How To Convert To Buddhism

Many people ask us if there is “a way to convert from their current religion to Buddhism.” While Buddhist don’t really go out trying to convert others there is a way to convert to a Buddhist. (See also: Is Buddhism A Philosophy Or A Religion?)

Depending on the school of Buddhism, converting usually requires accepting the Five Precepts:

  • To refrain from killing
  • To refrain from stealing
  • To refrain from lying
  • To refrain from being intoxicated
  • To refrain from improper sexual conduct

Note that the word “improper” is often vaguely interpreted,
but is often translated as “hurtful.” Further, some schools
of Buddhism believe that to follow the first precept about not killing requires one to be a vegetarian.

In some Buddhist sects there are eight precepts that need to be followed in order to be convert. These include the above five precepts plus the following three others:

  • To refrain from eating after noon
  • To refrain from singing and dancing
  • To refrain from sitting or sleeping on luxurious items or places

In addition to taking these basic Buddhist vows, usually conversion require a recital of accepting the Triple Gems of Buddhism, namely:

  • I take refuge in the Buddha
  • I take refuge in the Dharma
  • I take refuge in the Sangha

Note that the Dharma refers to the “teachings of the Buddha,”
while the Sangha refers to the brotherhood of Buddhist monks.

This modern way of Buddhist conversion is specifically for lay people. Those wishing to become monks or nuns must participate in more complicated rituals and take more vows.

During the Buddha’s life, converting to Buddhism literally meant leaving your current life and family behind and either following the Buddha from place to place as he preached the Dharma. In essence, you “took up robes,” and dedicated your life to following the Buddha.

In contemporary Buddhist practice, their isn’t a baptism ritual. There is more emphasis on having virtuous character every day than on performing a ritual. And in fact, when you are at a Buddhist temple, most people, including the monks, won’t care if you are have converted to the Buddhist religion or not. They will simply be happy that you are there to listen to the Dharma and make merit for yourself and your ancestors, and that
you have an interest in following the teachings of the Buddha.

Comments

  1. I’m definitely going to convert to Buddhism.

  2. So simple.

  3. Anbalagan rajendran says:

    Truly I believe Buddha is God, that is why I want to convert religion.

    • Uhhh… Maybe you should learn a bit more about Buddhism before you convert. Buddha did not claim to be god (in fact, he never even mentioned if there was or wasn’t a god) and Buddhist do not believe Buddha to be god.

  4. sudip chakma says:

    Kindly please suggest me as how to prevent the conversion from buddhism to christianity. There are many problems being faced by the minority buddhist in mizoram in converting from buddhist to christian. Suppose, a buddhist familly having 7 members and 2 members converted to christian and in the meantime that familly faces lots of problems.

  5. Do I really have to refrain from singing and dancing? My life’s joy?

    • I was wondering the same thing, I love dancing, and have been training myself for like 2 years… I want to follow this religion because I want more happiness from life. I would hate to give up dancing though. If you figure out if we HAVE too, please let me know

      • Well, there are millions of devout Buddhists in my home country of Thailand that love dancing, too. Even younger people, teens and early twenties who go out to nightclubs most nights still consider themselves Buddhists. I don’t think you have to give up something you love doing, unless that thing becomes a crutch, or it becomes something of an addiction. When dancing comes before friends, relatives, and relationships, then you might need to start examining things.

        Oh, and meditation is nice, too. Find a little time to work it into your daily routine. It might help you get even MORE joy out of your dancing.

  6. I reside in Bangalore. Please let me know where and whom to approach for conversion to Budhism and how long the process will take to be declared as Budhist.

  7. I COME IN PEACE says:

    I am a very open minded and spiritual being. Although, I was “raised baptist” I have never really been able to accept the religion as a whole. Following the teachings of Buddha is not a religion to me, but more like a lifestyle. I thirst for peace, and I believe I can get that by following the teachings of buddha. Im not looking to convert, but accepting those vows is enough for me. :)

    • Hi there, and thanks for the note.

      I understand what you mean when you say that following the teachings of the Buddha is not a religion but more of like a philosophy or moral attitude. One could also say they are not Christian but follow the Golden rule, too. You are not alone in following the Buddha’s teachings in your quest for inner (and outer) peace.

  8. Kendel Jones says:

    Hello everyone. I was raised a Southern Baptist. (Christianity). I have felt like nothing with Christianity and God. I have done research, a lot of it too. I want to convert to Buddhism, but how? I have tried to look it up to figure out and nothing has shown up. Is it like Baptist? Do I have to be “baptized”, or (some special blessing) where I can become a Buddhist? Please let me know. I feel I will be at peace with my self if I do convert. Not just that. The life style, cultural, attitudes, etc. Is not the only reason why I want to convert.

    Thank you all and please get back to me soon.
    Live life, long, and prosperous.

  9. madwierdo says:

    I am 12 and I want to convert to Buddhism although my parents are pagans. How should I tell them? And also, are there any other important things I should know? I want to do this properly.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can understand your feeling. Though my parents are very open-minded, I have a very close friend who has continuously tried to convert me to Christianity, and I am afraid to express my interest in Buddhism, as I am afraid I will hurt him. But, as something like this is eaisier said than done, I will offer you my best advice outside of the situation. I would just be honest with them, tell them that this is not any form of abandonment, and that you are still their son/daughter. I don’t know your parents, but if they are typically very understanding they will most likely accept you, depending on just how devout they are there may be some resistance at first, but this is normal. Good luck to you in your search and I truely hope your relationship with your parents only grows stronger.

  10. Tiffany Ferguson says:

    I am a mother of two boys and my husband and I are interested in Buddhism but, we live in a small Texas town that isn’t open to Buddhism or any thing but, I want to start practicing and learn more about how to be a Buddhist. How can I do this when there is no temple near me?

    • Thanks for taking the time to write to us, Tiffany.

      There are many different lineages of Buddhism, so it is a little difficult for me to give suggestions outside of my personal area of expertise – which is Theravada Buddhism as practiced in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka.

      You might be interested in first learning about some of the practical applications of Buddhism in our daily lives. I might suggest a book or two by Jack Kornfield, who was a monk for many years in Thailand before coming back to the USA, where he teaches about spirituality in our daily lives, along with teaching about meditation. Jack is very well respected as an instructor.

      I would also look into some books by the Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Nanh, who is very much respected for his ability to clearly convey many of the concepts in Buddhism on a very down-to-earth level. Another very popular teacher is Pema Chodron, who is also well respected for her ability to help people apply many of the Teachings of Buddhism to their daily lives in the West.

      If you find yourself more interested in the history and more structured aspects of Buddhism, then please let me know and I will try to find some good references for you in English (most of the references I know are either original Thai language teachings, or teachings from Sri Lanka and India which have been translated into Thai.)

      I really hope this helps and please let us know if you have more questions.

    • There is a Monk in Alief (Near Houston).. Master Cau Chin, he’s a very spiritual individual, very humble and has this amazing energy about him. He’s caught the attention of thousands of people, he has had people go to him from all over the world, he has even had Oprah and President Bush seek him for a bit of enlightenment. Every Monday hundreds of people go to his temple (sit outside) and listen to him, his teachings and the testimonies that his forever faithful followers give. He uses his ability to help anyone and everyone that he can. Its quite an experience, I highly recommend that if you have the chance visit him at his office (you have to be there early because people line up from 4/5 in the morning and to especially visit his Temple – DO IT!! I saw him Tuesday morning, I woke up at 2 am to be one of the first in line to visit him, I was number 11 (he sees atleast 60 a day).. he told me things about myself and that he knew I was going through -a heartbreak but that I would be okay; things like that. It was pretty insane how spot on he is.

  11. I am 13 years old. Now i know that people are thinking.. “Shes too young!” But I am really into Buddhism. I would like to convert from Christianity. Ive studied it and know most thjings about it. But i am still in need. Please help me with this..
    Thanks.

    • Hi there, and thanks for writing us.

      Yes, it is a big decision about converting.

      The best thing I can suggest though is to find either a local Buddhist temple or speak directly with a Buddhist monk or nun. In any religion there are a lot of complexities.

      But really, you can be a “practicing Buddhist” in the meantime, since you will find that the Golden Rule of Christianity is basically the same as the Karmic rule of Buddhism “Do good, receive good; do bad, receive bad.”

      Can I also suggest reading a couple of books on Buddhism by Thich Nhat Hanh or Pema Chodron as I think you can learn a lot of useful things from Buddhism for everyday life.

      Hope this helps.

      • Yes Thank you. But there are no Buddha temples around here where I live. (Bullard, Texas). And also how would I talk to a Buddhist monk if I do not know how to contact one?
        -Sorry for all the questions……

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