It’s no secret that I am a Buddhist. Not a super devout one (I’m sure my mother is cringing as she reads this), but I grew up as a Buddhist and my parents taught me the basics. One of my goals as a mother is to pass on the Buddhist basics to M.
Yes, we realize it is hot in South East Asia. However, you are on holy grounds when visiting a Buddhist temple and you really ought to pay attention to the Do’s and Don’ts. If not, don’t be surprised when a Buddhist like me comes up to you to tell you how inappropriate you are dressed and/or behaving.
I’ll admit the heat thing is a killer, but there are rules and I abide by them whether I am in a Mosque, a Church or a Buddhist temple. I would expect this very same thing from M as well during our travels.
- Bow your head and pay respect to the temple and the Buddha statues.
- Take off your shoes in or around the temple grounds. Make this an easier process for yourself by wearing slip-on shoes. If you are wearing tennis shoes and complaining about having to take off your shoes often- well whose fault is that really, eh?
- Do not point at Buddha statues, Monks, Nuns and/or elders with your feet (well anything for that matter). You will go to hell. Okay, maybe not right away, but you get my point.
- Cover yourself ladies. We don’t need to see your boobs and your legs hanging out all over on the temple grounds where there are honorable Monks, Nuns and elders. A t-shirt with sleeves could easily fix this problem. Stop whining and do it. It is the right thing to do or don’t go to a temple.
- Always bring a wrap or a large scarf to cover yourself. But, please, do use it and COVER yourself.
- Do not wear shorts. You should be covered down at least below your knees.
- Keep your head below Buddha statues, images, honorable Monks and Nuns.
- Do not touch (especially on the head) Buddha statues, images, Monks, Nuns and elders.
- Please refrain from public displays of affection. You may be on your honeymoon and cannot keep your hands off of one another, but not all of us need to see your hands all over each other. You are not at the park, you are at a temple so pull your selves together and show some respect.
- Keep Quiet. There are those meditating or praying somewhere even though you may not see them.
- It may be very fascinating to foreigners to see a reclining Buddha. However, do not get too close to a Buddha statue when taking a picture. When possible kneel on the ground so that you head is below the statue.
- Parents: It is your responsibility as a parent to talk to your child (ren) about the rules before arriving to any temple, not at the time of arrival when it is too late and they are already 3/4 way up the Buddha statue. Consider this a teaching moment about the culture of the country you are visiting.
- More info here for Alms-Giving ritual in Luang Prabang, Lao including important do’s and don’ts. Please read this before you go to not look like an ignorant tourist.
My faith in humanity, restored, when I saw this couple. Way to go!
NOTE: I wrote this post because I’m tired of witnessing tourists (mostly Westerners and sometimes even Asians themselves) showing up to a Buddhist temple with a beach attire all over Thailand and Cambodia. I can’t speak for India and Nepal because I was there in February during my pilgrimage trip and it was very cold. Truth is, they are not going to the beach, they are going to a Temple. It is a place of worship for the locals, for Buddhists. I find this behavior very disturbing and offensive. There are tourist books and websites with tips on how to dress and behave when visiting Buddhist temples and yet, many show up dressed very inappropriately. When I do have the opportunity I have spoken to tourists individually, and remind them gently. And I guess you could say I have different expectations for Asians. After all they are in another Asian country or in their own country being poor role models. In Rangoon, Burma (where I was born) the famous Shwedagon Pagoda would not allow tourists dressed like the pictures in this post. That’s the way it should be. I doubt the Vatican would allow tourists with that attire in the summer time. In fact, it does not.