As I walk through the temples in China I am greeted by the smell of incense burning. I have always loved the smell of incense and at first assumed it was burned to ward of bad odours and to fill the temple with fragrance. But after asking a couple of people about this custom I have come to learn that burning incense has a couple of different meanings. In China incense is burned to commemorate numerous occasions. From funerals to daily prayers, paying respect to ancestors and to ward off bad luck, it has become a part of Chinese culture.
Visitors to the temples burn incense during their meditation or prayers and to help cleanse the air and make the space sacred. The smoke from the incense is said to create the perfect setting for an auspicious atmosphere by filling the air with a pleasant smell.
Some Buddhists also believe that the incense smoke creates a soul link between worshipper and the Buddha. The incense burns itself into ashes and yet fills the air with a pleasant smell which is also seen as a reminder that people should burn themselves, to give and sacrifice oneself for society.
The smoke of burning incense is interpreted as a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven. The incense helps to open up communication with a god as it is seen as a form of sacrificial offering to a god or deity. Some people have told me that it not only helps them focus on their prayers, it also repels demons or evil spirits. The aroma of incense has a soothing effect on the mind which helps in performing rituals with better concentration. It is said that a prayer offered with a calm mind acts like a meditation process.
I always wonder what are on people’s minds while they are burning their incense. Is it giving or receiving?
Personally I love the smell of incense and do find it very calming so I can see why people believe this.