08 October 2007

The Forgoten Post

He who has gone for refuge in the Buddha, his Teaching and his Order,
penetrates with transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths -
suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering,
and the Noble Eightfold Path
leading to the cessation of suffering.
This indeed is the safe refuge, this is the refuge supreme.
Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all suffering. ~ Dhammapada 190-192

Many people, after encountering the Dhamma or the Buddhist Teachings ask:

How do I become a Buddhist?

Once, there was a man called Upali. He was the follower of another religion and he went to the Buddha in order to argue with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he was so impressed that he decided to become a follower of the Buddha. The suttas record the Buddha's reply and Upali's reaction as follows:

"Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself."

"Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me: 'Make a proper investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a disciple they would have paraded a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord said to me: 'Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself.' "

In Buddhism, understanding is the most important thing and takes time. So do not impulsively rush into it. Take your time, ask questions, consider carefully, then make your decision. The Buddha was concerned that people should follow his teachings as a result of understanding and conviction.

I have done this and am convinced of its truth and that it is the path for me.

What do I do to become a Buddhist?

A person becomes a Buddhist by taking the Three Refuges, that is the Buddha, The Dhamma or his Teachings, and The Sangha or the community of enlightened beings. The Buddha said:
"To take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and to see with real understanding the Four Noble Truths, ~ Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Transcending of Suffering and the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the transcending of suffering, This indeed is a safe refuge, it is the refuge supreme. It is the refuge whereby one is freed from all suffering."
To take refuge, it is best done with the guidance of a monk. However, if such a person is not available, one may take refuge before an image of the Buddha. Place this image, which may be a statue,a picture or even a computer graphic such that when you kneel before it, it is at the level of your head or higher. Kneel before the image and put your palms together at your chest. Compose yourself, calm your mind and bow three times to the image such that your palms and forehead touches the floor. Then recite the following formula in Pali, which is the ancient language of the scriptural texts.
Namo tassa, bhagavato, arahato samma sambuddhasa
Namo tassa, bhagavato, arahato samma sambuddhasa
Namo tassa, bhagavato, arahato, samma sambuddhasa

Buddham saranam gacchami,
Dhammam saranam gacchami,
Sangham saranam gacchami.

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami,
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami,
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami.

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami,
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami,
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami.
This means:
Homage to Him, the Exalted One, the Worthy One, The Supremely Enlightened One
Homage to Him, the Exalted One, the Worthy One, The Supremely Enlightened One
Homage to Him, the Exalted One, the Worthy One, The Supremely Enlightened One

I go to the Buddha as my refuge.
I go to the Dhamma as my refuge.
I go to the Sangha as my refuge.

For the second time, I go to the Buddha as my refuge.
For the second time, I go to the Dhamma as my refuge.
For the second time, I go to the Sangha as my refuge.

For the third time, I go to the Buddha as my refuge.
For the third time, I go to the Dhamma as my refuge.
For the third time, I go to the Sangha as my refuge.
CONGRATULATIONS!
You are now officially a Buddhist. But wait, the ceremony is not complete. The Buddha recommends that all his disciples keep the minimum of the Five Precepts. These are not rigid commandments that one is compelled to live by. They really are more like training rules that are taken voluntarily. They establish your virtue and protect you from harm in this life as well as in future lives. It is the foundation for your spiritual journey.

Yes, I would like to take the precepts and live my life accordingly, knowing that it is conducive for my happiness and welfare in this life as well as in future lives.

How do I take these Five Precepts?

Again, the Five Precepts are taken by reciting in Pali while in the kneeling position.
Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Sura meraya majja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
This means:
I undertake the precept of abstaining from destroying living creatures.
I undertake the precept of abstaining from taking anything not freely given.
I undertake the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
I undertake the precept of abstaining from false speech.
I undertake the precept of abstaining from taking intoxicants which lead to carelessness.
That's it, now you are a practising Buddhist. The Three Refuges and Five Precepts can be repeated anytime you wish, either at regular intervals or when you feel the need to do so. Welcome to the Path. This is only the beginning and it is suggested that you join a Buddhist community to support it and be supported by it, and to continue to learn the Buddha's Teachings.
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