Temple Etiquette

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Coëmgenu
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Temple Etiquette

Postby Coëmgenu » Mon Dec 19, 2016 4:03 am

Greetings all,

I figured I would post this in the "Discovering Theravāda" subforum because it is a question that is probably most relevant to other readers on this site who are, as I am, "discovering" Theravāda.

I moved from Toronto about a year and a half ago to the much smaller town of Whitby in Ontario for gainful employment at the local General Motors plant, but in doing so, I left behind easy/feasible access to the Jōdo Shinshū temple I used to attend in North York.

I recently reconnected with an old friend from university, who I am able to carpool with to his local temple, the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Markham. I am very excited to finally be able to attend a temple again, however I am also quite nervous, both because of my tendencies toward shyness and cultural unfamiliarity. This will be the first temple I attend that:

a) isn't almost entirely comprised of other white converts,

and b) is a Theravāda institution rather than a Mahāyāna one.

In the past, my interaction with monks has been based on the philosophy "just be polite" by the standards of my own upbringing. Obviously I know to take my shoes off where everyone else has taken theirs off. But, for the sake of example, I have never done a "traditional" añjali, I've always just bowed my head slightly, almost like a nod, and the monk, who I assume is used to awkward converts unfamiliar with foreign cultural practices, has never been particularly taken back. Similarly I've never had a special way of referring to monks that I was told was polite. I first encountered the term "bhante" online here at DhammaWheel, for instance, so I wouldn't have known that convention of politeness.

Obviously I am going to ask these things of my friend, in person, as we head there, and I am sure that they will be quite understanding if I stick out a bit for not knowing certain conventions, but I thought I would also ask this online community here too. What are the "basics" of temple etiquette? If there is already a thread on temple etiquette I apologize for the redundancy.

And similarly, are there any common faux-pas committed by newcomers to Buddhist places of congregation where the constituents come from traditionally Buddhist societies?

For instance, apparently it is rude to shake a monk's hand. That is something I had never known.

-Caoimhghín
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

Caodemarte
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Caodemarte » Mon Dec 19, 2016 4:48 am

If this is the Sri Lankan temple, I would suggest you not use the term "white converts" if you mean Buddhists of European descent. I would just say you attended a non-Sri Lankan and non- Theravadin temple. The term "white" will get you all tangled up in a variety of assumptions and assumptions about how you use it and why. Come to think of it, even if not the Sri Lankan temple I am thinking of, you'd be better off avoiding that term everywhere.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Coëmgenu » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:00 am

Caodemarte wrote:If this is the Sri Lankan temple, I would suggest you not use the term "white converts" if you mean Buddhists of European descent. I would just say you attended a non-Sri Lankan and non- Theravadin temple. The term "white" will get you all tangled up in a variety of assumptions and assumptions about how you use it and why. Come to think of it, even if not the Sri Lankan temple I am thinking of, you'd be better off avoiding that term everywhere.
Is "white people" an offensive term in Sri Lanka? If this is going to bud controversy best remove it from the Discovering Theravāda section, I'll alert a moderator.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

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cjmacie
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby cjmacie » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:03 am

Coëmgenu wrote:...And similarly, are there any common faux-pas committed by newcomers to Buddhist places of congregation where the constituents come from traditionally Buddhist societies?

From some practical experience:
Here's info/instructions from a Mahasi meditation center, with a sense of what the proprieties are like.
http://www.tathagatameditationcenter.org/Info
A couple of specifics there might apply in general:
1) avoid sitting, or during sitting-down or getting-up. with feet extended in direction of Buddha statue/altar (don't show the Buddha the bottoms of your feet);
2) Be there before monks / teachers arrive; bow when everyone does; wait for monks / teachers to leave before yogis leave.

Coëmgenu wrote:For instance, apparently it is rude to sake a monk's hand. That is something I had never known.

Check with the locals. In general I've heard monks aren't to be touched at all, except under functional circumstances. Especially across sexes -- men never touch nuns; monks never touch women.

They usually recognize and graciously help beginners. Mostly gently but insistent that one learn and follow the rules. Retreat attendees are "yogis"; general lay attendees (e.g. special ceremony days) are "devotees". At a Mahasi/Burmese monastery I once used the term "Bhante", and was corrected to use "Sayadaw".

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BlackBird
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby BlackBird » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:12 am

Most Theravadin temples/monasteries in the West are well used to people with little understanding of faux pas and proper ettiquite coming through their doors, so I wouldn't worry, as long as you're a good person you will be greeted warmly.

In general I tend to make an effort not to point my feet towards any monastics, Buddha rupas or pictures of monks on the wall, it's really only a thing of great disrespect to point ones feet at Thai temples, as it's a Thai cultural no no. But I find this to be a good rule of thumb anyway as it stop you assuming an overly casual posture.

Another thing I always do is remember to address monastics as either Venerable or Bhante (which is pali for Venerable Sir) if it's a Thai Forest Tradition then Ajahn can be used for the senior monks in place of Venerable or Bhante.

Thirdly, if I am having a seated conversation with the Abbot or a monk for the first time (generally If I've come to stay or do a retreat) I will do a kneeling bowl. If you wanted to get even more proper it would be a triple bow but context is everything with that. Many Western monks find people bowing to them a little uncomfortable and that reflects our egalitarian upbringing, but monks from countries where Theravada is the state religion are generally more at peace with the process because it's part of their culture, and say if you attended a meditation retreat with a Sri Lankan meditation monk you would probably be expected to do a triple bow when meeting him for the first time, and just the singular bow when having private conversations thereafter.

As for shaking hands, it's probably better to go with anjali and bowling as a habit with cultural monks from native Buddhist countries. With Western monks they're used to it, but it might be a social faux pas if they were say surrounded by a group of Thai or Sri Lankan or Burmese supporters, because they would see that as bad conduct. So again, it's context.

I'm probably over complicating things here for you.

If you're just going for the Sunday talk and hour meditation session I wouldn't worry about all that so much, other than showing due respect to the robe and the person wearing it and using proper titles if speaking to a monk.

The best thing to do is just to observe how others do things at the new temple, you can't usually go wrong with that.

Hope that helps

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Goofaholix
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:50 am

If in doubt watch what other people do and follow along.

It's a bit further to travel but if you haven't already I'd recommend checking out this monastery https://tisarana.ca/
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Coëmgenu » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:56 am

Goofaholix wrote:If in doubt watch what other people do and follow along.

It's a bit further to travel but if you haven't already I'd recommend checking out this monastery https://tisarana.ca/
I am headed there in the summer with my partner to make a double-pigrimage: Tisarana Monastery and Saint Anthony's Monastery, both of which are in Perth, but its a quite a drive!
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

monkeycat
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby monkeycat » Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:13 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Caodemarte wrote:If this is the Sri Lankan temple, I would suggest you not use the term "white converts" if you mean Buddhists of European descent. I would just say you attended a non-Sri Lankan and non- Theravadin temple. The term "white" will get you all tangled up in a variety of assumptions and assumptions about how you use it and why. Come to think of it, even if not the Sri Lankan temple I am thinking of, you'd be better off avoiding that term everywhere.
Is "white people" an offensive term in Sri Lanka? If this is going to bud controversy best remove it from the Discovering Theravāda section, I'll alert a moderator.


I don't think he means offensive to the Sri Lankans at the temple, but that it may lead to issues with those who read/hear your post. To say western converts or non-sri lankan as suggested would be better.
Last edited by monkeycat on Mon Dec 19, 2016 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

dhammarelax
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby dhammarelax » Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:49 am

Coëmgenu wrote:Greetings all,

I figured I would post this in the "Discovering Theravāda" subforum because it is a question that is probably most relevant to other readers on this site who are, as I am, "discovering" Theravāda.

I moved from Toronto about a year and a half ago to the much smaller town of Whitby in Ontario for gainful employment at the local General Motors plant, but in doing so, I left behind easy/feasible access to the Jōdo Shinshū temple I used to attend in North York.

I recently reconnected with an old friend from university, who I am able to carpool with to his local temple, the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Markham. I am very excited to finally be able to attend a temple again, however I am also quite nervous, both because of my tendencies toward shyness and cultural unfamiliarity. This will be the first temple I attend that:

a) isn't almost entirely comprised of other white converts,

and b) is a Theravāda institution rather than a Mahāyāna one.

In the past, my interaction with monks has been based on the philosophy "just be polite" by the standards of my own upbringing. Obviously I know to take my shoes off where everyone else has taken theirs off. But, for the sake of example, I have never done a "traditional" añjali, I've always just bowed my head slightly, almost like a nod, and the monk, who I assume is used to awkward converts unfamiliar with foreign cultural practices, has never been particularly taken back. Similarly I've never had a special way of referring to monks that I was told was polite. I first encountered the term "bhante" online here at DhammaWheel, for instance, so I wouldn't have known that convention of politeness.

Obviously I am going to ask these things of my friend, in person, as we head there, and I am sure that they will be quite understanding if I stick out a bit for not knowing certain conventions, but I thought I would also ask this online community here too. What are the "basics" of temple etiquette? If there is already a thread on temple etiquette I apologize for the redundancy.

And similarly, are there any common faux-pas committed by newcomers to Buddhist places of congregation where the constituents come from traditionally Buddhist societies?

For instance, apparently it is rude to shake a monk's hand. That is something I had never known.

-Caoimhghín


I had the same questions when I visited some temples and especially when I hosted some monastics as I had to prepare the food etc. At the end you know what I realized? All my concern for etiquette added unnecessary stress to the whole experience. Go for the heartwood. I am sure the monastics will enjoy a conversation about the Suttas with a knowledgeable person more than seeing a newcomer with perfect manners. What questions are you going to ask them?

Smile
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

Caodemarte
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Caodemarte » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:43 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Caodemarte wrote:If this is the Sri Lankan temple, I would suggest you not use the term "white converts" if you mean Buddhists of European descent. I would just say you attended a non-Sri Lankan and non- Theravadin temple. The term "white" will get you all tangled up in a variety of assumptions and assumptions about how you use it and why. Come to think of it, even if not the Sri Lankan temple I am thinking of, you'd be better off avoiding that term everywhere.
Is "white people" an offensive term in Sri Lanka? If this is going to bud controversy best remove it from the Discovering Theravāda section, I'll alert a moderator.


I don't think this is controversial. The term is not offensive per se, but a confusing interjection of a vague, often but not always racial term, that is defined differently by different people and is often used with conflicting political purposes. Thoughts that would flash through many minds would include: What makes your former temple and temple friends "white?" Do you mean that they are they are all Caucasians? If so, Sri Lankans are Caucasians so why are you differentiating? Do you mean that they are all of European descent and you think European is a racial category? If so, is it a race to which Sri Lankans cannot belong? Are you referring to the Sri Lankan temple as a "native" temple (in the colonial sense)? Are you "white?" Above all, why are you even bringing it up in the context of a visit to a Buddhist temple? Are you referring to the color of the temple building (usually white in Sri Lanka) or skin color? Richer, upper class people are often very pale while poorer rural people can be quite dark in Sri Lanka. Are you referring to class? What point are you trying to make? Why is this important to you to mention?

So the reaction may range from mildly confused to slightly disconcerted (not angry, just puzzled).

I think you wish to be polite, are not trying to make any point at all, and wish to avoid causing even mild confusion. One way to do this is just not to interject confusing and possibly loaded terms and use more precise language. :namaste:
Last edited by Caodemarte on Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

thepea
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby thepea » Tue Dec 27, 2016 9:02 pm

It's not a problem if you sit until your legs are numb, then stand suddenly and knock over an urn full of flowers.
Its not a problem if you wear a hat in temple.
Its not a problem to fart loudly in temple.
Its not a problem to get up at any time and run out of hall.
Its not a problem to disagree with Sri Lanken Buddhists.
Buddhist Monastics are pretty chill and tolerable individuals, I think they just like to see you come out and continue to practice.

Oh yea, I've done all the above :embarassed:

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Mohan Gnanathilake
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby Mohan Gnanathilake » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:53 am

I have a different reply regarding this topic. One should visit a Buddhist temple with a proper, pious, sanctimonious and devoutly religious mind.
All thoughts begin in the mind, mind is supreme and mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with impure mind pain follows him like the wheel the hoof of the ox.
(Dhammapada 1, Yamaka Vagga – The Twin Verses)

All thoughts begin in the mind, mind is supreme and mind –made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind happiness follows him like one’s shadow that never leaves.
(Dhammapada 2, Yamaka Vagga – The Twin Verses)

Mr.Mohan Barathi Gnanathilake
Permanent Address : No. 372 / 2 , Mahara Prison Road , Ragama, Sri Lanka.
Telephone No :+94 112957857
Email :moh.bar.gna1975@gmail.com

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rajitha7
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Re: Temple Etiquette

Postby rajitha7 » Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:48 am

I think you should re-align more with Dhamma objectives.

You should aim for stream entry If haven't already. The sutta says one needs 2 things to qualify for stream entry - and it's quite simple. One needs to associate excellent Dhamma friends. Secondly, one needs a super-mundane understanding of the 4-Noble Truths.

So when you go there try to find good Dhamma friends, join a group or association etc. The understanding of the 4-noble truths will be helped by these associations.

Generally, one is scared to do the wrong thing because of a good upbringing. The fear will change once in the stream. Your fears will change such that you will dare not do a heinous crime just to avoid the reality mentioned in the 4-noble truths.

So start small and scale up from there.
There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished,[1] unevolving, without support [mental object].[2] This, just this, is the end of stress. - Ud 8.1 PTS: Ud 80 Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding


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