While many of us are somewhat familiar with Tibetan Buddhism from seeing, for example, the Dalai Lama on television, or maybe a documentary featuring Tibetan monastics chanting or holding ceremonies, at the same time we may not have had the opportunity to visit a temple personally or encounter a lama face to face and may be unsure how to act or what is considered appropriate when physically encountering them.
With this page we hope to calm your confusion and give you some easy to follow guidelines on how to interact with a lama or rinpoche as well as common shrineroom etiquette. It is also with our thanks to Lama Kathy Wesley for providing this succint guide.
With Respect for the Buddha and the teacher guiding us on the path...
Please rise when the lama enters the shrine room to teach, and when the lama rises from his or her seat after teaching.
Please do not sit or lounge with your feet pointed toward the Buddha images, paintings, or shrine.
You may observe Buddhist practitioners doing three prostrations to the shrine when then enter. This is meant as a measure of respect as well as means to cultivate humility. If this is something you are not comfortable with, please do not feel obligated to do so.
With Respect for the Dharma, the teachings bearing the truth of the path...
Please do not place texts and prayers on the floor, but rather on a cushion or hold them in your hand. Also, please do not crumple or mark them with a pen, nor take them with you for personal use or study without first speaking with the Resident Teacher (lama).
With Respect for the Sangha, the fellowships of both realized beings and ordinary students...
Please be mindful of others. When entering the Shrine Room during a teaching or meditation session, enter quietly and take the nearest available seat. Do not hold private conversations in the Shrine Room, particularly before and after teachings and meditation sessions. When the Shrine Room is in use please be mindfully quiet in the rooms near it.
Appropriate Attire: Wear comfortable clothing that is appropriate for sitting on the floor. Please refrain from wearing anything that might be considered distracting or offensive. In short, use your best judgement. We also have chairs for sitting if the floor cushions are impractical for you, so please feel free to use them.