A reader writes:
What would it take to convert over to Buddhism?
We’ve talked about this a number of times before, but it keeps coming up, so at the very least, that means there a lot of wanna-be new Buddhists out there. That’s a good thing!
Although there are some traditions or denominations of Buddhism that have a very specific conversion process, such as the Tibetan approach, most don’t have a bunch of rules on the subject. It’s not like you can send away for a diploma or certificate that says “Now I am a Buddhist.”
Generally speaking, at least the way I look at it, Buddhism is not so much about what you believe, as it is about what you do. To use an old Christian expression, it’s about “Works,” not “Faith.” Or more technically, Buddhism is a religion of practice, not beliefs. If you agree with the Four Noble Truths, and try to live your life in agreement with the Eightfold Path, and the Precepts, then you are a Buddhist. Even then, you are allowed occasional failures.
That being said, you do need to understand what you mean by calling yourself a Buddhist. It’s an ongoing process of education and meditation for most. There are a number of good introductory books on the topic, including the one at the top of this page. There are many good websites as well. Learn about it. Keep on learning about it. But the only real rule is that you need to start acting and behaving as a Buddhist.
It really is as simple as that; You’re a Buddhist if you act like one. Also keep in mind that most Buddhists are lay practitioners, not priests or monks. You don’t have to be like those guys, at least not unless you really want to. Just do the best you can; relieve suffering, help others, be mindful. This is Buddhism.
Here are some links to older discussions on the topic: