Becoming a Buddhist
Becoming a Buddhist used to be a thing of the east before the 50s. Ever since the eastern world opened its arms towards the western societies, many people from the west are also getting into becoming a Buddhist by reading books about Buddhism, practicing Buddhist meditation and also by applying Buddhist principles in their daily lives. So what does becoming a Buddhist mean in today’s day and age? How does one become a Buddhist? Anyone interested in Dharma may come to a point where he or she would want to decide whether they truly are a Buddhist or not.
Buddhist people around the world normally relate or depict themselves as content and joyful people. But does becoming a Buddhist tremendously change the world around us? What changes will it bring to the people who embrace the teachings of the Buddha, the enlightened one?
To put it in simple terms, one does not need to wear any special robes, change his or her eating habits, give up material possessions or any kind of social life. Becoming a Buddhist simply means changing one’s insight into anything that is happening around them. One would see everything around him or her as interesting as well as full of potential, which is very easy or simple to say but usually not easy to do.
What makes one a Buddhist?
Anyone can be a Buddhist. An individual does not particularly have to be born or raised in Buddhist culture nor do anyone’s parents have to be Buddhist. The said individual can be of any race, region, gender, socio-economic background, etc. Anyone who identifies themselves as Buddhists commonly take part in a ceremony known as taking refuge in the three gems; the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. This ceremony involves the simple act of reciting the refuge verse three times. This verse reveals the participant’s confidence and trust in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha so as to alleviate suffering and to ultimately attain enlightenment.
In simple terms of becoming a Buddhist, taking refuge in the three gems signifies “go to” and “rely on” the three gems i.e. to ask for help and be liberated from sorrows and sufferings. In other words, taking refuge may serve as a guide to be liberated from life’s misery to find one’s true self, a haven in this life or the next one.
Taking Refuge in Buddha
Buddha, meaning the one who is Enlightened or the enlightened one, provided teachings out of deep compassion to the people to find a way to end suffering of the world, eventually attaining enlightenment. By taking refuge in Buddha, one takes his or her first steps towards becoming a Buddhist. It also means that the qualities of the Buddha are also inherent within us. The Buddha possesses wisdom which helps one to understand what he or she is doing, compassion so that one can have a soft heart and be there for the others, and power so that the practitioner can continue the journey towards Buddhahood.
Taking Refuge in Dharma
Dharma, which is the second aspect of taking a refuge, guides an individual to get the better off desires, ill-will and ignorance so as to anticipate him or her from the cycle of birth and death. Taking refuge in Dharma does not mean the participant should follow a prescribed path. Becoming a Buddhist really means that one has to look inside their own mind, and the dharma guides him or her to do the exact same thing. Dharma helps an individual to move towards the path of stability and can also act as a protection for one’s mind and heart.
Taking Refuge in Sangha
The final step of taking refuge, Sangha is a community of people who are on the same path of finding liberation from suffering. Sangha, in Pali words, means group harmony. The members of Sangha can be considered as warriors as they are trying to tame Samsara while also being there for one another, supporting each other and care for one another. Since nobody is perfect, sangha acts as an inspirational figure for the people who want to amplify their understanding of mindfulness, compassion and awareness. Practicing Buddhism together can also help one to find discipline. Since there are also other people around who are going through the same phase, it gives the individual a sense of encouragement.
Finally to end it all, one simply needs to take refuge in the three gems in order to identify as Buddhists but there is no hard and fast rule to become a Buddhist. One can simply pertain to the teachings of Buddha and be inspired to be a better person to become a Buddhist. Similarly practicing meditation helps one to be mindful of things around them.