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The daily practices of Buddhists depend on personal choice as well as many other factors. Some Buddhists simply set aside a time each day in which to meditate, while others may include prayers, chanting, reciting the Buddha’s name, taking refuge and bowing to the alter (which normally holds a Buddha image). The language used for chanting can be any one of many languages such as English, Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, or Tibetan. Daily practice typically lasts from 15 minutes to one hour.
Another daily practice common among Buddhists is renewing the five precepts, which are moral undertakings to refrain from harmful or unskilful acts (which are killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, harmful speech, and taking intoxicants). On the positive side, Buddhists try to foster generosity, compassion and loving kindness (a wish for all beings to be well and happy).
Some Buddhists, and those simply wishing to explore Buddhism, may choose to go on a retreat. This offers a defined period of quiet reflection and meditation lasting from days to weeks, or even months. A Buddhist pilgrimage involves making a special trip to holy places such as in India, Nepal, Tibet, China or Sri Lanka.
Buddhist teachings can be explored and tested by anyone. When one’s faith and confidence in the Buddhist path develops, a formal ceremony can be undertaken called ‘taking refuge’. This essentially involves recognising the importance of the Triple Gem or Three Jewels: namely the Buddha (who discovered the path), the Dharma (the teachings) and the Sangha (the community of ordained monks and nuns who devote their lives to spiritual practice).
For most Buddhists, ordained monks and nuns play the central role in the Buddhist community as teachers and spiritual leaders, although some Buddhists prefer less ceremony and instead learn from lay teachers.
There are different schools within Buddhism such as Theravada (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma), Mahayana (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam) and Vajrayana (Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan). Whilst all maintain the basic teachings, the emphasis and interpretation may vary to accommodate the needs of individual aspirants with different traditional and cultural backgrounds.
The Buddhist holy books, are a collection of many, many dozens of volumes (depending on the source language and tradition). The closest approximation to the Christian bible is what is called the Dhammapada, which commences with the famous teaching that everything originates in the mind.
There are festival days celebrated by Buddhists throughout the year such as on new moon and full moon days. The most important days of the year are usually in May, when the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha are celebrated. In Australia, Buddhist Festival Month in May brings together all traditions of Buddhism to celebrate the life and teachings of the Buddha.
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