The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

Recommended Host

Becoming a Buddhist

Buddhist “Conversion:

A Reader recently wrote:

What I really want to know about becoming a Buddhist is how it is described and done at the website: but that is in Pali and English what I want to know is if it is the “same” for all the different denominations or different. But I really like the way this is setup and was wondering if this is the way I should go about becoming a Buddhist or if I have to go through some ceremony.

My Response:

How Do You Become a Buddhist? That really depends on the specific “sect” of Buddhism you want to join. For the most part, there isn’t any special ritual. You just make a mental decision to live as a Buddhist, and then start practicing Buddhist ways of doing things.

We have talked about this a bit in the past, and you can see more at:

and also

Remember, most Buddhists in the East are born into it, and Buddhists are not generally evangelical; they don’t go looking for converts. Generally speaking, there is no overall required ritual to become a Buddhist, but there may be specific requirements for joining a particular sangha. If you are joining a local sangha, then ask them what they require, if anything, and go from there.

The page you linked to for becoming a Buddhist looks pretty good, but is still more than absolutely necessary. Personally, I’d skip all the Pali recitations and just read the English translation. I’ve mentioned my distaste for using Pali in Western sanghas in the past, so I don’t want to get into that again today.

Most “Conversion Ceremonies” involve taking a vow to “Take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha” (a.k.a. the Three Jewels) and usually the Five Precepts (or however many that sect uses). What you pointed to is a bit more elaborate, but if it appeals to you, then go for it– I see nothing wrong with the ritual as described there.

Unless you are dealing with a priest or some local sangha, you are going to be practicing Buddhism on your own for the most part– and that’s fine; as I’ve mentioned many times in the past, finding Enlightenment is primarily an individual thing, unique to each person. You need to do whatever ritual or say whatever vow or pledge makes you feel like you are now a Buddhist– and then start living life as a Buddhist. Buddhism is more about practice and living the life than it is about rituals and beliefs.

4 comments to Becoming a Buddhist

  • The link to issue 172 gives a 404 error. Just thought you would like to know.

    On becoming a buddhist. I started following the New Kadampa lineage about 6 months ago. I chose that primarily because the temple is just down the street from my house, but it was a fortuitous choice, because its a good fit for me right now. As far as becoming a buddhist goes, I have been studying dharma and taking classes on dharma and it wasn't until I took the Bodhisatva Vows that I really felt like I could finally call myself a Buddhist. There was no secret initiation, the bodhisatva vows were just part of an empowerment service, but I felt like I had jumped a hurdle when we were finished. Now, I am a Buddhist. Hopefully I can be a good one. srlasky

  • Thanks for pointing out the link problem, it's fixed now.

    Your post is exactly what I meant. The rituals and vows themselves are not important; it's the effect they have on you that matters.

    In Christianity, for example, you are making a vow to God– it's a two-way arrangement, so the rituals must be done a certain way because God makes the rules. On the other hand, in Buddhism, at least in most varieties, it's really all about YOU. After you did took the Bodhisattva Vows, you felt like a real Buddhist. It was a mental shift inside you, nothing external.

    I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you need to do whatever it takes to make you FEEL that something has changed. If you want a ceremony, then have a ceremony; if you want to read these words and commit to living a Buddhist life right now in front of the computer, that's just as acceptable. It's what YOU need.

  • where can i find a website that tells me everything about buddhism as i am thinking about converting to a buddha.