Etiquette and Culture

Buddhist culture is a very special culture, based on generosity and respect.

If you attend our events, you may see people acting in certain ways which reflect these principles. For example:

1) Removing shoes. We ask all visitors, unless physically unable to, to remove shoes when we are in the following venues:

  • Multifaith Centre Prayer Room and Meditation Room (shoe racks available)
  • when visiting temples
  • shoes may be removed for dhamma talks in other locations at the discretion of the visiting monk or nun

This is respectful and helps to keep venues clean.

2) Anjali. The universal Buddhist gesture of respect is to place your palms together at chest level and to nod or bow slightly. It has a lot of meanings, including “hello”, “goodbye”, “I’m sorry”, “excuse me”. This gesture is used for greeting:

  • holy images and objects such as Buddha statues, relics, bodhi trees and stupas
  • monks and nuns
  • elders and devout lay Buddhists who may be keeping extra precepts
  • each other

and…

  • while praying/reciting etc.

Monks and nuns from East-Asian traditions will generally return your anjali, monks and nuns from South-East Asian traditions will not.

Our visitors are extremely welcome to make anjali as you feel comfortable! We prefer this over shaking hands.

3) Prostrations.

  • you may see our members prostrate by bowing on the ground when greeting or fare-welling monks or nuns, entering or leaving the Multifaith Prayer Room or the dhamma hall at external monasteries
  • you are very welcome to make or not make this gesture as you see fit.

4) Feet & Heads

  • The head is the highest part of the body, and the feet are the lowest.
  • We don’t touch other people on their heads. If a monk or nun is teaching you, please uncover your head.
  • try not to tower over the monks or nuns if they are sitting- approach them at the same or lower level, e.g. by sitting down, squatting or kneeling.
  • Please diligently avoid pointing your feet at holy objects, monks, nuns and each other. You can do this by sitting cross-legged or kneeling in a relaxed fashion.
  • Chairs are always available for those with medical conditions- please ask!

5) Gender

  • both men and women should dress modestly and comfortably. This means no singlets, strappy tops, shorts etc for formal events in the Multifaith Prayer Room and temple visits. Pants and skirts should be mid-calf or below.
  • we may choose to separate men and women during formal events and for photographs. The degree of separation may range from seating arrangements to using separate facilities.
  • If there are doubts, please choose the gender closest to that which you identify and live as, not necessarily biological gender

6) Monks or nuns

  • please always use a polite form of address such as “Venerable” and do not call a monk or nun by their name only.
  • We require a man to be present when a monk is sitting in a secluded area (e.g. an empty classroom, the prayer room) with a woman, and a woman to be present when a nun (bhikkhuni) is talking with a man (the society will normally arrange this in advance).

Having fixed standards enables people from different cultural backgrounds to have shared expectations, thus making our Buddhist society more harmonious while reflecting our deeply-held values.

May you be well and happy!

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One thought on “Etiquette and Culture

  1. Pingback: Bhante Sujato in Brisbane March 2015: Dhamma talk & retreat | UQ Buddhist Society

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