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Monastery Etiquette

While you are at the Vihara please be mindful of the very traditional religious and cultural context you have entered and try to observe the norms of that context, many of which go back to the time of the Buddha. Most of these are embodiments of respect, which are generally quite unfamiliar to casual Americans.  No one is likely to get uptight around unintended transgressions, but try to be mindful if you can.

  • Before entering the monastery building you should remove your shoes and leave them outside or on the shoe rack just inside the door.
  • One should not touch a monk, even in greeting. The proper way to greet an monk is by joining your hands in front of your chest, or, more formally, by making a triple bow, placing your forehead on the floor.
  • While in the shrine room, avoid unnecessary talking, and do not stand or sit with you back towards the Buddha image.
  • While seated, do not point the bottoms of your feet toward an image of the Buddha or toward a monk.
  • Due to requirements of the monastic rule which the monks follow, the monks should avoid being alone in closed rooms with female visitors. If you are female, and would like to speak with a monk, please do so in an open area, or in the company of other people. (In the West this rule is commonly misunderstood; it helps to understand that nuns follow a similar rule, but with respect to men.)
  • The monks as a rule do not eat after noon. It is improper to offer them food after noon, but liquids may be offered at anytime. (In the same way, it is also improper to offer solid food to the Buddha after noon.)
  • Monks conventionally not eat at the same table with lay people. If a meal is being offered, allow the monks to eat first, and then enjoy the food with the other lay people afterwards.
  • When offering material things to a monk (food, medicine, clothing, etc.), please hold the offering with both hands while handing it to him. (In the same way, when offering things to the Buddha in the shrine room, make the offer while holding it with both hands.)
  • If you wish to offer money a monk, or to the monastery in general, please place the offering in an envelope before offering it to one of the monks. Specify by writing on the envelope what the offering is for. Envelopes are provided for this purpose in the dining area. There is also a donation box in the shrine room should a monk not be available to receive your donation.
  • If you come to a festival or potluck, please do not bring alcoholic beverages, even beer.

Thank you very much for your kindness and cooperation.

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