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 band just underneath the top has tormas at each corner and in the center of each side are the crossed Precious Generals Insignia, along with the Precious Queens round earrings and the Precious eight- faceted Jewel. The torma is an offering, usually made of butter. The band at the ends have a stack of 3 Cintamani, and here again is the Precious Eight-faceted Jewel. The "Precious Possessions" all belong to Chakravartin or Wheel Turner; the term in Hinduism refers to an ideal ruler, but in Buddhism, Chakravartin has come to mean a Buddha whose all-encompassing teachings are universally true. Chakravartin has an army of 4 divisions, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. Chakravartin is the lineage of 25 Kulika kings or enlightened monarchs, the 25th of which will finally defeat the "non-believers." General's insignia (Sanskrit senapatiratna) represents the Precious General. He is ready both to wage war and defend the kingdom, having attained mastery of the 64 strategic arts of war. He fights for truth, justice, (and the American way just like Superman), does no unvirtuous acts, he causes no harm to other beings.
The top of this nicely done altar is symmetrical in design and really means there is no true front of back. It is adorned with Lotus blossoms and chrysanthemums. Tibetan Buddhist mystics imagined the earth floating like a lotus flower on the oceans of the universe. The heart of the flower is the cosmic mountain, the axis of the universe. 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 on the surface of the water as a metaphor for the harmonious unfolding of spirituality. The lotus is an important Buddhist motif. Images of the Buddha and other important persons often are shown seated on a lotus throne. The growth of the lotus, with its roots in mud, growing through water, and emerging as a wonderful plant above the water's surface, is seen as an analogy of the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the purity of enlightenment. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn & the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment & its accompanying peace.
The drawers on the ends have a set of Bael Fruit in the form of the 4-petaled flower surrounded by durva grass. The bael fruit, or wood apple, is a baseball-sized fruit with a hard skin and a sticky, highly aromatic pulp. This fruit is eaten more for its medicinal qualities than for its taste. Bael fruit increases one's beneficial, positive karma and thus brings one closer to release from samsara. The fruit also symbolizes the goal of recognizing emptiness and dependency and the connection between cause and effect. It challenges us to avoid actions that will cause suffering and to increase actions that will promote healing.
The front and back are rather unique in that they have datura blossoms (the word comes from Sanskrit 'dhatur' and translates "thorn apple") in the center panel. Datura blossoms are one of the few wrathful blossoms and are poisonous; most of the Tibetan Buddhist blossoms are representative of peace and compassion such as the Ashoka Blossoms on the adjacent panels. The datura, also called "angels's trumpet" will invoke a wrathful deity to remove poisons from the practitioner. In the center of this panel are Bilva fruit which appear to be coming out of the most poisonous of the "angel's trumpets"; in this the Buddha Amoghasiddhi is manifested as motivation or will to remove the poisons that obstruct the path to enlightenment. The wrath subdues and eliminates delusions and poisons and peace turns this into the active quality of compassion. HH explains it this way: With compassion as the causal motivation (an action or behavior)... the practitioner utilizes things negative or wrath for a specific purpose. This technique is based on the fact that when we become angry, a very energetic and powerful mind is generated. When trying to achieve a fierce activity for beneficial purposes, the energy and power make a difference. Thus it is because of the usage of hatred in the path in this way that there come to be wrathful deities. The Ashoka blossoms in the adjacent panels are the second of the trinity of holy flowers, sprouting 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.