perfectly the ancient wisdom of Buddhism to our modern world, and established Kadampa Meditation Centers and Temples throughout the world. (read more…)
Tour a Kadampa Shrine
How to Set up a Shrine
Making Offerings to the Buddhas
In The New Eight Steps to Happiness Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso writes “the success of our meditation depends upon our making six preparations. Just as we need to prepare carefully for an examination or a dinner party if it is to be a success, so we need to prepare carefully for meditation if we are to experience good results.“
One of the six preparatory practices we do daily at KMC Fort Lauderdale is arrange suitable offerings to the Buddhas. We make these beautiful offerings on our Center shrine. Many Kadampa Buddhists also keep personal shrines and make these same offerings at home each day.
Begin by making three prostrations, and then say the prayers for going for refuge and generating Bodhichitta.
Going for Refuge
I and all sentient beings, until we achieve enlightenment,
Go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (3x)
Through the virtues I collect by giving and other perfections,
May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all. (3x)
May the whole ground become completely pure
As level as the palm of my hand and as smooth as lapis lazuli
May all of space be filled with offerings from gods and men
Both set out and imagined like offerings of the all-good one.
Tea for Venerable Geshe-la
Next, make Geshe-la a cup of tea. His tea is under the sink in the ritual preparation room. Venerable Geshe-la once said he liked lapsang souchong, but any delightful tea made with love would please him. He does not take milk.
Water Bowl Offerings
Three Sets of Seven bowls are made daily in front of Je Tsongkhapa, Buddha Shakyamuni, and Dorje Shugden. In general, we make offerings to Buddha not because Buddha needs something from us but because of the opening and enriching effect offering has on our heart. While physically pouring the water with great care and respect, mentally we imagine we offer much more than water.
1st bowl – we imagine we are offering nectar for drinking to all the Buddhas
2nd bowl – we offer water to wash their feet
3rd bowl – we offer flowers
4th bowl – we offer incense
5th bowl – we offer countless forms of light such as candles, jewels, stars, the sun and moon
6th bowl – we annoint their body with perfume
7th bowl – we offer a great banquet of food and drink
(Note – during our pujas (chanted prayers) we make an eighth offering – music – but this is not normally represented as a water offering.)
1. Take a bucket from the ritual preparation room, along with a designated shrine towel
2. Empty the water currently filling the bowls on the shrine and wipe the bowls of excess water
3. Empty the bucket outside along the side door as an offering to the hungry spirits
4. Fill the pitchers in the kitchen with water
5. Before filling the bowls make sure they are lined up straight. They should be close, about a grain of rice space between.
6. Pour the water into the bowls from left to right. The water levels should be even and filled about a finger width from the top of each bowl.
7. Use the shrine cloth to wipe away any spills
With my body, speech and mind, humbly I prostrate,
And make offerings both set out and imagined.
I confess my wrong deeds from all time,
And rejoice in the virtues of all.
Please stay until samsara ceases,
And turn the Wheel of Dharma for us.
I dedicate all virtues to great enlightenment.
Additional gifts are prepared and offered on the shrine each month as a request to the Buddhas to bless our minds. You can offer flowers, chocolates, gifts, and anything beautiful! The jewel offerings on our shrine represent light offerings.
Making Offerings to the Buddhas
Offerings to the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden
Substance Offerings to Dorje Shugden
Traditionally five food offerings are made to the Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden, each day: alcohol, tea, cakes, milk and curd. We also offer the Serkyum, which means “golden nectar”. This is usually in the form of tea and is the taller offering to the far left.
To prepare the offerings, gather the following items:
• Alcohol (kept in the kitchen fridge shelf marked offerings) extra in lower cabinet opposite the fridge
• Tea (kept in the cupboard below the sink in the ritual prep room)
• Teapot (kept in the ritual prep room)
• Cake/Cookies (kept in the kitchen fridge shelf marked offerings)
• Milk (kept in the kitchen fridge shelf marked offerings)
• Curd/yoghurt (kept in the kitchen fridge shelf marked offerings)
• Fill each glass with each substance about a finger width from the top of the glass
• To ensure the tea isn’t so hot that it breaks the glassware, fill the two tea offerings (in the picture – the glass containing the “golden drink” and the glass containing tea) about 1/3 of the way with cool water
• Place the items in front of Dorje Shugden in the following order: Serkyam containing the golden drink – far left, and the five food offerings: alcohol, tea, cakes, milk and curd
Making Offerings to the Buddhas
A torma offering is a special offering of cake made in order to gain spiritual attainments. We can offer normal cakes, or if we want them to last longer we can make special cakes in symbolic forms. The tormas on the shrine at KMC Fort Lauderdale will be made of marzipan. We make special torma offerings for other special ritual prayers.
The Eight Auspicious Symbols
Symbols of the Spiritual Path
Inside all of the Kadampa World Peace Temples, as well as decorating many Kadampa centers throughout the world, are the Eight Auspicious Symbols. These symbols show how to progress along that Buddhist path that leads to freedom from suffering and the permanent inner peace of enlightenment. It is very meaningful to memorize the profound meaning of each symbol based on Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s explanation.
The Precious Umbrella
teaches us that to progress on the path to enlightenment we should first come under the umbrella of Buddhism by going for refuge to the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The Precious Fish
symbolize peace and harmony, indicating that having come under the umbrella of Buddhism we should always maintain harmony and joy.
The Precious Vase
symbolizes wealth and encourages us to take the precious jewels of wisdom and compassion from the treasure vase of Kadam Dharma.
The Precious Lotus
symbolizes purity, encouraging us to enjoy the purity of our mind and actions.
The Precious Conch Shell
symbolizes the Dharma Jewel, encouraging us to listen to precious Dharma teachings and contemplate and meditate on their meaning.
The Precious Indestructible Knot
symbolizes Buddha’s realization of omniscient wisdom and encourages us to apply great effort to attain enlightenment.
The Precious Victory Banner
symbolizes Buddha’s abandonment of delusions and mistaken appearance and encourages us to be victorious over the enemy of our delusions.
The Precious Dharma Wheel
encourages us to benefit others by turning the Wheel of Dharma, that is, by giving Dharma teachings. This is our final goal.