Ask A Buddhist: Buddhist Without A Temple

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By Ven. Thubten Chonyi

It’s difficult for me to reach the temple. Is there a way in which I can become a Buddhist and learn the teachings of the Buddha without going to the temple for now? Would it be sustainable for me to do so?

These days, there are many ways to get in touch with quality Buddhist teachings without attending a temple or Dharma center. There’s much to be learned from books, online videos, and distance learning courses.

It’s important to be careful about online sources, however. Buddha advised his disciples to check our teacher very carefully to make sure their motivation is virtuous, that they have a good understanding of the Dharma teachings, keep good ethical conduct, and  practice what they preach, so to speak. This step is essential, whether we learn in person or online.

There are several Buddhist traditions that practice in different ways. However, all rely on the same basic teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. You might want to investigate teachers in the Theravada, Zen, Chinese Mahayana, and Tibetan traditions to see which form resonates best with you. Once you’ve made that decision, stick primarily with one tradition until you know it very well. This will help to avoid confusion, especially if you don’t have direct access to a qualified teacher. However, it’s fine to receive teachings from other Buddhist traditions too.

Eventually, for a long-term, sustainable practice, it’s best to find a teacher you can rely on. That may mean traveling to attend live teachings from time to time so you can make a direct connection with the teacher. Also, sitting in live teachings with other Buddhists or Buddhist aspirants has a much stronger impact on your mind than watching videos of teachings.

It’s wonderful, too, to have Dharma friends that encourage and support you in your practice. See if you can find such resources in your area or online. Buddhist community support is another factor in sustaining practice.

I live at Sravasti Abbey in Newport WA and we put a lot of materials on the web. Please see www.sravasti.org , www.thubtenchodron.org, and youtube.com/sravastiabbey. We have addressed similar questions on SpokaneFAVS in the past. Take a look at Becoming a Buddhist, How Do I Know if I’m Buddhist?, and Is Buddhism for Me.

About Ven. Thubten Chonyi

Ven. Thubten Chonyi is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has studied with Sravasti Abbey founder and abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron since 1996. She received novice ordination at the Abbey in 2008 and full ordination in 2011 in Taiwan. Ven. Chonyi regularly teaches Buddhism and meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and other local locations.

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