Friday, May 11, 2012

Incense Burners at Buddhist Temples

One of the things I really enjoyed about visiting Japanese Buddhist temples was offering incense in the large outdoor burners that were always available for that purpose. The burner in the following photos is located at the Todai-ji Temple in Nara near Kyoto. The wooden box in front holds the incense and donations.


You throw a small coin into the wooden box through the slats on top and then take a stick of incense from the side. At some temples, they don't rely on the honour system though. You have to pay a set price (usually 100 yen -- about $1) to an attendant who then hands over a little bundle of incense.


Once the transaction is complete, you light your incense at the open flame provided and stick it in the fine white sand of the burner. People say a little prayer and presumably rely on the smoke to carry their words up to the Buddha or Bodhisattvas. As you can see, a lot of sweet-smelling smoke emanates from the incense burner. I'm sure there must be a purification aspect as well of both the sacred space and the people.


[Photos by Debra She Who Seeks]

25 comments:

Jim said...

I always loved the smell of incense as a child when I was an alter boy, and now too!

turquoisemoon said...

Ooh wow!!! At the Buddhist center, I attend, we just have incense burning, but we light candles(honor system)...If it wasn't for the smell and pictures of the Buddha and Dalai Lama, it would almost look Catholic. That bottom pic is simply beautiful...

sonia said...

I love incense. It reminds me of being a teenager, holed up in my room and listening to The Cure. : }

Robin Larkspur said...

So spiritual!

Workingdan said...

My dad used to burn incense all the time. His house reeked of it. After he died, there have been a couple times when I could smell it in my house.

I don't burn incense so I think he was there with me.

mxtodis123 said...

I've always loved incense. Hubby doesn't like it, though, so I rarely have it in the house anymore. I use scented candles instead.
Mary

Lois said...

That is lovely. Incense can give me headaches now, so I don't burn it too often, but used to all the time. I'm becoming a wimp as I grow older. I burn it outside, to cleanse the air though of my toxic neighbour! Really stinky stuff. :)

I remember in Mexico having to pay a few pesos to use the public washroom, and being handed a few squares of toilet paper...

Blueberry said...

What a beautiful structure, the sand incense burner. We also use little sand containers for both incense and candles. It's very practical (mess-wise)! :-)

Jeanne said...

The incense burner is a work of art.

mermaid gallery said...

a ritual i can relate to....really healing and hopeful.....

laurie said...

amazing, that must have been such a wonderful experience

DEZMOND said...

seems ancient!

Francie said...

Japan seems so much more spiritual than we are. Do you think it is our British heritage? Can't be just an old world/new world thing. I did notice quite a few outdoor grottos with candles burning in Bavaria but nothing similar in Britain. Anyway it must have been a wonderful experience!

Barfly said...

Cool. I bet it smells good for miles.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

What an amazing place to experience. And I love the smell of incense. My intro to it was at our community church where I grew up.

laughingwolf said...

great stuff... thx deb :)

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

I'm 68 and I still burn incense....

knitwit said...

I love incense. In my next life I'm going to travel and experience this firsthand!

CraveCute said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful traditional ritual with us. I too love the scent of incense.

Lon A. said...

These photos along with the information are absolutely superb, thank you so much for posting this post of yours!!!

Crack You Whip said...

I used to love incense. My mom burned it all of the time. Now, I can't stand anything scented...my house smells neutral.

SUZY8-TRACK said...

I really got into burning incense when I was a kid, and it is something I never outgrew. I usually buy mine in Chinatown for super cheap.

Annie said...

A lot of the world's sandalwood is endangered as they don't always re-vegetate. WA's sandalwood is now sought after because it is a sustainable industry here :) It would have to be one of the ugliest trees I've ever seen and the flowers stink to attract blowflies which spread the pollen. Seems strange for a tree that produces such aromatic oil!

Elena said...

Oh how beautiful! Ritual and burner!

Hippy Jersey Devil said...

I was visiting Canada once about 5 years ago and we stumbled upon a Buddhist Temple. We had 3 kids in tow and all went inside. The energy was amazing. I've never felt such peace inside a public building. The monks handing each of the children an orange from the altar and to say they were excited is an understatement. The Boy still talks about it to this day.