Learn this one weird pronunciation trick every Buddhist convert should know.

The biggest mistake people make when pronouncing Buddhist words is with the letters TH. In English those letters are either pronounced with a soft, hissing sound like in the word think, or a harder buzzing sound like the word that. But in all Indian languages such a Pali (the Buddha’s language), Sanskrit, Hindi, and Sinhala, the H is basically silent. It’s actually pronounced with a strong out breath, but you are better off just ignoring it.

This is also the case for kh, gh, ch, jh, ṭh, ḍh, th, dh, ph, and bh. The ph is always just pronounced like a p, never an f. And both c and ch are always pronounced a a hard ch sound, like church.

So this means that Theravada (Teaching of the Elders) is pronounced like “tear a piece of paper” not “therapy.” The other commonly mispronounced word is Tathāgata (a title of the Buddha). The H in both cases is completely silent.

The technical term for these letters is mahaprāna. Other examples of words that use them:

  • khanda–aggregate
  • Sangha–the order of monks and nuns
  • jhāna–deep state of meditation
  • Dhamma–the Buddha’s teaching
  • phala–fruit or result
  • bhikkhu–monk

What is the Buddhist flag?

What we now call the international Buddhist flag was created in the late nineteenth century. It represents the six colours of the Buddha’s aura, the light that could radiate from his body when he chose. The sixth color is called pabbhassara. This is often considered to be a combination of the other five. Sometimes it is translated as pure radiance.

Flag_of_Buddhism.svg (1)

We find a mention of the colours in the Buddha’s aura in the story of the miracles he performed in the town of Uruvela, shortly after his enlightenment. (Although the list of colours is slightly different.) The following is the version of the story in verse (Angirasa is another name for the Buddha):

Near the Nerañjarā, the Lord
spoke thus to the matted hair ascetic Uruvelākassapa:
“If it is not inconvenient to you, Kassapa,
let me stay this day (only) in the fire-hall.”

“It is not inconvenient to me, great recluse,
(but) as I am anxious for your comfort I warn you
that there is a fierce serpent king there,
of psychic power, a terribly venomous snake.
Do not let him harm you.”

“It is not likely that he can harm me.
Please do you, Kassapa, allow (me the use of) the fire-room.”
“It is given”; having understood this,
the fearless one entered, fear overpassed.

Having seen that the holy man had entered,
the chief of snakes, afflicted, blew forth smoke.
The chief of men, joyful, unperturbed,
blew forth smoke there too.

But the chief of snakes, not conquering anger,
blazed up like a fire.
The chief of men, highly proficient in the condition of heat,
blazed up there too.

When both were in flames,
the matted hair ascetics, as they were looking at the fire-room, said:
“Beautiful indeed is the great recluse,
(but) he will be harmed by the serpent.”

Then at the end of that night
the serpent’s flames became extinguished,
but the multicoloured flames of him of psychic power remained,
and multicoloured flames, dark green,
then red, crimson, yellow and crystal-coloured
were on Angirasa’s body.

Having put the chief of snakes into his bowl,
he showed him to the brahmin, saying:
“This, Kassapa, is your serpent,
his heat was mastered by heat.”

Mahakhanda, Vinaya Pitaka

Do you join a group or become part of a “people” when you convert to Buddhism?

When you become a Buddhist, it doesn’t involve joining a group or becoming part of a “people”.

For example, when you convert to Judaism you become part of the Jewish people. When you become a Christian you are part of the body of Christ. Many Christians believe that God works specifically through the group.

In Buddhism, conversion is really a personal matter and there is no need to join a group. In traditional Buddhist countries people don’t think of themselves as members of the local temple. They have a relationship with the temple, but it is as a supporter and participant. In western countries, Buddhist temples or groups usually maintain a membership to meet legal requirements.

When a Buddhist becomes a fully ordained monastic then they become part of a group known as the Sangha. This involves an official procedure that requires members of the Sangha accepting you into the group.

Am I still a Buddhist if I break a precept?

Of course. If we aren’t enlightened, chances are we are going to break the precepts sometimes. If we are just beginning to follow the precepts, then for sure we are going to break them sometimes. That’s why it’s called training.

What we don’t want to break is our refuge in the Triple Gem. If that happens then we loose all the protection of the whole practice.

If we do realize we have broken a precept, then we immediately make the determination to keep it in the future. We can wisely reflect on how it happened and the mental state we were in. We don’t obsess over it. We just determine to try and do things differently in the future. This determination is a hugely powerful factor in developing our mind.

In fact, this is why many Buddhists take the precepts on their own once or twice a day.

Sutta study


Monastery? Temple? Community? Meditation Center? Cultural Center???

Buddhist organizations in the west often use different words to describe themselves. Here are some common terms explained.


Temple is by far the most common word used for organizations that include monastics. It might mean that the focus of the place is on offering spiritual services to the lay community.


Monastety definitely indicates there are monastics. Often there is is a focus on seclusion and they may be located a bit farther away from population centers. Sometimes they offer guest accommodations.


Community is an ambiguous term that may be used in an effort to sound “normal” and may mean that monastics are either not involved or have only a guest role.

Meditation Center

Meditation center may indicate that part or all of the focus is on meditation. There may be organized retreats and overnight accommodation. Often they are affiliated with or are a part of a monastery.

Cultural Center

Many older Buddhist organizations included this in their name instead of “temple” to avoid social stigma. Some, however, actively promote things such as dance, music, or language allong side Buddhist teachings.

And More…

There’s many other terms you might see as well, sometimes in combination with the ones above.

Vihara is the Pali word for dwelling and is often part of the name of Sri Lankan temples.

Society serves a similar purpose as “community”

Wat is the Thai word for temple or monastery.

Hermitage is usually interchangeable with monastery, although it might be more secluded.

Abbey and priory are English terms for monasteries, an Abbey usually being larger.

Sangha is Pali word that refers to a group of monastics or fully enlightened disciples. However in a group name it often just refers to a group of lay people.

Can I really visit a temple?

Yes, yes. A thousand times yes. Most places don’t even have the concept of member, let alone require you to be one to participate.

For the most part, people living in western countries who are from Buddhist cultures are really excited to meet converts. Monks and nuns especially love to see people who have made a conscious choice to become Buddhists, just as they have made a conscious choice to become monastics.

Every temple or monastery will have a certain “culture” that you will need to adapt to, even if most people there are themselves converts. Learning to fit in is part of being a good guest and will ensure you get as much benefit as possible. Do your homework and people will surely forgive any initial faux-pas.

Your turn… Did you have apprehensions about visiting a temple or monastery for the first time? How did it work out?


Merit: The Buddhist Way of Life

Monks, don’t be afraid of acts of merit. This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming — that is, acts of merit.

The Buddha, Itivuttaka 22

One of the ways the Buddha explained Buddhist life was in terms of merit:

  1. Dana: giving material things and giving the Dhamma
  2. Sila: virtue, including keeping the precepts
  3. Bhavana: developing the mind, especially through meditation

Collecting merit simply means building up good kamma by doing good things. As Buddhists we know that there are so many different ways to be happy through doing good actions. By correctly understanding this we can be sure to have a rich spiritual life.

If we forget this three-fold nature of merit then it is possible that our spiritual life will go out of balance.

Sutta Study:


Why do we convert to Buddhism?

There are lots of reasons.

  • We loose confidence in the religion we grew up with.
  • We marry someone who is Buddhist.
  • We learn what the Buddha taught and we agree with it.
  • We practice what the Buddha taught and find it helpful.
  • We completely misunderstand what the Buddha taught and think we agree with a religion that we actually know very little about.
  • Or some combination of the above.

Buy why do we actually take the plunge and declare, either publicly or privately, “I… am… a Buddhist!”? Because without committing ourselves, it’s very easy to get thrown off course. For example, we may suddenly realize that some of the things we weren’t happy about in our childhood religion actually turn up in the Buddha’s teachings. So if we’ve committed ourselves we don’t turn tail and run away. Because chances are we still haven’t understood the teachings.

Being a Buddhist affects all aspects of our lives, so having this wholesome identity serves as a powerful anchor.

Your turn… Why did you become a Buddhist? What are the benefits you have gained through this wholesome identity? Share in the comments below.

Going to your local monastery or temple for the first time

The majority of temples and monasteries in non-Buddhist countries are supported almost exclusively by ex-pats, usually all from the same country. If you are fortunate enough to live close to one it can be a great opportunity to humbly participate as a guest who wants to learn.

Do some research before you stop in. If they have a website it may have hours you can visit or programs you might want to check out. It may also have some notes on etiquette.

In general, though it is up to you as a guest to look for clues. For example, are there shoes outside or just inside the door? Then take yours off.

If you know it is a community of monks, then unless you are going for a scheduled event, it would be good for women to bring a man with them. Vice versa if it is a community of nuns.

Remember, they may not be used to having people from outside their community visiting. It’s possible that the person who greets you may not even speak your language. Don’t worry. In almost all cases you will be greeted warmly. And don’t be discouraged if your first visit doesn’t go quite as you expect. Give it another shot under different circumstances.

You might see if they have any public festivals coming up soon. Visiting then will guarantee there are people to talk to that can show you around.

Even if the only temple in town isn’t part of the tradition you prefer, it could still provide some community support.


Your turn… Have you visited your local temple? How’s it go? Give your suggestions in the comments below.



Do I have to believe in rebirth to be a Buddhist?

Of course.

Now… you could certainly try being a Buddhist with wrong views. There’s lots out there. And it’s much better to be a Buddhist whow has a wrong view or two than to not be a Buddhist at all.

Tha said, there is a very common misunderstanding out there that you have to see something with your direct experience before you believe it. Even many Arahants can’t see their previous lives, so what about an ordinary Buddhist?

When we have faith in the Buddha’s enlightenment, then we believe in rebirth. It’s not that complicated.