Well, if you're like me, I was a Buddhist before I realized it, and *by chance* discovered Buddhist philosophy and beliefs. But perhaps you came across Buddhism in a different way, knew about it intellectually, but did not feel it was relevant to your life until something changed.
The first thing to do is to understand what the Buddha taught, and the very basic concepts of Buddhism. Buddhism is in essence not a dogmatic religion; people who became followers of the Buddha and his teachings were encouraged to ask questions and challenge ideas; a tradition that still continues today. So think about what you currently know about Buddhism and what about it resonates with you, as well as what does not. Be honest with yourself and consider carefully how you feel, the questions you have, and take your time. Only after all that make your decision. During the Buddha's lifetime, he was adamant that people should follow Buddhist principles as a result of understanding and conviction.
If you feel that your sense of commitment is firm, then the next step is to take refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
This can take place during a formal ceremony with the guidance of a monk, experienced and trusted layperson, or simply said in front of a picture or statue of the Buddha. Personally, I have never had a formal ceremony, and simply stated that I was taking refuge aloud to myself, with an image of the Buddha in my mind's eye. Pretty simple and informal, yet significant. For some people it is important to make a formal, witnessed commitment, in which case an ordained member of the sangha should be consulted.
As for me, I am set for now, but do plan on having an official ceremony in the future. I will let you know if I do, and how it goes!
There are some differences in common refuge wordings according to different traditions. I have posted some which I found on Wikipedia, as well as View on Buddhism.
The next step is to take some vows to guide us in living beneficial lives. The purpose of this is to help us to commit to the path we have chosen by taking part in beneficial behavior.
Also known as the Five Moral Precepts, these are five basic vows.
- Refrain from harming living creatures (killing).
- Refrain from taking that which is not given.
- Refrain from sexual misconduct.
- Refrain from false speech.
- Refrain from use of intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness.
Was this post helpful to you? Please post any personal advice and experiences about taking refuge in the comments below.
May all beings be happy!