Basic Buddhist Etiquette

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Below is a list of guides/suggestions that you may find helpful when visiting MSTC or any other Buddhist Center/Temple. For newcomers to our Center, this is meant more as an explanation for what you might observe. Please feel free to partake of these or not, depending upon what you feel comfortable with and your level of faith in the Buddhadharma. One can always check with a teacher or an older student, first, regarding these guides.

  • Entering the Shrineroom or a Temple: You will notice people doing 3 half prostrations or 3 full prostrations. This is a sign of respect to the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. It is usually done by people who have developed faith in these aspects of Buddhism and it is quite all right for newcomers just to take a seat quietly.

  • Greetings: It is customary to stand when a teacher (lama) enters or leaves a room.

  • Shoes: Shoes are generally left outside the door of a shrine room or temple/house

  • Legs Outstretched: It is considered disrespectful when seated on the floor or a cushion to outstretch the legs and direct the soles of the feet toward the shrine, teacher, monk or nun or any Buddhist image.

  • Stepping Over: When moving through a crowded shrine room, make every effort not to step or pass over the top of another person’s body, i.e., leg, knee or foot.

  • Religious Materials: Do not place Dharma books, meditation texts, or prayer beads (mala) on the floor or carpet. Do not step over Dharma materials.

  • Extinguishing candles and incense: When lighting incense, after the stick has ignited with a glowing ember, do not blow the flame out with the breath, but rather wave with the hand to extinguish. The same with candles/butter lamps, just wave your hand to extinguish.

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