Buddhist Temple Etiquette

by Michelle Brunet

You can visit a Buddhist temple in many places around the world, from India and China to Russia and the United States. Whether you are a sightseer in Thailand, visiting a South Korean temple on Buddha's birthday or attending a service in your hometown, you are entering a place of peace and respect. While practices vary by region, there are some basic temple etiquette guidelines to follow. "Foreigners are always welcome in Buddhist temples," encourages Travel Mongolia 360, representing a country where 90 percent of dwellers follow Buddhism in some fashion.

Entering the Temple

Arrive at the temple wearing modest clothing. It is generally disrespectful to show up in shorts or tank tops. Before entering the temple, turn off your cell phone and any other electronic devices that may disrupt the calm atmosphere. Remove your shoes and place them outside the door or in a designated area. Remove your hat if applicable. If you are attending a service, ensure you are several minutes early so you will not cause any disruption.

Inside the Temple

To promote a peaceful atmosphere, talk quietly and keep conversations to a minimum. Never touch any Buddhist statues, no matter how intricate the design, as this is a sign of disrespect. It goes without saying that you should be polite to all other attendees and to refrain from using profanity or other disrespectful language. Additionally, avoid pointing with your fingers or your feet if you are sitting down. To gesture, you can use your right hand with its palm facing towards the ceiling.

Interacting with Buddhist Monks and Nuns

Buddhist monks and nuns are not to be feared, but naturally temple guidelines state they should be shown respect as you are visiting their place of worship. If you happen to be sitting, such as if you are waiting for a service to begin, stand up when monks and nuns enter the room. If you are comfortable, do a simple bow with hands held at your heart in prayer formation, as they enter. Wait until they sit before sitting again. "Women should not touch monks; men should not touch nuns," adds Metta Jon's Dhamma Realm.

Engaging in Traditions

If you would like your temple visit to be more than just a sightseeing experience, try engaging in some more spiritual or traditional etiquette. For example, the Longmont Buddhist Temple shares that it is typical to enter the temple starting with your left foot and to bow at a 15 degree angle. In the presence of a statue of Buddha, you can also bow or lower your body in full prostration, where your head, knees and elbows are touching the ground, states the Thrangu Vajrayana Buddhist Centre. When departing Buddha's statue, back away in humility.

About the Author

Michelle Brunet has published articles in newspapers and magazines such as "The Coast," "Our Children," "Arts East," "Halifax Magazine" and "Atlantic Books Today." She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from Saint Mary's University and a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University.

Photo Credits

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