Shrine Room Etiquette
Careful attention to our conduct in the shrine room helps us develop mindfulness, diligence and attention to detail. For new practitioners, knowing "what to do" can create some apprehension. We hope these guidelines will provide helpful explanations and diminish any concerns you might have. Please remember that all of us started out being unfamiliar with shrine room conduct, and that we all want to support you.
Please remove your shoes prior to entering the shrine room. Traditionally, upon entering the shrine room, three full prostrations are made towards the Lama and the shrine. This is a physical offering of our body, speech and mind, and also a sign of our faith, respect and devotion to the Lama and the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Many times there is not enough space for full prostrations, and so half - prostrations or a simple bow are appropriate. Please feel free to settle yourself first, and don't hesitate to ask someone if you would like to learn how to do a prostration or half-prostration. If you are a new practitioner and are not comfortable doing prostrations, that's okay! It is fine to do them when you start to feel comfortable, and after you understand more about why we do them.
Buddhist prayers/texts/images should never be placed directly on the floor, stepped over or stepped upon. Texts communicate the meaning of the sacred Dharma; thus they deserve our respect. If a text is in your walking path, please pick it up, move past, and replace it as it was. When setting down your texts, please place them upon something - your bag, a shawl or a small table. If you forget and inadvertently step over, drop, or place a text on the floor, simply pick it up and gently touch your forehead with it as an acknowledgment and reminder to yourself to be more mindful.
Cushions and round zafu should not be stepped upon, moved from their locations, or used for any other purpose. Be thoughtful in the use and treatment of the cushions, which have been generously sponsored by the Sangha.Please do not spill food or drink, get ink on them, fold them, use them to prop your feet up, or use them for prostrations.
When sitting, please avoid stretching your legs out in front of you with your feet towards Rinpoche or the shrine. It is appropriate to turn to one side before stretching your legs. If you are sitting in a chair, please sit with both feet on the floor rather than crossing your legs at the knees. Please use chairs for seating only at the back of the room, behind the cushions. It is acceptable when needed to get up during teachings if you need to get some tea, stretch your legs, or use the restroom. Please do this quietly and with as little disruption as possible.
Teaching sessions generally last 2 hours at the longest between breaks, so if you anticipate needing to move about more often, you might try to find a seat near the periphery or the back of the room. We have a formal children's program that meets twice a month, and we also encourage you to bring your well-behaved children with you. Children should be able to maintain a quiet, respectful and non-distracting environment. Please do not allow children to run through the shrine room or otherwise make it difficult for others to focus on the teaching. Your child is welcome to read, color, or play quietly. Many of our families find it helpful to sit towards the back or sides of the room.
New practitioners, please come up and introduce yourself to Rinpoche following a teaching. He'd love to meet you!