Here are the things to be mindful of when visiting a Buddhist Temple.
Thailand is filled with a rich cultural heritage. There are a plethora of experiences & attractions here that harken the intrepid traveler to unveil the history behind the land. From experiencing the spirituality brimming within the many temples in Thailand, also known as ‘Wat’ to simply admiring their tranquil beauty, there is much a traveler can do while visiting the many temples in Thailand. However, as guests of the land it is essential to be accustomed to the basic etiquettes one must observe inside a Thai temple. Please read on to see the list of things one should do & one should refrain from while offering worship.
Let’s start with the Do’s!
DO : Adhere to proper dress code.
To be respectful of the monks who have taken a vow of chastity at the Buddhist temples, visitors are required to wear clothes that cover the shoulders & knees.
Do note that at any Wat(temple), visitors will be expected to wear long pants, shoes or back-strap sandals.
For women, do note that leggings & tight pants are forbidden in temples, you may wear skirts, provided they cover your knee.
If you forget to bring the proper attire, rest assured that many temples do have unisex sarongs available for rent during your visit.
DO : Take off your shoes
According to Thai belief, the head is the most sacred part of the body while the feet are considered the unholiest part. It holds merit as one’s shoes become dirty and are hence unadvisable to carry inside the holy temple grounds. So please do remember to keep your shoes at the many shoe racks provided outside the temple before entering.
DO : Show respect to the monks
Visitors are encouraged to show respect to the monk in the temple premises. It is acceptable to greet or talk to them but please do remember that you should always mind your manners and keep your body’s position lower than the monk, you should lower your head slightly when passing them.
DO : Photograph respectfully
In most temples in Thailand, taking photographs is allowed. However, adhere to the following rules.
A) Never take photos of worshipers
B) Never take a selfie with a Buddha statue
- C) Don’t pass in front of ongoing prayers
There will be certain sacred areas of the temple where you are prohibited from taking photos. There will be signs (in English and Thai) to guide you.
DO : Move around sacred spots in a clockwise manner
Circumambulation is an acclaimed notion of respect in most religions. While exploring the inside of a Buddhist temple, do opt to walk in a clockwise direction, keeping yourself right to the object of veneration in your surroundings.
DO : Give a donation to the temple
To keep the pristine Buddhist temples well maintained, donations by travelers is highly appreciated. It isn’t mandatory to do so however, if you wish to donate there are ample small donation boxes located around the temples.
Now then, let us examine the things one should NOT DO during their visit to a Thai temple. Read on below;
DO NOT : Use your index finger to point
In Thailand, using one’s index finger to point at someone is akin to “ordering” them to do something and generally considered rude. Be polite by holding out your hand with the palm facing upwards and point to the object with all four fingers facing forward.
DO NOT : Touch a monk ( For Women )
To hold true to their sacred vows of chastity and distancing from all manner of lust, tradition dictates that monks should not touch a woman. To help them honor this rule, female visitors should avoid sitting next to or touching a monk. Moreover, if women want to give something to a monk, they should either give it to a man to pass on to the monk or place it on a cloth to avoid direct contact.
DO NOT : Step on the raised threshold at the entrance of the temple.
Most Thai temple entrances have a raised threshold. They are traditionally considered to ward out evil spirits and are also considered to be the home of the guardian spirit. Remember to always step over it and never step on it. Placing your foot on the raised threshold of any temple in Thailand is deemed to be bad manners..
DO NOT : Sit with feet pointing at Buddha statues
As you’ve already read, Thai people consider the feet to be unclean hence pointing your feet at a Buddha statue is regarded as the epitome of disrespect. Make sure that you don’t point or put your feet up when offering worship, such acts are considered as a sign of rudeness. You should always ensure that the soles of your feet are not any Buddha statues when you sit or kneel in a temple in Thailand.
DO NOT : Turn your back on sacred objects.
Turning your back at sacred objects such as the Buddha statue, an altar is construed as a disrespectful act and should be mindfully avoided. Always try to approach any sacred objects facing towards them and when you wish to leave, simply step back a few meters slowly and then proceed out.
That is the general list of DO’s & DON’Ts one should observe while visiting any Buddhist temple. Please adhere to the points carefully, if you’re travelling with friends or family, ask them to do so too. Being respect of the culture & rules helps foster a good experience for everyone as you immerse yourself in the wonders of tranquility at these sacred temples