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Buddhism is best known in the West for being a philosophy, perhaps a philosophy of life. However, it’s also – and perhaps primarily – a religion. And like all religions Buddhism has it’s sensitivities. There are certain things you just don’t do, and certain things that are taken for granted. This is true in any culture and Buddhist cultures are no exception.

A few things I learned in adapting myself to Tibetan Buddhism:

  • Don’t put your dharma books on the floor: it’s disrespectful
  • Do put your dharma books as high as you can manage when you’re not reading them.
  • Do put the image of your teacher higher than the image of the Buddha: the teacher is the one who gives you the Dharma.
  • Don’t put images of the Buddha in the bathroom: respect the image of the Buddha the way you would the live Buddha.
  • In fact, don’t put images of the Buddha in any place where you’d hesitate to put a picture of Jesus. Like on your shoes, or underwear. However stylish they may be, the above shoes are very disrespectful to Buddha and hence to Buddhists. You’re putting yourself above Buddha, literally. Not a good thing.
  • Walk clockwise around the mani wheel, and turn any mani wheel clockwise as well.
  • Don’t point your feet at the teacher or a Buddha image.
  • Take your shoes off in the temple (gompa)
  • Wear cloths to temples that don’t show too much of the body. Like you would at the Vatican, or visiting your grandmother.

Note that all of these things are about respect. That means that in practice it’s more important to act on such things in company then when alone.

About the author: Having studied Buddhism and other religions and spiritual traditions since 1995, Katinka Hesselink became a Buddhist formally in 2011. She has studied world religions at Leiden University where she focused on religious anthropology, philosophy and psychology. She has written online since 1999 and started this blog to share her Buddhist knowledge, insight and opinions. Katinka is best known for her common sense approach to Buddhism.

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