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.


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.


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.


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


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 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.

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)


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)


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.


This is a name sometimes used in verses


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)


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

Further Reading:

Sutta Study