photo by Phil Hardy [email@example.com]
BASIC TEMPLE ETIQUETTE
It is best to have an attitude of curiosity, wonder and respect when approaching Buddhism, and when entering a temple for the first time. You'll be fine if you think about how you would act as a guest in a stranger's house. The Buddhist practice space can be quiet or very noisy. Observe and when appropriate, ask questions. It is impossible to teach anyone everything about Buddhism in a few minutes or even an hour especially since Buddhism has developed over 2500 years. Don't expect to understand it all from just one visit. It takes a lifetime (and sometimes more) to understand enlightenment (nirvana); however, even starting on the path towards that end can bring joy and happiness to our lives.
What should I wear to the service?
We try to keep it casual for regular services at the temple. Since most sangha members tend to sit on the floor, comfortable clothing is necessary. Avoid clothing that binds, such as tight jeans or tight slacks; these will tend to cut off circulation and make for a very uncomfortable experience! If you are wearing dresses or skirts, consider what will happen when you get up or down from the floor. We do ask that clothes be modest, so please do not wear tube tops or short shorts. Please do not wear T-shirts which may be considered offensive to others, either in pictures or words. For holiday services, some members may dress a little more formally. Of course weddings, funerals and memorials are usually more formal. If you are not sure about a particular outfit, then it might be a sign to try something else for coming to a service.
What about my shoes?
At most Buddhist temples and meeting places, shoes are not worn into the hall. Please remove your shoes at the door and place them in the shoe rack provided. As people are sitting on the floor, this keeps the floor cleaner in the hall by preventing the introduction of outside contaminants which may be tracked in by shoes.
We try to start services at the scheduled time. It may be helpful to plan on being at the meeting place 30 minutes early, especially if you are new and need to ask questions. Please try to be on time.
What if I am late?
Sometimes it is unavoidable and you will end up being late. If so, please be considerate of the others practicing. Enter the hondo (main hall of the temple) as quietly as you can and sit in the back of the room. If entering into Shodaigyo service (meditation), you may participate from this spot until a part of the service where you can move up without disrupting the members who are currently practicing. Common courtesy should be your guide.
What if I am not sure what to do?
If you come early, someone will be happy to let you know what kind of service we are doing that day and how the service is performed. We also have books you may borrow for the service so you may simply follow along as best as you can. Don't worry about mistakes. It is alright to observe the first time if you feel more comfortable doing so. Buddhist practice consists of many diverse elements. We do not expect anyone to be perfect at practice when they first start out or if they are visiting us from a different group or school. It takes time to understand why and how we practice what we do in Nichiren Buddhism.
What about incense?
During the service everyone will be invited to offer incense to the three treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). Making offerings such as fruit or cakes, candle light, water or tea and incense to the Buddha, the Dharma (teaching), and Sangha (community of believers) is an integral practice in Buddhism. It is not mandatory that you offer incense. If you would like to do so, please observe and follow the behavior of the members. Don't worry about making a mistake. Sangha members will help you. If you have a allergy or fragrance sensitivity, please consider sitting toward the back of the room and not offering incense.
What about donations?
Dana is a Sanskrit and Pali term meaning "generosity" or "giving." In Buddhism, it also refers to the practice of cultivating generosity. Ultimately, the practice culminates in one of the Perfections (paramitas): the Perfection of Giving (dana-paramita). This can be characterized by unattached and unconditional generosity, giving and letting go.
Dana basically means giving from the heart and should not be considered as paying bills or dues. It comes directly from a feeling inside of giving without expecting anything in return. This giving can take many forms from monetary to your time, your ear, your help or a teaching. If you feel that you have benefitted from the service or teaching, please consider giving Dana to the Sangha. If you would like to give flowers or fruit for the altar, please feel free to do so. On occasion, our newsletter will list things we could use in the office or main hall space. If you have these items or would like to make a donation toward their purchase, please talk with Myokei Shonin.
How do I become a member of the Sangha?
There are several levels to being a member of the Sangha. Anyone who participates in regular services is considered a friend of the Sangha.
To be considered a member of the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas, you must have taken Jukai (refuge) with Nichiren Shu (Nichiren Order). This is the formal spiritual ceremony which includes taking vows to uphold the Lotus Sutra and taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It generally requires a minimum of six months, and possibly more time, working with the minister to be able to take Jukai. During this time, one studies basic Buddhism, Nichiren Shonin's teachings and Lotus Sutra doctrine and practice. When the minister and potential member feel the time is right, the Jukai is performed and one becomes a member of Nichiren Shu.
There is no hurry to become a member of Nichiren Shu. This is an important decision and should not be taken lightly. Full participation as a sangha member requires paying yearly dues and regular donations, making one eligible to serve on the board and vote on Sangha business. This procedure is outlined in our bylaws.