Buddhist places of worship

Ubosot of Wat Kalayanimit, Thonburi, Thailand
Ubosot of Wat Kalayanimit, Thonburi, Thailand

On full moon days and festivals, Buddhists may visit a vihara or temple in order to worship with others.

Temples are centres for study and worship for the whole community. Worship in the temple includes chanting the Three Refuges and Precepts and the scriptures, giving offerings in front of an image of the Buddha, lighting candles, burning incense, meditating and listening to sermons.

The most important part of a Buddhist temple is the shrine room, which contains one or more Buddharupas. Any place where an image of the Buddha is used in worship is known as a shrine, and many Buddhists also have shrines at home.

Before entering the shrine room, people take off their shoes as a sign of respect and also to keep the shrine room floor clean. They also dress modestly, often in white in Theravada countries. They bow in front of the Buddharupa, and sit with their feet tucked under, as it is rude to point the soles of one's feet towards someone. Worship usually begins with reciting the Three Refuges.

Bhikkhus or Bhikshunis may read or recite sutras, or give a sermon that explains their relevance to daily life.

Theravada Buddhists bring offerings of candles, flowers, rosaries and incense. Mahayana Buddhists also bring gifts but show devotion to bodhisattas as well.

Bowls of water and other food offerings are placed before the Buddharupa on a raised platform or altar.

Traditionally in Theravada Buddhism, the laity were not expected to meditate or know the scriptures. That was the job of the monks and nuns in the Sangha. The laity gain merit by supporting the Sangha and living a life of reverence and devotion which they express through worship and ethical living.

Another feature of worship involves visiting stupas. While there, Buddhists often circumambulate the stupa, reciting a mantra or a prayer, and concentrate on the importance of the Buddha for their lives.