Buddhist Etiquette

Buddhist Etiquette by Lama Lekshey


For a traditional greeting or parting with a Lama, stand with the body slightly bowed and the hands folded at the heart. Stand when a Lama enters or leaves.

Do not stand with arms akimbo or behind back or crossed in front in the presence of Lama.

Terms of Address

“Rinpoche’ can be used for addressing His Holiness, Abbots and Tulkus ( ‘Jetsunma’ for all female Khon family members).

“Lama-La’ (Sir) is used formally in teaching/Initiations and “Lama (name optional)’ is used informally when addressing Lamas.


These are left tidily outside shrine room.


Revealing clothing, such as low cut tops, tank tops, short skirts, shorts, bare chests etc… may be inappropriate attire in some Temple or Shrine room settings. Pay regard to the social custom of each country. When attending Refuge and Initiations dress up as if you are at a wedding.


On entering a Shrine room, direct three Prostrations toward the Shrine. In the presence of a Lama do this when he has seated.

Legs Outstretched

It is considered disrespectful when seated to outstretch the legs and direct the soles of the feet toward the Shrine or Lama.

Stepping Over

When moving through a crowded Shrine room, try to avoid stepping or passing over another person’s body and/or limbs as this is considered rude.

Religious Materials

Do not place Dharma books, Sadhana’s, meditation texts or malas (prayer beads) on the floor, carpet, sitting cushion or bed. Do not step over Dharma books and articles. Furthermore, the letters of the alphabet in every language are used to compose Dharma Teachings. So, where possible avoid treading on letters on the ground.

Turning Pages

When turning pages of Dharma books or meditation texts do not wet the fingers with the tongue.


Face toward the Lama when receiving instructions, not the shrine. When receiving formal Teachings, ask if it is permissible to take notes or make recordings. During Teaching and Initiations do not recite mantras or count beads unless told to do so as part of the Teachings and Initiations.


When pointing to a Lama, fellow Sangha member, a Thangka (painting) or temple mural indicate with the right hand open, fingers extended and the palm up. Do not point with the index finger as this is considered as very rude.

Incense, Candles and Butter Lamps

After lighting incense, when it has ignited with a glowing ember, do not blow the flame out with the breath, but rather wave with the hand to extinguish. Similarly, the same applies to candles and lamps. To extinguish use a candle snuffer.


We Welcome Everyone

The Sakya Thubten Ling is a Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Bournemouth which is open to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

We provide a quiet sanctuary for holding regular meditation sessions and open days where you are free to pop in at your leisure.

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