Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Sun Jul 07, 2019 11:57 am

Furthermore if you're not an Ariya, you're an outsider:
"Nandiya, the person in whom the factors of stream entry are altogether & in every way lacking I call an outsider, one who stands in the faction of the run-of-the-mill. But as to how a disciple of the noble ones lives heedlessly and heedfully, listen well and pay attention, I will speak"
https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN55_40.html

For one to go for refuge, they need to be disciple (An Ariya)
"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has gone to the Buddha for refuge. This is the first reward of merit, reward of skillfulness, nourishment of happiness, celestial, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, leading to what is desirable, pleasurable, & appealing; to welfare & to happiness.
"Firstly, a noble disciple has gone for refuge to the Buddha.
Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gato hoti. "

- AN 8.39


One becomes an Ariya by first having faith in a noble one, then hearing the dhamma and agreeing with it
When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction (FAITH) in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.


- MN 95
Faith is helpful for approaching a teacher. If you don’t give rise to faith, you won’t approach a teacher. You approach a teacher because you have faith. That’s why faith is helpful for approaching a teacher.”

and at the end of that sutta MN 95, after the main character (Kāpaṭika Bhāradvāja) repeats the steps in reverse order, and then he becomes an Ariya (Attains Right View) and thus goes for refuge.. So going for refuge is AFTER attainment of Ariyahood (and thus Right View), not before.
“That’s how the awakening to truth is defined, Master Gotama. I regard the awakening to truth as defined in this way. But Master Gotama, how do you define the arrival at the truth?”

“By the cultivation, development, and making much of these very same things there is the arrival at the truth. That’s how the arrival at the truth is defined, Bhāradvāja. I describe the arrival at the truth as defined in this way.”

“That’s how the arrival at the truth is defined, Master Gotama. I regard the arrival at the truth as defined in this way. But what quality is helpful for arriving at the truth?”

“Striving is helpful for arriving at the truth. If you don’t strive, you won’t arrive at the truth. You arrive at the truth because you strive. That’s why striving is helpful for arriving at the truth.”

“But what quality is helpful for striving?”

“Weighing up the teachings is helpful for striving …

Making an effort is helpful for weighing up the teachings …

Enthusiasm is helpful for making an effort …

Acceptance of the teachings after consideration is helpful for enthusiasm …

Reflecting on the meaning of the teachings is helpful for accepting them after consideration …

Remembering the teachings is helpful for reflecting on their meaning …

Hearing the teachings is helpful for remembering the teachings …

Listening is helpful for hearing the teachings …

Paying homage is helpful for listening …

Approaching is helpful for paying homage …

Faith is helpful for approaching a teacher. If you don’t give rise to faith, you won’t approach a teacher. You approach a teacher because you have faith. That’s why faith is helpful for approaching a teacher.”

“I’ve asked Master Gotama about the preservation of truth, and he has answered me. I like and accept this, and am satisfied with it. I’ve asked Master Gotama about awakening to the truth, and he has answered me. I like and accept this, and am satisfied with it. I’ve asked Master Gotama about the arrival at the truth, and he has answered me. I like and accept this, and am satisfied with it. I’ve asked Master Gotama about the things that are helpful for the arrival at the truth, and he has answered me. I like and accept this, and am satisfied with it. Whatever I have asked Master Gotama about he has answered me. I like and accept this, and am satisfied with it.

Master Gotama, I used to think this: ‘Who are these shavelings, fake ascetics, riffraff, black spawn from the feet of our Kinsman to be counted alongside those who understand the teaching?’ The Buddha has inspired me to have love, confidence, and respect for ascetics!

Excellent, Master Gotama! … From this day forth, may Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge for life.
-MN 95


Thus, going for refuge in the 3 gems is meaningless if you're not first an Ariya.

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Antaradhana
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by Antaradhana » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:08 pm

The ritual is not important, it is important to gain faith in the Three Jewels and accept the correct (buddhist) views.
All that is subject to arising is subject to termination, all formations are non-permanent. And that which is impermanent is suffering. Regarding what is impermanent and prone to suffering, one cannot say: "This is mine, I am this, this is my self".

budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:22 pm

More evidence that one goes for refuge AFTER ariyahood (attaining right view):
The Buddha Vipassī taught them step by step, with a talk on giving, ethical conduct, and heaven. He explained the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of renunciation. And when he knew that their minds were ready, pliable, rid of hindrances, joyful, and confident he explained the special teaching of the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth rid of stains would properly absorb dye, in that very seat the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in the king’s son Khaṇḍa and the high priest’s son Tissa: ‘Everything that has a beginning has an end.’

They saw, attained, understood, and fathomed the Dhamma. They went beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and became self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instructions. They said to the Buddha Vipassī, ‘Excellent, sir! Excellent! As if he were righting the overturned, or revealing the hidden, or pointing out the path to the lost, or lighting a lamp in the dark so people with good eyes can see what’s there, the Buddha has made the teaching clear in many ways. We go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the teaching, and to the mendicant Saṅgha. Sir, may we receive the going forth and ordination in the Buddha’s presence?’

And they received the going forth, the ordination in the Buddha Vipassī’s presence. Then the Buddha Vipassī educated, encouraged, fired up, and inspired them with a Dhamma talk. He explained the drawbacks of conditioned phenomena, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of extinguishment. Being taught like this their minds were soon freed from defilements by not grasping.
https://suttacentral.net/dn14/en/sujato

From the same sutta:
A large crowd of 84,000 people in the capital of Bandhumatī heard that the Blessed One Vipassī, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha, had arrived at Bandhumatī and was staying in the deer park named Sanctuary. And they heard that the king’s son Khaṇḍa and the high priest’s son Tissa had shaved off their hair and beard, dressed in ocher robes, and gone forth from the lay life to homelessness in the Buddha’s presence. It occurred to them, ‘This must be no ordinary teaching and training, no ordinary going forth in which the king’s son Khaṇḍa and the high priest’s son Tissa have gone forth. If even they go forth, why don’t we do the same?’ Then those 84,000 people left Bandhumatī for the deer park named Sanctuary, where they approached the Buddha Vipassī, bowed and sat down to one side.

The Buddha Vipassī taught them step by step, with a talk on giving, ethical conduct, and heaven. He explained the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of renunciation. And when he knew that their minds were ready, pliable, rid of hindrances, joyful, and confident he explained the special teaching of the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth rid of stains would properly absorb dye, in that very seat the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in those 84,000 people: ‘Everything that has a beginning has an end.’

They saw, attained, understood, and fathomed the Dhamma. They went beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and became self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instructions. They said to the Buddha Vipassī, ‘Excellent, sir! Excellent!’ And just like Khaṇḍa and Tissa they asked for and received ordination. Then the Buddha taught them further.

Being taught like this their minds were soon freed from defilements by not grasping.

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Volo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by Volo » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:36 pm

Thus, going for refuge in the 3 gems is meaningless if you're not first an Ariya.
There are multiple examples in the Canon when puthujjana declared going for refuge in the presence of the Buddha, and Buddha didn't say it was meaningless. Moreover Buddha himself introduced declaration of going for refuge as a part of bhikkhu ordination and later of samanera's. Probably he didn't consider it to be meaningless. Or may be bhikkhus and samaneras are not buddhists...

budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:48 pm

Volo wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:36 pm
Thus, going for refuge in the 3 gems is meaningless if you're not first an Ariya.
There are multiple examples in the Canon when puthujjana declared going for refuge in the presence of the Buddha, and Buddha didn't say it was meaningless. Moreover Buddha himself introduced declaration of going for refuge as a part of bhikkhu ordination and later of samanera's. Probably he didn't consider it to be meaningless. Or may be bhikkhus and samaneras are not buddhists...
In the suttas, it is when a person has attained minimum at least stream entry path (Faith or Dhamma follower), thus they have at minimum developed the faculty of Faith, and then they go for Refuge. Why would they go for Refuge if they didn't have faith in the 3 gems?

When you read:
As if he were righting the overturned, or revealing the hidden, or pointing out the path to the lost, or lighting a lamp in the dark so people with good eyes can see what’s there, the Buddha has made the teaching clear in many ways.
It means the path has been born.

And when you read "Dhamma eye" opening, it refers to seeing dependent origination (Fruition).

Even King Ajātasattu, who murdered his father, attained Faith Follower at minimum, but not Dhamma eye (Fruition).

thomaslaw
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by thomaslaw » Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:37 am

Many thanks for all your responses to my question.

Having read through the postings, I may conclude that no ritual in the Theravada tradition and its communities is traditionally and formally required to become a Buddhist.

This is different from the Chinese Buddhism, which they formally have a ritual in the form of taking faith in the three refuges. Possibly this practice is also similar requirement in the Tibetan Buddhist groups (?). The Chinese Buddhism also has a ritual for taking the five precepts (including together with the three refuges).

There is, however, in all your responses for the Theravada tradition, one major discussion issue here. That is, for becoming a Buddhist, one should be: taking faith in the three refuges only, or taking faith in the three refuges and the five precepts, or fully having the Right View.

It seems to me, having faith 'pasaada' in the three refuges and possessing the five precepts are just the beginning of being a Buddhist, entering the stream of Buddhism (Cf. Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 228-235).

chownah
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by chownah » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:16 am

thomaslaw wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:37 am
Having read through the postings, I may conclude that no ritual in the Theravada tradition and its communities is traditionally and formally required to become a Buddhist.
You might ask yourself what does it mean to "become a buddhist"? Does it mean that you have been magically introduced into a special society? Does it mean that you are closer to enlighenment? Does it mean that you can take on a certain identity and then have more in common with other people who have taken on that same identity?
Just asking.
chownah

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mikenz66
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:17 am

thomaslaw wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:37 am
This is different from the Chinese Buddhism, which they formally have a ritual in the form of taking faith in the three refuges. Possibly this practice is also similar requirement in the Tibetan Buddhist groups (?). The Chinese Buddhism also has a ritual for taking the five precepts (including together with the three refuges).
Theravada has that too. It's common to take the refuges and precepts as a group.

However, you don't usually get a certificate, and you can repeat as much as you like...

:heart:
Mike

budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:35 am

thomaslaw wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:37 am
.

It seems to me, having faith 'pasaada' in the three refuges and possessing the five precepts are just the beginning of being a Buddhist, entering the stream of Buddhism (Cf. Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 228-235).
You're well read, and probably know more than most here.

Yes, superficial rituals are unnecessary. All that is necessary is:

1) Understanding the saddhamma (True Dhamma, the suttas and vinaya)

2) Attaining jhanas to further understand the saddhamma

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Volo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by Volo » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:54 am

budo wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:35 am
thomaslaw wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:37 am
.

It seems to me, having faith 'pasaada' in the three refuges and possessing the five precepts are just the beginning of being a Buddhist, entering the stream of Buddhism (Cf. Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 228-235).
You're well read, and probably know more than most here.

Yes, superficial rituals are unnecessary. All that is necessary is:

1) Understanding the saddhamma (True Dhamma, the suttas and vinaya)

2) Attaining jhanas to further understand the saddhamma
O, now jhāna is required to becomes a buddhist. :rofl:

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mikenz66
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:59 am

Volo wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:54 am
O, now jhāna is required to becomes a buddhist. :rofl:
Yes! We're trying to work against the general trend of grade inflation... :tongue:

Mike

Ruud
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by Ruud » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:12 am

budo wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:35 am
...
Yes, superficial rituals are unnecessary.
...
Superficial rituals are not very useful. Rituals themselves, when viewed and performed with the right attitude (i.e. without clinging or 'magical' expectations) can be useful and helpful in expressing and developing confidence.

Refuge is an expression of confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. Doing this with conviction to oneself is what makes one (to oneself) an upasaka/upasika. Doing so outwardly (with or without conviction) makes one a upasaka outwardly. The first is a useful ritual, the second can be useful (if done with conviction) or superficial (if done without conviction). This also is why AN 5.175 states that one can be a upasaka (so called by the Buddha) and not have faith, because that is just based on outward performance. Hence my statement that going for refuge is one step, but many more steps are taken when actually trying to sincerely follow the path. This does not mean the refuge itself is useless or not a part of that path.

Stating that one has to be beyond doubt (in other words: an Ariya) in order to be able to take refuge seems a rather unorthodox position, one I do not see proof for in the suttas.
Dry up what pertains to the past,
do not take up anything to come later.
If you will not grasp in the middle,
you will live at peace.
—Snp.5.11,v.1099 (tr. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Whatever is will be was. —Ven. Ñānamoli, A Thinkers Notebook, §221

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Sam Vara
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:07 am

I think the sanest approach here is to undertake whatever rituals you like, but then not to worry about the status that they confer on you. Being or becoming "a Buddhist" is just a view, a designation which people either agree with or disagree with. There is no objective change that a ritual effects; especially a ritual unknown to the Buddha and which confers a social status ("Buddhist") which the Buddha did not have an exact equivalent word for. The very worst that could happen is that you call yourself by one term, whereas another person - in this case someone on the internet - calls you by another term.

budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:15 am

Ruud wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:12 am

Stating that one has to be beyond doubt (in other words: an Ariya) in order to be able to take refuge seems a rather unorthodox position, one I do not see proof for in the suttas.
Faith Followers are Ariyas, and are not beyond doubt as they have not attained fruition yet.
Take another person who doesn’t have experiential confidence in the Buddha … the teaching … the Saṅgha … They don’t have laughing wisdom or swift wisdom, nor are they endowed with freedom. Still, they have these qualities: the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, immersion, and wisdom. And they have a degree of faith and love for the Buddha. This person, too, doesn’t go to hell, the animal realm, and the ghost realm. They don’t go to places of loss, bad places, the underworld.
- Sarakani sutta

Only after they attain the vision of the dhamma, and thus the fruit of stream entry, do they have experiential knowledge that no longer requires faith.
"Monks, there are these six rewards in realizing the fruit of stream-entry. Which six? One is certain of the true Dhamma. One is not subject to falling back. There is no suffering over what has had a limit placed on it. [1] One is endowed with uncommon knowledge. [2] One rightly sees cause, along with causally-originated phenomena.
"These are the six rewards in realizing the fruit of stream-entry."
- AN 6.97

Notice "One is certain of the true Dhamma", which means the fetter of doubt has been fully destroyed and thus faith is no longer required.

budo
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Re: Ritual for becoming a Buddhist

Post by budo » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:29 am

@Ruud, And more

"One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who, after pondering with a modicum of discernment, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who knows and sees that these phenomena are this way is called a stream-enterer, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

and
“Bhikkhus, just as, in the autumn, when the sky is clear and cloudless, the sun, ascending in the sky, dispels all darkness from space as it shines and beams and radiates, so too, when the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arises in the noble disciple, then, together with the arising of vision, the noble disciple abandons three fetters: personal-existence view, doubt, and wrong grasp of behavior and observances. [538]
- Autumn sutta AN 3.94 [537]

The 3 fetters are destroyed with fruition, thus the Faith and Dhamma followers are not beyond doubt.

As I told @Volo,

Reading "Dhamma eye opening" refers to fruition.

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