The red and 24kt gold zigzag kyungbur adorning the frame is the transition of passion into compassion and the resultant Buddha like purity of actions and thoughts. This compassion is an active quality rather than mere sympathetic feelings not transformed into action. Compassion refers to action that is exactly consonant with whatever is occurring and that is not self-referential.
The top of this nicely done altar sets the tone and compliments the theme for the sides and ends. The top is exquisitely painted with an ornate classic Tse-Bum jar front and center. From the clouds behind the jar subtle energy radiates out; flanking the jar on the left is a lotus blossom and on the right is an Ashoka blossom. Tse-bum or "long-life vase"is a jar in which the "nectar of immortality" is kept; the concept is to reach enlightenment and avoid samsara, the death and rebirth cycle. The rainbowed subtle energy represents a connection to the cosmos or the mindstream. The generally acknowledged meaning of the lotus flower is purity of mind or divine creation. From the muck of a pond, where the roots of the lotus reside, an immaculate white flower emerges to rest above the surface of the water as a metaphor for the harmonious unfolding of spirituality.
The drawers on the ends have rock cliffs with kush grass growing out of them. The rock/cliff formation represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue and green cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet and is used to purify defilements. Those wishing purification sleep in a field or patch of kusha grass for ritual purification. Placed under a pillow at night before initiation, Kusha grass is believed to produce clear dreams; it is also used to enhance the clarity of visualization and meditation. Kusha is the grass of choice for the manufacture of sacred meditation mats.
The front and back feature an Ashoka blossom with durva (Sanskrit for grass) just behind the blossom; mare's tail cumulus clouds and rock cliffs. The Ashoka, the second of the trinity of holy flowers, sprouts from the holy water-font of the Amitayus, one of the forms in which the Buddha Amitabha appeared (symbolizing the transformation from greed to discriminating wisdom). The sprout materialized from a tear that Buddha Amitabha shed when hearing of the deeds of the great warrior Ashoka that overcame all of his enemies to win freedom for his oppressed people. True spiritual freedom comes from overcoming the sins and lusts that enslave the soul. Ashoka ruled a vast empire 2200 years ago and put his peoples welfare and interests above his own, he supported Buddhism, however he was insistent upon religious tolerance and open dialog. Mare's tail cumulus clouds which are quite common in Tibet; one significance of these fast moving clouds and the pure clarity of the sky is metaphorically an illustration of the Buddha Mind. Clouds may come and go across the heavens, like the transitory thoughts or delusions which appear to obscure the mind's true nature, yet the nature of the sky remains unchanged. This is like the mirror, which is always unaffected by the appearances which arise in it, the sky is clear, transparent, infinite and immaculate.