How To Convert To Buddhism

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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.

  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 family having 7 members and 2 members converted to Christianity and in the meantime that family faces lots of problems.

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

  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 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

  8. 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. :)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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……

  20. 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.

  21. Amjad Iqbal says:

    Its a matter of belief what you want to become.
    If you can’t refrain from any social crime,you simply don’t have any religion.
    That’s it buddies.
    To eliminate social crime,social sickness…Religions came into action.Hopelessly there is not a single religion who can stop all this badness from happening.
    The biggest religion i ever found was HUMANITY,the one follower who has care for the life and peace of others.Nothing Else.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Actually humans are the only species that isn’t innocent. They are the only animal that will kill for fun, other animals kill as a survival instinct. There have been stories of dolphins saving people from drowning and elephants that support each other when another elephant has died. Even plants have been scientifically proven to feel fear: when a near by plant is picked or damaged the plants around it shrink away.
    Humans still have a lot to learn about the world we live in.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I want to convert to Buddhism and I have done lots of research on it but I am too afraid to tell anyone. My parents have no religion but I still don’t want to tell them. My close friend is christian and in a strictly religious family. People at school are very naive and don’t really accept people that are different to them. I have had mild bully problems in the past and don’t want to start things up again. I have been vegetarian all my life and people won’t even accept that. Singing is really important to me, my mum and my grandparents. Should I wait until I am older to convert?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Find the nearest Buddhist temple to you. Speak to the monks they will help you convert. If you don’t want to do this you can always follow the religion without fully converting. You don’t even have to fully abandon Christianity, you may find your experience of it helps you in life. Buddhism is very different to other religions e.g. it has no God or spiritual being. Try meditating daily (there will be online help for this) and read as much on Buddhism as you can to make sure you agree with all of the religion and do research on other religions to see what is best for you. And remember that there is no right or wrong religion as long as it makes you happy with life.

  25. Anonymous says:

    That is a tricky one. If that is your family then I suggest you speak with your family members and tell them how you feel. You should not prevent your family members from converting if that is what they truly want. Just make sure that your choice is best for you and the people around you. Consider good and bad outcomes before you make a choice.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Look for your nearest Buddhist temple. The time it takes to convert depends on you.

  27. Thanks for your comment and your question.

    As outlined in the article above, converting really isn’t the hard part. And in my home country of Thailand (as well as in Thai temples here in the USA), no on really is concerned if you have “converted” or not. Everyone is welcome as long as they act respectfully to the temple, the monks, and to the other people attending.

    I am sorry to hear that you feel your religious beliefs and practices, and your social values, might interfere with your relationships at home and at school.

    I talk to lots of monks, as I usually go to our local temple EVERY Sunday to attend sermons and learn about the Dharma. They have told me many times that the important thing is to understand that all things are impermanent, and that attachment to impermanence causes suffering. Greed, anger, and delusion are the three poisons that cause suffering.

    You don’t need to give up singing, dancing, or other activities that you truly enjoy, unless one were to become a monk or a nun. And having friends and family who are Christian is not a problem as well. Just remember that the Golden Rule in Christianity is the same as in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama says; “If you want to make OTHERS happy, practice compassion. If you want to make YOURSELF happy, practice compassion.” Jesus said, “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” and in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 “Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

    I truly hope this helps.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Try contacting one online.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for replying. I will remember what you have said. It helps a lot.

  30. Dear anonymous,
    Congrats on wanting to convert to Buddhism, I did from southern baptist.
    It is different. Buddhists won’t chase you to the parking lot demanding you follow their dogma.

    The wisdom about meditating in earlier posts is spot on. Do that and you will get insights to your questions.

    The best wisdom I have gotten regarding others’ acceptance came fron a quote from a
    Jon Kabat-Zinn book: when I told everyone I was a Buddhist they all were upset, when I became a Buddha no one seemed to notice.

  31. John, while he didn’t claim to be a god later on after siddartha Gautama (the Buddha) died, Buddhism sepersted into two sects, Theravada Buddhism, which is the one you are thinking of, and one easier for normal people to follow, by worshipping siddartha as a god, aka Mahayana Buddhism

  32. I wish you peace, friend. I was raised Roman Catholic but never believed. Too much hate towards fellow man. Namaste and good luck to you!

  33. Good day friends,

    I have been wandering for many years as a lost soul and have found Buddhism to be closest to what I believe. I have read Dr. Brian Weiss’s book Many Lives, Many Masters, and the idea of past lives is simply incredible and I highly recommend it.

    But to my questions:

    Living in the bible belt (Charleston, SC) I find a lot of hate and resentment towards homosexuals because of religious belief that it (homosexuality) is a choice, which is just not true. I have read that Buddhism also views homosexuality as wrong, which i 100% disagree with. I simply refuse to take part in the judgement of another human being for something that nothing can be done about. I wish to hear multiple opinions on the belief system.

    My second question is that of meditation or even past life regression. It seems my mind is far too active to reach a state of meditation or hypnosis, and I get nervous every time i feel myself drifting, afraid of what might happen. Though I look forward to the answers I seek, my mind simply will not quiet down enough for me to reach the state. I seek solutions on ways I might calm my mind down.

    I wish you all peace, love, and joy on your journeys to enlightenment.

  34. Buddhism is a great peaceful religion in the world – I’m very happy to see those who are converting- in india theirs is millions of people converting to Buddhism per year -

  35. I’m un happy as a Christian. I thought I might be worshiping the wrong god. Is there someone I can speak with about Buddhism

  36. Hi there, Michael, and thanks for your email.

    I am sorry to hear about your unhappiness and doubt.

    There are MANY people to speak to about Buddhism, but I would just like you to know that there are many differences between the different schools of Buddhism.

    Also, there can be quite a difference about which aspects of Buddhism are taught to which groups of people. By this, I mean that a Buddhist monk might talk about the metaphysical aspects of Buddhism when speaking to a group of people who were “born and raised Buddhist” in a Buddhist country, while they may talk about more practical aspects in daily life when speaking to a group of people who are from a non-Buddhist country.

    My suggestion would be to go to the library and look for books by noted Buddhist authors, such as HH The Dalai Lama, as well as by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodra. Another favorite author of mine is Jack Kornfield, who was formerly a monk in my home country of Thailand.

    After you get a little more idea of the different schools of Buddhism, then I would suggest you try to find a local temple and see if you can speak to the monks. It might be difficult; at a few of the Thai Buddhist temples near our area of Northern California, most of the monks don’t speak ANY English.

    Alternatively, there are many “groups” that mean as well on a semi regular basis. You might look for meditation groups or Zen groups that meet in your area. You might find groups in your area that discuss karma or dharma.

    But the important thing to remember is that the “Golden Rule” is pretty much the same amongst all religions, and that is “Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.”

    I really hope this helps.

  37. You dont need to convert. Actually Dharma is to imbibe the teachings in self. So those who are practicing the above principles in day to day life, he/she automatically become Buddhist. As simple as that. So no need of conversion. Conversion is not a ritual but practice. Thanx

  38. May Than Oo says:

    can I suggest 4 books? You may find interesting. I am from Burma. (A Map of the Journey) (Snow in the Summer) ( Life is a school/ My Mind is my Friend) (Dealing with Negativity) by Sayadaw U Jotika. You can download some from internet.
    May

  39. I want to convert to buddhism but at “To refrain from killing; requires being a vegetarian” I already fail cause I often want to eat meat

  40. Thank you for your comment, MiiNiiW;

    I am not sure who said one had to refrain from eating meat to be a Buddhist.

    The overwhelming number of Buddhists that I know of eat meat.

    The Buddha ate meat. (The Buddha died after eating tainted pork.)

    All the Buddhists monks I know eat meat. Maybe in some traditions, Buddhist monks are allowed to choose what they eat, but in the Theravada tradition in Thailand, monks eat what is placed in their bowls by people who wish to make merit. They don’t pick and choose.

    My mom, on the other hand, eats MOSTLY vegetarian food (she doesn’t eat pork or chicken, and she doesn’t even allow us to bring beef into our house), but she eats fish, and she puts fish sauce and crab paste on her tofu dishes.

    I have to admit that I have wondered about whether it is ok to eat meat or not, and I have heard a few highly respected monks explain to me that the Buddha taught it was ok to eat meat, but NOT to eat any meat from an animal that was slaughtered specifically for you.

    So I guess that would mean that if you go to a restaurant, you can eat meat, but if they have one of those live fish tanks, you can’t pick out the fish that you want to eat (or order a fish that you know is alive at the time you order and will be killed specifically for you – whether you “select” that particular fish, or whether the cook selects it for you).

    Another monk I know also asked me this when I asked him about being a vegetarian. “If you eat only vegetables, what about all the insects and rodents and other small creatures that depend on those plants for food and a place to hide from predators? And what about the birds, and wild cats and foxes and other small predators that depend on those insects and small rodents for food? What about the pesticides that farmers use to raise their food crops, but end up killing all the small animals?”

    In October of each year for two weeks I only eat vegetarian food, but that is because in my home country of Thailand we have a festival honoring Kuan Yin.

    I hope this helps.

  41. Thank you for your suggestion.

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