When I was a Buddhist, it drove my parents and friends crazy, but when I am a buddha, nobody is upset at all.

NOTE: The following pertains more to lay people becoming more serious about their buddhist beliefs than to them becoming monks or nuns, although there is some overlap.

Perhaps you've been a buddhist dabbler for a while. You've read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, you know what the Four Noble Truths are and have taken a few steps upon the Noble Eightfold Path. If you're really in to it, you might even meditate a few times a week. You feel good about yourself.

Well, friends and neighbors,

IT'S TIME TO GET OUT OF THE SANDBOX!!!!

You can go from trendy dilettante to a genuine Buddhist by taking the Three Refuges. The Three Refuges are the Buddha, the dhamma (Buddha's teachings) and the sangha or the community of enlightened beings. Do not fuck around with these. Come to these with genuine sincerity, or go away.

Preferably, you will have a monk lead you gracefully through the ceremony. Unfortunately, at least for me, they are in locally short supply so the next best thing is to have an image of a recognized enlightened being before you. The historical Buddha, bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Gandhi, for example. Place it so that when you kneel before it, your palms together at your chest, it is at the level of your head or higher.

Take a few deep belly breaths. Although you may be a bit nervous, that's OK (perhaps even a good sign). Do your best to make yourself relaxed and focused. Recite the following lines out loud. They are written in Pali, language of Buddhist scripture.

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.

Regardless of how interesting that was to say, you should know what it means. Read on.

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.

All done? If you feel a little giddy, then good for you. There's a wee bit extra to do still.

Even though you've now gained entry to the club, you can't just do whatever you want. There are certain rules by which to abide. The Catholic Church calls theirs commandments. Buddhism calls them the Five Precepts.

Whereas the former come at you chiselled in granite and blocking out the sun, you write the Precepts in the sand with your finger at low tide, coming back again and again to rewrite them, reminding yourself why. They are guidelines for proper conduct in yourself and others.

Recite the Five Precepts the same way you did the Three Refuges.

Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Sura meraya majja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.

Translation:

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.

There you go. Unfold your hands and pat yourself on the back. You are officially a Buddhist. Feel free to recite the above whenever you wish. They don't wear out.

Personally, reciting the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts has given new weight to my beliefs, giving me something to live up to. Sayng it makes it so. By paying attention to them, I can become, hopefully and in some small way, better for myself, my family and others.

http://www.parami.org/duta/buddhist.htm
http://www2.gol.com/users/doubtboy/
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, John Kabat-Zinn, 1994
Buddhism Plain and Simple, Steven Hagen, 1997

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.