Dharma Information and Etiquette

Please turn off your cell phone before you enter the shrine/teaching area.

Shoes: Leave all shoes in the area outside the door on the porch; never enter the teaching/shrine area with shoes on.

Greetings: Place your palms together in front of your heart and bow slightly as a proper gesture of either greeting or farewell to a teacher or a monk. It is not mandatory, but very respectful and polite to do so.

Teacher’s Entrance: Stand and bow slightly when the teacher enters the room. Remain standing while she or he prostrates to the Buddhas and his or her own teachers (visualized on the throne) and takes his or her seat. If you are late and need to enter the shrine room after meditation or teaching has begun, do so as quickly and as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb others.

Dharma Materials: Buddhist texts contain scriptures considered sacred, never place them on the floor or rug. This is true for Dharma books, meditation texts, notes on the teachings, or prayer beads (malas). Use a small table, shelf, pillow, handbag, or special cushion to avoid placing these items on the floor. Also, do not step over Dharma books and articles.

Appropriate Dress: Avoid wearing revealing clothing, such as tank tops, short skirts, or shorts. It is considered inappropriate attire in temple and teaching/shrine room settings.

Legs Outstretched:  Please honor the teacher and teaching/shrine room by sitting as comfortably as you can without pointing your feet frontwards.

Prostrations: Some people may do three prostrations (either low bows or stretching out on the floor) when entering or leaving a teaching/shrine room or when a teacher arrives or leaves. This is extremely respectful and is a personal gesture of special respect, though it is certainly not required. After the teacher is seated, practicing Buddhists will perform three formal prostrations as a sign of respect to the teacher and teachings. Others may join in or stand quietly.

Stepping Over: When moving through a crowded teaching/shrine room, make every effort not to step over the top of another person’s body (e.g., leg or foot) or dharma items. When seated, if others are passing by, raise the knees to afford a pathway so they are not forced to step over you in any way. Stepping over is considered disrespectful and rude.

Mala Beads: Do not place malas on the ground, the floor, or on a bed.

Indicating (pointing): When pointing to a teacher, monastic, or painting (thangka), indicate with the hand open and fingers extended and palm up, rather than pointing with the index finger, which is considered very rude.

Teacher’s Exit: As the teacher stands to leave, stand and bow slightly, until she or he is out of the room. Some students will again perform three prostrations, except at the last teaching session, where the omission conveys a wish for the teacher to return.

Addressing the Teacher or other monastic: If the individual has a Geshe Degree, it is proper to address him or her as “Geshe-la.” The “la” at the end is an honorific. The title Venerable indicates someone has taken vows as a monk or nun. When interacting with any monk or nun,  treat them with great respect. They have gone through many years of training and practice, and may be treated as if they were the emanation of a Buddha.

How to Offer a Khata
About Khatas


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