Even if you are not a Buddhist you CAN go to a Buddhist temple and be welcomed warmly by the monks and the laypeople there. There are a few restrictions on who may pray at a Buddhist temple, but they are generally quite accommodating.

Firstly, there is no religious restrictions prohibiting Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or those of other faiths from going to a Buddhist temple. No one will be asking you to declare what faith you follow before entering. Everyone is welcome.

For example, in my home country of Thailand we have a significant Muslim population (about 9% of all Thai people are Muslim.) And I have known many of them both in Thailand - and after I moved to America - that have frequently gone to Buddhist temples and were welcomed with open arms.

I also have some Christian friends that regularly go to one of our local Thai Buddhist temples here. (You can view a list of Thai Buddhist Temples in America By Clicking Here.)

So while your OWN religion might have restrictions on whether you are allowed to visit a different house of worship, we don't have those restrictions in Buddhism.

Secondly, no one will try to convert you to Buddhism if you go. Yes, the monks will lead in Buddhist prayers and will offer blessings, and you will be expected to pay respects to - or at least act respectfully around - the main Buddha statue enshrined at the temple. but Buddhists are not evangelical so you will not have to feel like you need to defend your religious beliefs. Your personal faith is as safe as it can be when you are at a temple.

Another reason that you are welcome is because (in America, at least) many of the Buddhist temples also serve as a gathering spot for the local communities. So for instance, on Sundays at many of the Thai Buddhist temples, many people will bring food along to share with one another. and usually there is always more food to go around than people, so you will get to enjoy some Thai home cooking.

If you do go, though, you should know that here in the US, most temples only have very limited hours of service. Depending on the size of the local Buddhist population, they might have religious services, meditation or Dharma talks during the week, but only on certain days, or only at certain times.

Also, here is a quick list of requirements that you might find helpful.

  1. Dress respectfully. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, but wear clothing that covers you.
  2. Take off your shoes BEFORE you enter the temple. You will see a large pile of shoes outside the doors, so you will know exactly where you need to take off your shoes.
  3. Wear clean socks (see above if you are not sure why you need clean socks).
  4. Don't step on to the threshold (the wood or metal piece on the floor in the doorway that separates the inside from the outside.
  5. Once you enter, face the main Buddha image in the temple and raise your hands together in prayer and bring the finger tips to just about the bottom of your nose, and slightly in front of it. Then tilt your head down so that the area between your eyebrows comes down to make contact with your fingertips.
  6. Don't point at the statue, or the monks, or really anything in the temple. People in Asia generally avoid pointing in general, and they DEFINITELY don't point at monks or at temple objects.
  7. Find a place to sit down where you can avoid having your feet pointing toward the main temple statue, or at the monks, or at other people. While in general people will sit on the floor, with their legs tucked BEHIND them (as opposed to sitting cross-legged or having their legs extended out in  front of them), there might be some chairs in the back of the temple hall where you can sit "Western style."
  8. Avoid trying to tower over statues, monks, or people seated down. It's a little hard to explain, but if there is low to the ground, you really don't want to stand to close to it.
  9. And of course, avoid using profanity or doing anything else that you wouldn't normally do at a house of worship.

But most importantly, plan on having a good time and relaxing. You might end up making new friends while you are there, or you might just enjoy the atmosphere - the images in the Buddhist murals on the walls, the sounds of the monks chanting, the smell of incense burning, the food that many visitors bring to share.