Wisteria Crest – Two Wisteria blossoms form a circle with two intertwining vines in the center. The flowers are symbolic of brightness and the transitory nature of life and all things. In Jodo Shinshu tradition the blossoms are seen as blooming with their heads hanging down, symbolizing humility. The Wisteria Crest is the official crest of the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji Buddhist Temples. It symbolizes humility, a welcoming heart-mind and sincere reverence to Buddha.
Wheel of Dharma (Dharmacakra) – is the symbol of Buddhism. The eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The equal length of the spokes symbolizes justice. The wheel symbolizes the all embracing Wisdom of Buddhahood, the wholeness and flow of Buddha’s teachings. The hub represents modesty and thoughtfulness. The axle is the unchanging Truth upon which the Wheel of Dharma turns.
The Buddha – Representation of a visual image of Buddha is often times a statue. A picture or a written name is also a common expression.
Fresh flowers symbolize the teaching of impermanence. Flowers placed at the altar exhibit one to the most beautiful and yet most transient of the forms of nature. They bloom to full maturity, only to wither, illustrating the transiency and sorrow of form.
The candle represents an offering and symbolizes the Light of Truth which illuminates the darkness. No one can see things in the dark, but when the light is on, everything becomes clear. In this way, the candle is a reminder that Buddha’s wisdow and compassion will show us clearly everything that is to be known about life and his light will always shine brightly to guide us through each day.
The Offering of Rice & Fruit – Since earlier times, followers wished to express gratitude to the teachings of Buddha and the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the sutras, it is said that there are two general types of expression of gratitude. One expression is spiritual expression of gratitude by reading and chanting the sutras. The other expression is a material expression of gratitude by offering rice, fruits, light, incense and water.
Gold – Gold is used for the reason that it remains untarnished with age and in a like manner, Buddha’s teaching is forever pure and untarnished.
Gong – The gong is used during the service to call attention at the beginning of a sutra chant and in dividing the sutra into portions. The sound of the gong is a reminder of the passage of time and that our existence is as transient as the sound.