Burning incense is an ancient tradition that is a part of many Buddhist rituals. It was developed in India and later brought to China, Japan and other parts of Asia.
It is often used in East Asian Buddhist rites and ceremonies, including Chinese Taoist and Japanese Shinto shrines for the deity Inari Okami, or Seven Lucky Gods.
The Meaning of Incense
Incense has a very important place in Buddhism, whether in the temples or at your own home altar. It is one of the most common rituals in many Buddhist traditions and is used in a variety of ways to honor ancestors and spirits, to purify and to clear the air for meditation and prayer.
The use of incense was developed or simultaneously furthered in India and China, and eventually spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and beyond. It plays a prominent role in East Asian Buddhist rites and ceremonies, particularly those of Chinese Taoist shrines and Japanese Shinto shrines for the deity Inari Okami, or Seven Lucky Gods.
In these rites, incense sticks are used to burn for a long time, creating a fragrant smoke that can be enjoyed by the deities and other spirits. The incense sticks are often carved into designs and scented with a variety of herbs, resins or woods to offer an array of pleasant smells to the gods and spirits.
The Symbolism of Incense
Burning incense is an important ritual in Buddhist culture. It is believed to help purify spaces and create a tranquil mood for meditation or prayer. It is also a symbol of spirituality and connection to the past.
Different Buddhist traditions have their own specific meanings and purposes for burning incense. However, it is generally agreed that incense can represent many aspects of the Buddhist faith.
In Mahayana Buddhism, for example, the fragrance of incense is said to carry a devotee’s wishes up to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It is also a reminder of the importance of ethical discipline.
It is common for Buddhists to offer incense before or during services at a temple. The specific protocol varies from tradition to tradition, but it is usually a matter of offering three sticks of incense and bowing twice while saying “Namu Amida Butsu.” Those who do not want to burn incense may simply place flower petals on the altar.
The Importance of Incense for Meditation
The burning of incense creates a sense of sanctity for meditation and helps to calm the mind. Incense is made from plant materials and produces a pleasant aroma when burned. The most common types of incense are sticks, cones and coil incense. It can be used for religious rituals and meditation or simply as a way to decorate a home.
Incense sticks are commonly used in meditation to help focus the mind. They are often used as a premeditation ritual before starting to meditate. The scents from the incense can be relaxing or stimulating depending on which type is being used.
Some incense sticks are also designed to burn for a specific amount of time and can be used as a timer to help with the meditation practice. Some are even shaped into a small cone to make them easy to hold and control. These types of incense are called time-keeper incense clocks. They are available in a variety of colors and scents.
The Importance of Incense for Performing Rituals
In many Buddhist rituals, the burning of incense is an important part of the ceremony. The scent of incense can evoke images of a Buddha or deity and is believed to help purify the mind.
Stick, cone or coil incense typically contains bamboo wood powder and fragrant/essential oils, resins, herbs and tree barks. The ingredients used in incense sticks vary based on the type of incense and brand.
Offering incense during a prayer or ritual is an essential practice for all religions that involve prayer and spiritual practices. It is also a great way to encourage the right energy for higher connection in your space. The best incense is organically grown and harvested from sustainable sources. It will burn for longer and give off more scent than incense that has been treated with chemicals. It is also healthier for you.