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.