The Buddhist altar means offering. The Tibetan term for altar is “che-sam”, which translated literally means “presentation of offerings”
The notion of offering occupies a very important place in the Buddhist tradition, because it is our ability to offer that which allows us to accumulate in our consciousness the merit or “sonam” necessary in our path towards the Awakening of consciousness. It also teaches us to detach ourselves from the goods of this world and to gain a certain freedom.
For the offerings to have all their value it is necessary that it be accompanied by a correct motivation and that the subject to whom it is offered be worthy: Buddha, Bodhisattvas, Teachers, spiritually elevated beings, sacred objects.

They occupy a very important place inside the altar. They are the support for the eight traditional offerings, and they are arranged in a well-defined order.

Formerly, in the Indian tradition, when an important person visited the house, he was entertained with these eight offers. When an important guest was received, in the first place, water was offered to cool off the road, so that he was offered water to drink.
-Then, water was offered to wash the guest’s feet, the dust of the road.
-Then garlands of flowers were offered to honor him as well as incense was burned in his honor and perfumes were offered to him.
Then they offered him an exquisite meal. Finally, he was offered music, to delight in his ear.
If this was offered to an illustrious person, how could he not offer it to the Buddhas?
Let’s not get confused. The Buddhas have no need of our offerings, they do not expect any sacrifice as a reward for the help they give us. But it is said that they rejoice in our offerings, when they are offered with a pure motivation, because they are part of our path to Awakening. More important than the material quality of the offer, it is the motivation that gives value to the offering.
– The offerings materially presented, are no more than a support for infinitely more vast offerings, visualized while the offerings are made in the bowls. For example, by filling the first bowl you can visualize that we offer all the rivers, all the seas and all the pure waters of the universe. By offering flowers and incense, we offer all the flowers and aromas of the world. By offering the candle, we offer the light of the sun, of the moon, of the stars. All the tasty delicacies of all the universes and all the songs and melodious music of the world.

THE OFFERING BALLS, from left to right
ARGAM: Water to drink. Calm the heat of the passions
PADIAM: Water to wash. Cleanses our mind of the negative footprints and the veils that stain it
PUPE: Flowers. They open the lotus of happiness
DUPE: Incense. It allows us to see that all phenomena are similar to a dream or a magical creation
ALOKE: Light. Light leads us to realize the true nature of our mind, what is called the “clear light”
GUENDE: Scented water. Fragrant water symbolizes wisdom along with compassion
ÑEUIDE: Food. Food is associated with the dynamics of wisdom
SHAPDA: Music. Music prefigures the expansion of the multiple qualities of awakening

When the determination to practice at home has been generated, it is necessary to arrange a small site, specifically for that purpose. – Naturally, this should not be very difficult, it is about finding a small corner, clean, pleasant and dignified and fix it in order that it be the place reserved for doing your practice. The altar creates a space devoted to practice and is a daily and constant invitation that relaxes, focuses and predisposes to spiritual practice.
A properly installed altar contains images or illustrations of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. They serve to develop these qualities in oneself and in this way be able to benefit all sentient beings. By having an altar, your practice becomes more powerful, helps reduce mental afflictions and increases the ability to help other beings.
-The place where we have the altar must be high, higher than the height of our head when we are sitting. First of all, it must be clean. We can cover it, if we want, with a piece of beautiful cloth, for example, silk.
-It can be placed in the central place a statue of Buddha Sakiamuny, Guru Rinpoche or simply a photo with which we feel connected or that inspires us (representation of the Buddha’s body). We can put some texts of the Dharma, representing his Word, and a stupa, or its representation, symbolizing His mind. In case of not having space, it is enough with a photo or a statue.
-If possible, arrange the seven bowls of offerings and also a candle, which will make a total of eight offers.
-You can simply use water for the offerings, preferably saffron (if the carafe of water destined for that purpose is left at night, with some saffron strands, in the morning the water will be dyed and disposed. the easiest and really nice, and prevents from becoming lazy: the water has to change every day !.
-The bowls must be perfectly clean, well arranged and separated from each other by the distance of a grain of rice (The bowls in a straight line indicate the direct path to lighting.The distance of a grain of rice between the bowls symbolizes the closeness to the Buddha).

Practicing the six paramitas, while filling the bowls in the following way:

-we practice generosity in making the offerings
-patience for serving
-the ethics because the offerings can not be stolen or borrowed or obtained by flattery.
-the concentration by the visualizations, maintaining the distance of a grain of rice and the mantras.
-the perseverance, making the offerings every day
-the wisdom for the correct motivation and because it reminds us that we are light

– Arrange the seven bowls, face down, on the altar;
– put water in the first bowl, argam, the one on our left, and from that first bowl we fill each of the remaining bowls with a little water, lifting them one by one, while reciting the Vajrasattva mantra, so that no Bowl is empty reserving a little water in the first bowl so that all contain a little water.
– Then finish filling the seven bowls with the jar, so that they are not too close or too far from each other, normally at a distance of a grain of rice between them; Be careful not to spill the water when you fill the bowls and do not leave them half, but fill them up, you should only fill the distance of a grain of rice, to the edge of the bowl; while just filling, continue to recite the Vajrasattva mantra, with concentration and awareness of what we are doing.

You can also make the offerings, arranging the bowls in the following way:
-ARGAM: a bowl full of pure water (can be dyed with saffron).
-PADIAM: water to be washed, if it can be, dyed with saffron,
-PUPE: flowers: a bowl full of rice in which flowers are stuck
-UPUP: incense: a bowl full of rice in which several incense sticks are placed (unlit)
-ALOKE: light: a candle (in the monasteries a butter lamp).
-GUENDE: perfumed water: a bowl full of pure water in which a few drops of perfume or saffron are poured.
-ÑEUIDE: food: a bowl full of rice in which you put a Torma (figurine of flour), called “shelze”, or in your case, a piece of fruit. In Tibet la Torma is made with toasted barley flour (tsampa) or oatmeal, butter and hot water.
-SHABTA: Music: a bowl full of rice in which a conch is placed.
Once the bowls are filled, light the candle and the incense – but never light the incense of the offering bowls!
-Use a cloth just to clean the bowls, do not use rags that you use to wash dirty dishes or other things and wash it from time to time, do not keep it for months, take them out every night and wash them every day and dry them, recite the blanket purification, Om venza sato samaya manu palaya ..,. (Vajrasatva) while you fill them in the early morning and when you empty them at night.
-Use a jar that is intended only for offerings. Do not leave the empty jar on the altar.
-It is convenient to clean the room every morning, before making the offers, while we clean we visualize that we clean our obscurations
-The bowls containing water are filled carefully each morning and emptied at night. Those that contain rice, are changed periodically, for example, in full moons.
– In the morning they are filled from left to right.
-When emptying at night is done in the opposite direction, ie from right to left. Dry carefully with a clean cloth and leave them face down.

– Do everything with happiness, happy to make these offers; your heart, your mind, and not only your own but that of all beings becomes as pure as water; That is the way to fix the altar.

Source: Hermessan