C2B: Are there sacraments in Buddhism?

There are no sacraments in Buddhism in the sense they are found in Christianity.

There are, however many parallels as you can see below. While most usually involve monastics, ordination is the only one that must.

Birth

Pregnant mothers will often go to a monastery and ask monks to chant a special blessing authorized by the Buddha, known as the Angulimala Paritta. Newborns are often brought to a monastery as soon as possible to have monastics chant a blessing.

Illness

When a person is very ill, they may request monastics to visit and give a sermon and chant protective verses. This was common even in the time of the Buddha. The sick person and there family may also chant on their own.

Marriage

Monastics do not officiate at weddings, but couples will often go to a monastery before or after the wedding to receive advice on lay life and to listen to blessing chants.

Going for refuge and taking the precepts

Traditionally, going for refuge to the Triple Gem and undertaking the five precepts is considered conversion to Buddhism. Often lay people will recite them repeating after a monastic but it can also be done alone. This is often done every time one goes to a monastery.

Death

After a family member or friend dies, people will often arrange an alms-giving and share merit with the departed. This is traditionally done after seven days, one month, three months, and at the year anniversary, although the schedule is not important.

Entering the monastic order

There is an official procedure established by the Budddha for novice ordination (leaving lay life) and high ordination (officially becoming a member of the monastic community. This is explained in detail in the Vinaya.

Study

Do I have to change my name If I become a Buddhist?

There is no need to change your name when you become a Buddhist. Most people do not. Even monks and nuns didn’t change their names when the Buddha was alive.

If you would like to have a traditional Buddhist name, you certainly can. Some names are are simply names of famous disciples such as Visakha (chief female benefactor), Khema (chief nun), Ananda (the Buddha’s attendant), and Upali (Vinaya master). Some names are wholesome qualities such as Khanti (patience), and Samadhi (concentration).

If you would like help choosing a Buddhist name, most monks and nuns would be happy to help you.

C2B: Are there sacraments in Buddhism?

There are no sacraments in Buddhism in the sense they are found in Christianity.

There are, however, many parallels as you can see below. While most usually involve monastics, ordination is the only one that must.

Birth

Pregnant mothers will often go to a monastery and ask monks to chant a special blessing authorized by the Buddha, known as the Angulimala Paritta. Newborns are often brought to a monastery as soon as possible to have monastics chant a blessing.

Illness

When a person is very ill, they may request monastics to visit and give a sermon and chant protective verses. This was common even in the time of the Buddha. The sick person and there family may also chant on their own.

Marriage

Monastics do not officiate at weddings, but couples will often go to a monastery before or after the wedding to receive advice on lay life and to listen to blessing chants.

Going for refuge and taking the precepts

Traditionally, going for refuge to the Triple Gem and undertaking the five precepts is considered conversion to Buddhism. Often lay people will recite them repeating after a monastic but it can also be done alone. This is often done every time one goes to a monastery.

Death

After a family member or friend dies, people will often arrange an alms-giving and share merit with the departed. This is traditionally done after seven days, one month, three months, and at the year anniversary, although the schedule is not important.

Entering the monastic order

There is an official procedure established by the Budddha for novice ordination (leaving lay life) and high ordination (officially becoming a member of the monastic community). This is explained in detail in the Vinaya. This can onlybe performed by ordained monastics.

Study

Do you need a teacher to become a Buddhist?

Yes.  Absolutely.  The Buddha.

For the Blessed One was the arouser of the unarisen path, the begetter of the unbegotten path, the expounder of the unexpounded path, the knower of the path, the expert with regard to the path, adept at the path. And now his disciples follow the path and become endowed with it after him.

Ven. Ananda, MN 108, Gopaka Moggallana Sutta

Many people are familiar with the Buddha’s statement that spuritual friendship is not half,  but the entire holy life.  People often miss the way he explained it in detail:

And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. 

SN 45.2, Upaddha Sutta: Half

We are all extremely lucky to be alive in a time when the Buddha’s teachings are still available to us. We do need the help of many spiritual friends.  But the Buddha is the only teacher required. 

 

Top ten words every Buddhist convert must learn

Below are some of the most important words for new Buddhists to learn. The main words are Pali. If there are more common Sanskrit equivalents, they are in parentheses.

Buddha

This refers to someone who has attained enlightenment on his own and establishes a community of enlightened disciples. All the Buddhas of the past share the same nine qualities. Our Buddha is Sidhattha Gotama.

Dhamma (Dharma)

The teachings of the Buddha that lead to full enlightenment. This word is also used by other religions but has different meanings.

Sangha

There are two groups that Sangha refers to. One is all of the Buddhas disciples that have attained some level of enlightenment. The other is the community of monks and nuns. The use of the word sangha to refer to any group of people who practice together is new. It is important to remember that this third group is not the group we go for refuge to.

Arahat/Arahant

Someone who has attained full enlightenment.

sutta (sutra)

The collected sermons, discourses and verses spoken by the Buddha and some of his enlightened disciples.

kamma (karma)

In general, kamma just means action. In the Buddha’s Dhamma it specifically refers to actions that we do intentionally by body, speech, and mind that will give a result related to the wholesome or unwholesome nature of the action.

Pali

Pali is the language that the suttas are written in. It is still used today for liturgies.

Bhante

Bhante is a way to address a monk, equivalent to Reverend or Venerable. (“Yes, bhante”). It is now often used as a noun, although it is not in Pali (“Have you seen any of the bhantes?”) As well it is commonly used as a title. (Bhante Sivali)

vandana & puja

Vandana means a worship service. Puja means an offering. Since they usually happen together, the two words are used interchangeably.

Puñña

Puñña means merit. It is equivalent to good kamma. Specifically the Buddha taught that merit is collected through giving, being virtuous, and by developing the mind.

Top 9 Qualities of the Buddha Every Convert Should Know

If we want to get the most out of our Buddhist life it’s important that we understand exactly who the Buddha is. After all, not only is he our teacher,  he is the one who discovered  the teachings. Because we can’t see the reality of the teachings on our own until we have followed  them, we have to trust him.

1. Arahaṃ: Worthy. The Buddha is truly worthy because he has completely removed all greed, hatred and delusion from his mind.

2. Sammāsambuddho: Supremely enlightened. Unlike his disciples who also became enlightened, the Buddha did it without anyone’s help.

3. Vijjācaranasampanno: Endowed with knowledge and virtue. The Buddha had perfect virtue as well as all the special knowledge, including psychic powers, and direct knowledge of the results of actions.

4. Sugato: Follower of the Noble Path. He followed the Noble Eightfold Path all the way to the end.

5. Lokavidū: Knower of worlds. He understood the heavenly worlds, the human world, the ghost world, the animal wortld, an the hell worlds. He also understood how a person is reborn in each of these worlds and how to put an end to rebirth in any world.

6. Anuttaro purisadammasārathi: Peerless trainer of people. No matter what bad qualities an individual has, if there is the possibility for them to be trained, the Buddha can do it.

7. Satthā devamanussānam: Teacher of gods and humans. The Buddha helped both humans and gods to attain enlightenment.

8. Buddho: the Enlightened Teacher. He taught the Dhamma to others without holding anything back.

9. Bhagavā: the Blessed One. He was the only one who had all of these qualities.

Six names for the Buddha every convert must know

You could be forgiven for thinking that there are many different Buddhas because he has so many different titles and names. Some of these are names and some are more like titles. And some, like Bhagava and Tathāgata can be used to refer to Buddhas in the past, but this is always clear from the context.

Names are given in Pali and Sanskrit when they are different.

Blessed One (Bhagava)

This is by far the most common name used in the suttas. It is more of a title than a name. It is the 9th quality of the Buddha and means that he is the only one who has all nine qualities.
(Note: Blessed is pronounced with two syllables, bless-ed)

Tathāgata

This is another very common way of referring to the Buddha. This is the way the Buddha will most often refer to himself. It is a difficult word to translate, but he gives us a good explanation in the Lokavabodha Sutta. (see pronunciation rule)

Gotama/Gautama

This was his family name. Sometimes in verses other people will also be referred to by this name. Usually it is clear from the context.

Angīrasa

This is a name sometimes used in verses

Sidhatta/Siddhartha

This is what we would now a days call the Buddha’s first name. We actually don’t find this name in the suttas. Sometimes you will hear him called Siddhartha Gautama. (see pronunciation rule)

Sākyamuni/Shakyamuni

This means Sage of the Sākyas, the kingdom where the Buddha was born.

Further Reading:

Sutta Study