How does someone become a Buddhist?

Unlike Christianity, there is no one symbolic gesture or ritual that is required for one to become a "Buddhist." Rather, becoming a Buddhist is more a factor of attaining an inner transformation through the acceptance of certain principles and concepts. This means that a Buddhist practitioner (as opposed to a "Buddhist") often internalizes these values well before he or she admits to such a title. And, it may well be that a practitioner of another religion may internally ascribe to most Buddhist principles without acknowledging or affirming a departure from their original beliefs. Nevertheless, the key component to Buddhist practice is the recurring affirmation of "refuge" in the Three Jewels. These are the Buddha (or teacher), the Dharma (the "truth", Tao, or Way -- or Gospel), and the Sangha (or religious community, i.e., support group of fellow seekers). There is, however, a specific ritual called a Refuge Ceremony in which a person can formally declare as the specific occassion of becoming a Buddhist. During this ceremony certain refuge prayers are recited in front of a teacher, a minimum of basic lay vows are taken, and sometimes a "Dharma name" is confered by the teacher. However, as stated above, it is the internal conversion not the external event that denotes a Buddhist practitioner.


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