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?
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.