In Southeast Asia, Buddhist temples are more or less everywhere and the last thing that a traveller would want to do is offend the locals on sacred ground. Before you plan on visiting a Buddhist temple, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind.
Take your shoes off around temple grounds
Just like in most homes in Asia, footwear is not allowed indoors and this is also practiced in temples so do as the locals and find the closest shoe rack or area to leave your footwear before entering a temple. In some places, they might give you a plastic bag to carry your shoes. For good measure, remove your hat as well.
Refrain from pointing at Buddha statues
Pointing can be considered rude in Asian culture and is considered offensive when it comes to statues of Buddha. If you need to gesture at something, do it with your right palm facing upwards instead. Also, back away when exiting a temple instead of turning your back as a sign of respect.
Do not point your feet at the main statue
Feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest point of one’s body in Buddhist culture and pointing your feet towards a statue, or another person can be considered very offensive. A good way to sit in a temple is by tucking your feet under your legs.
Leave your tank tops and shorts at home when visiting a temple. It can be considered offensive if you expose your knees and some temples might prohibit you from entering should you dress indecently. It might be a good idea to bring along a scarf in case you need extra coverage.
Do not engage in public displays of affection
This is a bit of a no-brainer but one would be surprised at the number of visitors who show indecent displays of affection on temple grounds. Keep hands off your significant other when visiting temples to avoid disapproving stares from locals and monks.
Keep your voice at a low volume
As a sign of respect, speak at a lower volume as loud conversations can disrupt those in prayer or meditation. Also, make sure that you refrain from using profanity on temple grounds as there is no tolerance for swearing or offensive remarks in these places.
Do not eat inside temple grounds
Some monks do only eat in the mornings so it might not be a good idea to be snacking around them. Also, accidently spilling a drink or potato crisps all over the floor would be frowned upon, especially when you are a visitor.
Lower your head when passing by people or Buddha statues
The head is considered the highest point in Buddhist culture and as a sign of respect and reverence, make sure you keep your head below the level of Buddhist statues and images. Also, do not touch the top of people or the Buddha statue’s head as this is extremely offensive in their culture.
Be aware of your conduct with monks
Monks are revered in Buddhism are to be respected when you are visiting a temple. When in conversation with a monk who is sitting, make sure you sit down first. Women should also refrain from touching monks as it is prohibited and should you give or receive something from a monk, make sure it is done with your right hand.
Do you have any other do’s and don’ts to share? Do let us know in the comments below.
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