Buddhist temples serve as a place for Buddhist community to learn and practice spirituality. It’s a place of worship and prayer for followers of Buddhism.
The people entering these temples recite various mantras and suttas as a sign of respect and reverence for the Buddha and the ‘dhamma’ he founded.
People remain barefoot during this time, praying with great solemnity in front of the Buddha statue.
Offering different things to the Triple Gem is a way for people to show devotion. Offerings can be anything from flowers to fruit or even incense sticks.
The interior has one or more Buddha statues, often surrounded by smaller shrines to local deities. It can be very quiet inside the temple as well as outside around it.
Shrine rooms are considered to be the most sacred part of any temple. A shrine room houses a Buddha statue used for prayer.
Multiple Buddha statues or pictures can be found inside a shrine room. Additionally, many people have shrine rooms in their homes where they perform rituals.
The worship of the Buddha usually begins with the Ti-Sarana (three refuges).
The three refuges are:
Buddham saranam gacchami. (I seek refuge in the Buddha.)
Dhammam saranam gacchami. (I seek refuge in the Dharma.)
Sangham saranam gacchami. (I seek refuge in the Sangha.)
And the Ti-Sarana goes on like this:
Dutiyampi Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Buddham Saranarn Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
A common practice in temples is to meditate in order to grow spiritually. In front of the Buddha statue, incense sticks and lamps are lit.
Religion leaders recite suttas from sacred scripture and address spiritual aspects of life.
Many temples will offer classes on meditation practice and other topics too. Just FYI, many temples have spacious gardens with ponds and meditation areas.
Some temples offer guided tours and tutorials on meditation as well as other aspects of Buddhism.
Different daily, weekly and other occasional activities can be found at a Buddhist temple depending on the nature of the local community. The schedule of these activities varies depending on the size of the temple community.
Monks living there follow a predetermined daily schedule. It’s very common for temples to have meditation sessions, zen retreats or walks in nature as well as ceremonies like funerals or marriage blessings (naming ceremonies).
Weekly activities at a Buddhist temple may include dharma talks or meditation workshops. Other occasional events might be breakfast, lunch or dinner offerings as well as lectures on Buddhism.
It is also not unusual to find Buddhists practicing “daily dharma exchanges” that are conversations about dharma topics.
The focus may not be so much on rituals but rather on learning how to develop mindfulness and compassion by leaving behind negative emotions like anger and greed.
The atmosphere is receptive and open to whatever you might want to do at any given moment. It’s a great place to calm your heart, escape from stress and connect with yourself and others.
Temples serve as places for prayer, meditating, education, and community interaction. They feature clean spaces as well as mindfulness and meditation practices.
Temples are also an excellent place to practice humility. Be sure to dress respectfully and courteously as well! Other typical activities include chanting in unison with fellow followers.
It’s no surprise that different temples will offer different services and have their own unique style. However, there are some generalizations that can be made about what you might encounter if you visit a Buddhist temple for the first time.
Visiting a Buddhist temple can be an enlightening experience in any country with a predominantly Buddhist population.
These countries have many temples, and each has its own unique features, such as statues of Buddha or bodhisattvas and different architectural styles.
The beauty of cherry blossoms strung across a garden with temples either end is simply indescribable.
So, I recommend that you never miss out on a Buddhist temple when you visit places like Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, China, India etc.