Temple Etiquette

What is Etiquette?  It is a moderation in conduct in order not to be offensive and disrespectful to others.

1. Greetings: With reference to a teacher or monastic, for a traditional greeting or parting, stand with the body slightly bowed and the hands folded at the heart.

2. Shoes: Shoes are generally left outside the door of a shrine room, or temple. If your feet are considered unclean, then your shoes are definitely dirty. You must remove your shoes before entering a temple building, or someone's house for that matter. Failing to do this one little thing is perhaps the most insulting thing you could do. And remember to arrange them neatly outside/inside the doors.

3 Turn off cellular phones before or when entering Dharma Hall. Refrain from bringing knives and miscellarneous personal belongings to the temple. Discarding knives and other such items is symbolic of releasing anger or animosity one may harbor towards others.

4. Appropriate Dress: Revealing clothing, such as tank tops, short skirts, shorts and the like may be inappropriate attire in some temple or shrine room settings. Within Buddhism, appropriate attire is flexible and based on the polite and inoffensive social custom of each country. Bare shoulders and short pants should be avoided. This rule is somewhat flexible depending on the "rank" of the temple and whether you're a man or woman. Skirts or pants should be at least cover the knee.

5. Legs Outstretched: It is considered disrespectful when seated on the floor or a cushion to outstretch the legs and direct the soles of the feet toward the shrine, teacher, monk or nun.

6. Stepping Over: When moving through a crowded shrine room make every effort not to step or pass over top of another persons body, i.e., leg, knee or foot. When seated, if others are passing by, raise the knees to afford a pathway so they are not forced to step over. Stepping over is considered disrespectful and rude.

7. Religious Materials: Do not place Dharma books, meditation texts, or prayer beads (mala) on the floor, carpet or on a sitting cushion. Use a small table or shelf or have somebody hold them while you are performing prostrations and arranging the seat. Do not step over Dharma books and articles.

8. Do Not Temp the Monks :Being a monk means detaching oneself from all worldly occupations, even (or perhaps especially) sex. Therefore, it's considered rude for a woman to even attempt to touch or hand something to a monk. If a woman must give something to a monk, the typical solution is to place the item on a table where the monk can pick it up. In merit-making situations such as morning offerings a monk will often have a layman helper to take things offered by female merit makers. This "service" is a form of merit making for the layman.

9. Stay OFF the Buddha : Buddha images, no matter how small or old and decrepit, are sacred religious objects and must be treated with the utmost respect. Do not climb on them, sit next to them for a picture or put them on the floor -- or anyplace "inferior" to a person.

Laotians are generally very forgiven by nature, and will rarely show it if you do anything to offend them. However, it's best to avoid giving offense in the first place by observing some very simple rules regarding the proper behavior for temples and other religious places.