Question: Can a Buddhist shrine (with a Bodhisattva image) be set up very near – right in front of a dining table at home?
Answer: If family members are going to be eating killed animals (i.e. meat) there regularly, it is better to place the table or shrine elsewhere, as the Bodhisattva(s and Buddhas) care the most for all sentient beings’ welfare, including animals, and humans, who create negative affinities with animals by eating them. With killed animals served too near the shrine, it is as if offering them to the Bodhisattva, which seems inappropriate. Of course, killed animals should never be offered.
Also, the presence of the shrine is to remind those around to cultivate virtues like compassion (and wisdom). If continually eating killed animals just before it, this reminder is unlikely to work well – unless diners do not become numb to its presence, to simply ignore it when eating. If they are likely to pay attention instead, due to someone skilful, who uses it as a talking point, it might be okay. If not, it is better to place the shrine where it can be encountered more, beyond dining moments.
It is not that the enlightened will be offended by where their images are, but that it is not reflective of reverence that Buddhists should have for the enlightened and sentient beings. Likewise, restaurants that serve killed animals and alcohol, with ‘celebratory’ song and dance, which have many Buddha and Bodhisattva images around, are obviously not respectful to the enlightened. They use their imagery for mere decoration, while missing the spirit of the teachings they hope all will embrace.