The traditional or formal method for becoming a Buddhist involves taking Refuge in the Three Jewels and practice the Five Precepts or Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Three Jewels are the Jewel that is the Buddha, the Jewel that is the Dharma, and the Jewel that is the Sangha:
Buddha: The one who shows the way in this life.
Dharma: The way of understanding and love.
Sangha: The community that lives in harmony and awareness.
To take Refuge is to take spiritual shelter in the teachings of the Buddha, and by practicing these teachings and training one’s mind, one can feel truly safe and at peace. When one feels this and applies the teachings, developing their own compassion and understanding, they can live in harmony with their family, society, and the world around them.
After taking refuge in the Three Jewels, the Master leading the ceremony will transmit the Five Precepts. They are:
1. Not to take the life of any being- Instead to protect life, and refrain from causing harm through Body, Speech and Mind.
2. Not to take what is not given- Instead respect the property of others, and learn to practice giving to those who are in need.
3. Not to engage in sexual misconduct- Instead refrain creating harm through sexuality, and respect the happiness of individual couples.
4. Not to use harmful speech- Instead to speak the truth, refrain from gossip, manipulative speech, or vulgar speech.
5. Not to use intoxicants- Instead refrain alcohol or any substance, action, or activity that cause heedlessness or loss of awareness.
The Five Precepts are not seen as hard and fast commandments, but as a torch to shine light on the path of the Buddha to uplift one’s life and mind; they are like a fence one can build to keep out harmful facets of life, and to aid in focusing the mind in the practice of the Buddha’s teachings leading to true freedom and happiness.
The Master who transmits the Refuges and Precepts becomes one’s main teacher, but he or she may appoint another Dharma Teacher to guide you throughout your path while he or she is not around.
After one takes Refuge and receives the Five Precepts, it is recommended that twice a month that person recite the Three Refuges and Five Precepts. This is a traditional practice to keep one mindful of the Three Jewels, and the Precepts. At Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery after one takes Refuge and the Five Precepts, one will receive a Buddhist Passport- a small booklet with helpful practices to guide one on the Path- which one can use to recite the Three Refuges and Five Precepts. When you come to your Refuge Ceremony, please bring a small passport-sized photo if you would like one put into your Buddhist Passport.
Of course, anyone can practice the teachings of the Buddha, and live in mindfulness, but practicing with a Sangha and Dharma Master can help immensely on one’s path, and give one a better sense of commitment to the practice. If one has the wish to formally become a Buddhist, one can make a request to the Monastic Sangha of Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery and fill out our Request Form for Becoming a Buddhist. After becoming a Buddhist one is encouraged to attend Meditation Retreats, and participate in the Precepts Recitation Ceremony first Sunday of the Month at Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery. However, if you are far from Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery, and do not have a way to come to the Monastery, we encourage you to find a local monastery or temple should you wish to practice or take refuge. If you do take refuge with Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery, but do live far away, practicing with another temple or monastery is perfectly fine, but we encourage you to attend retreats with us twice a year, if possible.