What does the act of incense burning denote? What was its origin? Is it a required gesture for Buddhist practitioners? Does burning incense morning and night make it a more effective show of devotion? Would pricier incense make prayers more effective in t


Incense burning is in essence conveyance of sincerity and reverence

wholly in mind. It is the act of getting incense sticks alight. Invariably

fragranced, the scent therein comes in powder form or from sweetsmelling


More often than not, Sakyamuni Buddha in his lifetime together with

the sangha had taught and assembled in the wilderness, along the

riverside, out in the country, or amid the hustle and bustle of the city,

but always amid crowds. Temperatures mostly heating in India and the

air thus clouded, flies and mosquitoes would add to the relative havoc.

In such circumstances, audiences, to concentrate on hearing the

Buddha, would light fragrant wood chips around to disperse odor and

ward off insects. Some would light fragrant wood chips and place them

before the Buddha in reverence. Later, long after the Buddha' s nirvana,

devotees resorted to ceramic and limestone containers for incense

and offered them before the Buddha images in remembrance.

Incense burning, ultimately, denotes light. It is the Buddhist symbol.

Practitioners cultivate blessedness and wisdom to attain clarity in

mind, purity in thought, and brilliance in life. By the way, in other

religions, too, incense and candle burning is practiced.

From the perspective of practice, the Buddha long into nirvana,

enshrined are really the Buddha and bodhisattva images with

practitioners offering incense mornings and evenings in tribute

and faring just fine even when skipping on occasion for whatever

reasons. For inherent dedication is the process in pursuit of a petal

of fragrance in mind, not mere lighting of some fine-grade incense—

by the way, has little to do with results—in the cauldron. Sincerity

in motive, virtue in mind, and purity in thought are as good as any

faithful offering of incense and what make the genuine difference

in prayer.