Far more than just religious dogma, Temple etiquette is an important practice that sets the tone and mindset of all those present.
Whether visiting the temple, or a rented room, we kindly ask both members and non-members to follow these simple rules whilst visiting. These should be followed by everyone, but we understand that newcomers may feel a little intimidated. Do not fret! You won’t be scolded if you forget something. There’s a lot to take in, so someone will help you.
Refrain from physical harm – both yourself and others, insect, animal and human alike
Refrain from taking what is not given – ie stealing
Refrain from sexual misconduct – please act appropriately towards each other
Refrain from false speech – we’d like our members to be open with each other. Before we speak, it is good practice to ask ourselves what our intention is. This includes swearing and shouting
Refrain from taking intoxicants – intoxicants cloud the mind and can disturb others(1)
Please wear appropriate clothing – nothing too short or revealing (both men and women). You should be comfortable in what you are wearing, so we advise you to wear loose fitting clothing that you are able to sit in for long periods. Although its not necessary, some people like to wear a traditional samue 作務衣.
Taking our time whilst in the hondo is part of mindful training. Refraining from running forces us to think about our actions.
ENTERING THE TEMPLE
- Remove your shoes, but keep your socks on
- Bow at the entrance of the Hondo(2)
- Step over the threshold with the left foot
- Bow to the Honzon(3) and silently take a seat and wait for the start of the service
Removing your shoes
In the Hondo people are often sat on the floor, or they may perform prostrations in which they touch their hands and head to the floor. For this reason we ask everyone to remove their shoes before entering, as our shoes could contain dirt or bacteria from outside. Similarly, we ask members not to come barefoot either.
When entering the hondo it is customary to bow. Bowing in Buddhism is an outward expression of respect, gratitude, humility and trust. In the Mahayana traditions, we are taught that we all have buddhanature. So when we bow, we are bowing to that potential in ourselves.
Most people in the west do not like to bow because they feel whoever (or whatever) they are bowing to needs to earn their respect first. And yet, the traditional western handshake has the same meaning. It is a symbol of trust and humbleness.
We also bow to the Buddha image. People often confuse this as worship, but the image is a symbol, not an idol. It symbolises our potential to become Buddhas ourselves and connects you to your potential for selfless compassion and enlightenment.
Bowing is also a form of mindful training. When we enter the hondo and bow we are leaving the stressful, busy life and entering a place for calm and peaceful meditation.
The practice of bowing can often open up aspects of our ego that are buried deep as it can often make people feel unprotected. Bowing also unifies us as we all bow to each other. No-one is better than other.
Enter with the left foot
The left side is significant in Japanese customs. You enter buildings with the left foot, you dress starting with the left side, put your shoes on the left first, turn to the left when moving out the way, even standing on the left side of an escalator. The left side signifies beginnings, of life, of opening up and revelation.
EXITING THE TEMPLE
- Stand up, turn and tidy your cushion/seat/table/area
- Face the Honzon and those in the Hondo and bow
- Move to exit silently
- At the threshold, turn clockwise to face the Honzon and bow
- Exit on the right foot
Exit on the right foot
Just as the left foot signifies the start, the right foot signifies the end.
- These are based on the traditional 5 precepts
- Hondo本堂 in Japanese means ‘main hall’ and refers to a room or hall that is used for Buddhist practice. Another common name is Dojo 道場 meaning ‘place of the way’
- Honzon 本尊 in Japanese means ‘main image of veneration’ and refers to the main image on the altar.