Basic Guidelines for Temple Visits
One should visit a Buddhist temple with a proper and pious mind. Temples are places where one engages in spiritual practice. Temples are also places where Buddhists can cultivate more merit:
Respect for others
- Always be respectful of others
- Try to be aware of stereotypes
- Reflect on the Buddha's teachings
- Remain quiet when visiting temples
When visiting or practicing at a Buddhist temple, you may encounter others who seem disrespectful. For example, they may talk or laugh loudly, engage in meaningless chat about mundane topics, or even argue with others while in the shrine room. The proper response to poor behavior is to try to remain calm and practice tolerance and patience. Pray silently that all beings are freed of sufferings and their causes (ignorance and the disturbing emotions). Your own respectful and placid behavior will help to calm others.
Attire and Conduct
When visiting a temple, dress should be respectful (similar to visiting a Christian church on Sunday). Avoid overly casual clothing, such as shorts, t-shirts, and yoga pants. Revealing clothing, such as tank tops, short skirts, and the like are inappropriate attire in temple or shrine room settings. Shoes are removed before entering the shrine room and hats are not worn. Avoid wearing strong scents or perfumes, as they can cause allergic reactions for some people, and can disturb meditators.
When entering the shrine room, a Buddhist practitioner may do three prostrations facing the shrine, or make a short bow with hands folded. This is done as a symbol of the surrender of oneself and the desire to benefit all beings.
Inside the Shrine Hall
- Conversation should be kept to a minimum in and around the shrine room, as people often do silent sitting and practice there
- Guests should always move along the right side in temples, since this action represents deep reverence for the Buddha
- When many visitors have entered the Hall at once, visitors should move away from the doors to avoid disturbing the traffic flow
- When other members of the laity are prostrating, one should avoid walking in front of them
- Dharma materials, puja texts & dharma books should be kept off the floor and places where people sit, but on a table or cushion, and not be stepped over
- Dharma items used by the Sanghas are private and for their use. It is good to obtain permission before using their items
- Do not sit with the legs outstretched, as this is a sign of disrespect, and of course, lying down shows great discourtesy
- The acceptable posture is to sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. If that is difficult because of a specific physical problem, it is permissible to sit in a chair in the back of the shrine room
- Pointing your feet toward the altar or teacher is regarded as disrespectful
- Do not stand with the arms akimbo in the presence of the Teachers
- Do not chew food or gum loudly or with an open mouth
- In the presence of a teacher, monastic, or in a shrine room, cover the mouth when yawning, coughing or laughing with a wide gaping mouth
Respect and kindness in manner of speech, thoughts and actions towards our Sanghas and to each other are such a great source of joy and merit for everyone
Greeting the Buddha's Statue
From a simple bow to a full prostration, Buddhists of different countries pay homage to the Buddha in a variety of ways. Bowing to Buddh's statue is a sign of respect for the Buddha. Lowering oneself before the Buddha is also an act of genuine humility.
Behavior toward the Lama
As a greeting in Tibetan tradition, a kata (silk scarf) is usually handed to Geshe or Rinpoche, especially during the first-time meeting. He/she will then return the kata to us by placing it around our neck and give us a blessing.
Before the teaching
Please arrive early, so as not to disturb the class once it has started. This consideration also shows that you value the teachings and the teacher.
Avoid loud talking or laughing around the area of the teaching. It is best to sit quietly, placing yourself in a calm, receptive state of mind.
Teacher's entrance and exit
Stand when a teacher enters or leaves a room. It is also typical to bow slightly towards the teacher with hands together in prostration at the heart.
Addressing the teacher
When addressing a Rinpoche, he is called "Rinpoche," as when speaking of him one refers to him by his name as well as his title, for example, "XXX Rinpoche." Very high Tulkus, such as His Holiness Karmapa, one would address as "Your Holiness."
The titles Geshe (pronounced ge-shey), which means teacher of the highest degree, are correct and respectful titles.