A religion based on the teachings of Buddha is Buddhism. It is a religion that doesn’t force you to believe in anything yet you need to have some faith. It doesn’t ask you to change anything about yourself, yet your perception and state of mind change. People often wonder how to become Buddhist because they have seen numerous people walking on the Buddhist path and succeeding. This success is not measured based on materials or money, it is solely measured based on peace of mind.
Buddhist teachings are considered to eradicate your suffering and fill your life with bliss and peace. But, do not take it as some magic pill that is going to overnight bring the transformation for you. It is you who have to work towards it. It is you who have to understand Budhha’s teachings and then implement them one by one in your life to see the results.
So, here is how you become a Buddhist:
1. Read and research
There are numerous books written on Buddhism and the life of Buddha. If you are thinking of adopting Buddhism, you must know that you can be from any class, gender, socio-economic background or religion; Buddhism doesn’t discriminate. You must read books such as Dhammapada, The Buddhist Handbook, The Heart Of The Buddha’s Teaching, etc. Reading books will enhance your knowledge of Buddhism.
You must also read about Siddhartha Gautama, the late founder of Buddhism who had left his luxurious life in pursuit of enlightenment. His story alone has inspired many to follow the path of spirituality and end the suffering. Further, you should make yourself familiar with all Buddhism related terms. You should also remember that once you adopt Buddhism and practice certain practices, there is no going back. Thus, you must take your time and do your research well.
Buddhism doesn’t force you to believe in anything. It asks you to try things for yourself and then reach a conclusion.
2. Ask questions
It is obvious that when you plan to start a new journey, you would have many questions but the first question you need to ask is to yourself. Why do you want to become a Buddhist? Is it because of the will to live a higher life or is it to end your suffering? Is it to find guidance or is it to just follow a path to enlightenment?
Your reason can be anything but you must define it before you ask how to become Buddhist so that you know where you want to end up. Further, ask questions to your guides if you have them around you. It is always good to have a guide who can show you the light. You must also ask questions about karma, rebirth, reincarnation, etc.
To adopt Buddhism, you don’t have to give up on your current lifestyle. You can continue to live your life the way you want, with your job and family intact. Not every Buddhist is a monk.
3. Start with meditation
Meditation is the way by which you connect with your soul. You have to try to communicate with it. Meditation will make you see the reality. It will make you believe in cause and effect, and karma. It will also make you want to attain higher enlightenment. Meditation also keeps your emotions in check.
It brings peace and tranquility. When something bad happens to you, do you indulge in drama or see the whole issue from a bigger perspective? Meditation ensures you do the latter. It breaks the ego and evokes nonduality in a person.
4. Take refuge
To become a Buddhist, one has to undergo a refuge ceremony. Refuse is to be taken in three jewels namely, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The person takes refuge vows to formally become a Buddhist.
The significance of taking refuge is that a person searches everywhere for peace and happiness, but all he gets is sadness or anxiety, thus, he submits to the three jewels. The reason for taking refuge is to set yourself free from everything you have ever known, letting go and finally adapting the freedom wholeheartedly. One must remember that taking refuge is also making a commitment. This commitment is towards Buddhist principles.
Once you take refuge, there is no going back. Treat it like a final ceremony. This is where your journey to become Buddhist really begins.
a) Taking refuge in the Buddha
Taking refuge in the Buddha means walking on the path of Buddha. It is not like Buddha didn’t have anything with him. He had all the worldly pleasure at his feet but he asked the right question. He sought for something bigger and wholesome. In the end, he realized there is no self. There can’t be any ego. There is no duality. All of us can be Buddha.
In fact, inside all of us lie a Buddha. The seeker doesn’t have to consider Buddha, a god. Buddha awakened his mind and we are here to follow him in the same direction.
b) Taking refuge in the Dharma
Taking refuge in the Dharma means seeing reality as it is. We have made different concepts in our minds regarding this life.
We have made our own versions of the question “Why are we here”? Once we calm the monkey mind, when we put our endless thoughts to rest or at least shift focus entirely within ourselves, we realize that reality is something else. It is not out there. It is not your body or your thoughts. In reality, it is much more. It is vast.
Taking refuge in the Dharma also means following the teachings of Buddha. When we follow Dharma, we learn to just accept everything that comes our way as yet another learning experience.
c) Taking refuge in the Sangha
Taking refuge in the Sangha means taking refuge in companions. All the members of a Sangha always support each other and walk along in the journey to the higher self. All of us have one truth. We all are seeking the same thing in different ways. When we see another person suffering, we find encouragement to pull him back up. A Sangha can be seen as a community of people who learn from each other and give feedback to each other. They celebrate the success of each other and mourn the failures of each other.
5. Join a Buddhist temple
Join any Buddist temple or Buddhist center where you can also find Sangha. Learn meditation there. Learn about more traditions of religion. You can also join a monastery and learn from monks. However, you don’t have to become a monk to follow Buddhism. Communicate with Sangha. Help them and take their help. There are also some Buddhist schools. Make yourself familiar with that as well.
6. Uphold the five precepts
During the ceremony, you will also have to vow to uphold the 5 precepts. The 5 precepts are –
- Refrain from killing
- Refrain from stealing
- Refrain from sexual misconduct
- Refrain from harmful speech
- Refrain from intoxicants and harmful substances
7. Learn more about the basics
There are also basic concepts of Buddhism like karma, reincarnation, rebirth and Four Noble Truths that you must know about. Buddhism doesn’t ask you to believe in all of these, yet, it is better to enhance your knowledge and read everything about your religion. Four Noble Truths are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. The very basic of Buddhism implies that suffering exists, you only need to know ways to look past it.
Before you ask how to become Buddhist and take a big decision to adopt Buddhism, you must speak to practicing Buddhists. You must become part of a Buddhist community and enhance your knowledge about the history and present of the religion. This can be a life-changing moment for those who are desperately looking for enlightenment and are already on a spiritual path.
In the times that we live in, everyone needs to pause, reflect and ask if we are living in a bubble that needs to burst. Don’t we all need to go on an inward journey? The answer is probably a big yes!
Ankita calls herself a road-child because of her love for road trips and landscapes. A journalist turned digital nomad, she is either telling stories or looking outside the car window aimlessly. She has traveled most of India by road, and encourage other women to take such life-changing journeys. Ankita is also a mental health advocate and a survivor herself. She likes to tell her story through writing and photography, with the aim to change at least some lives.