We are happy to meet and greet new visitors, and in order to make you feel comfortable and understand some of the traditions and practices of Tibetan Buddhism, we provide this little guide. Keep in mind that the monastery is a place where Westerners meet an Eastern religious tradition that was integrated into Tibetan culture; for some of us, it is an unfamiliar setting. Your respect for the traditions and practices of this tradition is highly appreciated.
Therefore, when visiting the monastery, please keep in mind that monasteries are places where people engage in spiritual practice and where Buddhist practitioners cultivate more merit by:
- Being respectful of others,
- Being aware of problems associated with making stereotypes
- Reflecting on the Buddha’s profound teachings and creating a positive mental frame
- Remaining as quiet as possible when visiting monasteries.
Some Guidelines for Visiting the Monastery
- When entering the shrine room, a Buddhist practitioner makes three prostrations facing the shrine or they make a short bow with their hands folded. This is done as a symbol of surrendering the self (i.e., ego) and embracing the wish to benefit all beings.
- In general, the attire is flexible in Buddhist communities and is based on the polite and inoffensive social customs of each country. However, revealing clothing, such as tank tops, short skirts, shorts and the like may be inappropriate attire in temple or shrine room settings.
- Shoes are removed before entering the shrine room and hats are not worn.
Inside the Shrine Hall
- When many visitors have entered the Gompa at once, visitors should move away from the doors to avoid disturbing the traffic flow.
- When other lay members perform prostrations, one should avoid walking in front of them.
- Dharma items used by monks or others practitioners are private and one should obtain permission before touching or using other practitioners’ items. Please do not touch items on the altar, but feel free to take a closer look at the various ritual objects and sacred texts on the altar and in the shrine room.
- Conversation should be kept to a minimum in and around the shrine room, as people often do silent sitting meditation and other practices there.
- Because books on Buddhism contain scriptures, we consider them Holy. We never place them on the floor or on a sitting cushion. This is true for Dharma books, puja texts, ritual implements, meditation texts, and prayers beads (malas). You may want to use a small table or shelf or have someone hold them while you are performing prostrations and arranging your seat. Please do not step over Dharma books, Dharma articles and implements, or seat cushions
- When moving through a crowded shrine room, please make every effort not to step or pass over the top of another person’s body (i.e., legs, knees, or feet). When seated, if others are passing by, raise your knees to afford a pathway so they are not forced to step over you. Stepping over is considered disrespectful and rude
Additional Notes on Conduct
- Lying down in the shrine room or in the presence of the teacher shows great discourtesy.
- The acceptable posture is to sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. If that is difficult because of a specific physical problem, it is permissible to sit in a chair in the back of the shrine room.
- Do not sit with your legs outstretched (i.e., pointing your feet with the soles of your feet facing the teacher and altar) or stretching your legs is considered impolite and disrespectful. Please honor our teachers and shrine room by sitting as comfortably as you can without pointing your feet frontwards or lying down in the shrine room.
- In the presence of a teacher, monastic, or in a shrine room, cover the mouth when yawning, coughing or laughing with a wide gaping mouth or blowing your nose openly in the presence of the teacher.
- Please show respect and kindness in the manner of your speech, thoughts and actions towards our Sangha (i.e., monks or nuns) and to each other. These are such great sources of joy and merit for everyone.
- When turning pages of Dharma books or meditation texts, please do not wet your fingers with your tongue in order to turn the pages.
- Please do not place malas on the ground, the floor, or on a bed. Never take your mala into the bathroom. During teachings and initiations do not recite mantras or count beads unless told to do so as part of the teachings or initiations.
- When pointing to a teacher, monastic, or painting (tangka), indicate with the right hand open, fingers extended and palm up. Please do not point with your index finger, as this is considered very rude