Each Buddhist country has its own rituals and ways of practicing Buddhism. Traveling to one country to another, you´ll notice that the temples, the statues, the ceremonies… are different. A lot of things are different, but the core of the religion and its principles stay the same with each country having its unique ways of honoring the Buddha. When visiting a Buddhist temple, there are a few rules you need to know about.
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Buddhism’s fundamental doctrines include the four noble truths:
- Dukkha: existence is pain
- Trishna: this pain is caused by cravings and attachment
- Nirvana is the end of the pain
- The Noble Eightfold Path is the path towards the end of this pain
Buddhists believe in reincarnation, the better you do in your current life, the better your next reincarnation will be, until some point, where you stop reincarnating and reach nirvana. To simplify, Nirvana is attained through meditation, rightfulness, generosity, and deny of earthly attachments.
Read more about Buddhism and its principles.
Wherever you go in Asia, you’ll find these ideas amongst any Buddhist community. As a tourist, there are a few rules you must follow when visiting a temple. While some places are more lenient with tourists respecting (or not) temple etiquette, others are much stricter and could take offense. Rules can slightly vary from one country to another, they’re usually not stated, written rules, but everyone is expected to know about them and to follow them. Some countries included some of these rules in their laws. In Myanmar, you will get a fine for not removing your shoes, for example.
Do’s and don’ts of visiting a Buddhist temple
- You should have your knees and shoulders covered, for both men and women.
- Wear a clean and neat outfit (not something full of holes for example).
- Uncover your head and remove your shoes (socks are ok).
- If you have a tattoo of Buddha or of any other deity, just hide it, it’s an offense.
- Do not use your cellphone, talk loudly, or eat there.
- For women abstain from contact with the monks unless they come to you, never touch them or hand them anything.
- DO NOT take a picture with your back to a Buddha statue or panting (this rule depends on the country, to be on the safe side avoid it altogether)
- Avoid taking pictures of you doing yoga poses, it’s just ridiculous and kind of offensive for Buddhists.
- Always ask before taking photos of people praying.
- Don’t point your finger at anything and only use your right hand.
- Never touch or climb a Buddha statue.
- Stand up if a monk or nun enters the area you’re in.
- Try to never be higher than a monk (don’t stand next to a sitting monk)
- When sitting, don’t point your feet towards any Buddhist.
To make it short, dress modestly, stay quiet, and be mindful of locals. Always keep in mind that you come to visit, but locals and monks there come to pray in this sacred place.
Here’s some inspiration for what you can wear while visiting a temple from Neu Nomads (sustainable clothing):