Skip navigation to content


Buddhism is more a way of life than a formalised religion.  Based on the teachings of Buddha, meaning 'one who is awake’ (The Enlightened) who lived in India in the 5th/6th Century BC, Buddha is revered by Buddhists as the founder of their Way of Life but not as a God.

There are 3 main schools – Theravada, Mahayana (includes Zen Buddhism and is more liberal) and Tantric (which holds the Dalai Lama as a religious and political leader).  Followers seek to emulate Buddha in perfect morality, wisdom and compassion culminating in a transformation of consciousness known as enlightenment.  The way of life involves living morally; being generous; observing special festivals; pilgrimage to sacred places; and social responsibility.

Worldwide followers (Estimated): Over 350 million Buddhists in the world (some estimate 1000 million) with many variations of Buddhism.

Place of worship: Wat and Buddhist Temple. 

Inclusion points:

1) The all-seeing eyes of Buddha is a common sign, with the small dot depicted between the eyes represents the third eye, a sign of spiritual awakening. The curious squiggle between the eyes is the Sanskrit numeral one, and emphasises the Unity of all things.
2) Dharmachakra, the wheel represents the teachings of Buddha. The Buddha was the one who "turned the wheel of the dharma" and is therefore it is the known as the "wheel of law and transformation".

Food: Mostly vegetarian, but meals vary considerably depending upon their country of origin.

Fasting: Usually connected with the moon or Buddha, will not eat after 12pm.

1) Wesak: Birth of Buddha.
2) Dharma Day: Stemming from the first teaching to Buddha's original five disciples, known as "The First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma (Dharmachakra)" and is seen as a practical time and a chance to express gratitude that the Buddha, and other enlightened teachers, have shared their knowledge with others.
3) Parinirvana: Observance of the death of Buddha and his release from the cycle of death and rebirth.
4) Chung Yuan: Chinese Buddhist festival when objects for use in the spirit world are made and offered to assist spirits with no descendants or resting place to reach Nirvana. Large paper boats are made and burnt at temples. 

Curriculum & Student Provision Specific Issues:
Source: HEA Faith Guides for HE: A Guide to Buddhism
Facilities -
The provision of a quiet room and appropriate meditation equipment, such as mats and sitting cushions, is welcomed by Buddhists. However, most Buddhist groups will share prayer accommodation with other faiths provided they can arrange the space to match their needs. The reverse may not be true, and care should be taken that Buddhist tolerance is not enforced on others in setting up a space for meditation.
It is likely that any medium to large sized university will have one or more Buddhist groups teaching meditation and other Buddhist ideas. These are usually very popular on campus and the officers will happily discuss their needs with university administrators if approached.
Ethical Considerations -
As already noted many Buddhists are vegetarians. Whether this extends to veganism is a personal choice that will need to be investigated. It is important that vegetarian options are available in the menus on campus and on field trips. Similarly, some Buddhists do not drink alcohol (or take other intoxicants) and there should be sensitivity to this in how social gatherings are arranged.
Many Buddhists will not take part in experimentation on animals, although this again will be an individual choice. It is unlikely that Buddhist students will refuse to take part in any ethical discussion or have other religious sensitivities.
Recruitment -
There are no particular issues in recruitment, although it is possible that portrayal of the social life of an institution being only alcohol related could be potentially off-putting. An institution that promotes its green credentials and fosters an ethical approach to the environment will be more attractive to Buddhists.
Teaching Style -
Although the idea of the teacher/ student relationship is very strong in Buddhism this is unlikely to be an issue for most students given that the vast majority of Buddhists in the UK. It may be the case that students from Buddhist countries in Asia have a different attitude to teachers, which may be rooted in these sorts of relationship, although this should not be assumed.

Additional guidance:

Refer to the 'Higher Education Academy Guide to Buddhism' for examples
of adjustments specific to staff/student in universities:
HEA Guide to Buddhism (PDF, 2,184 KB) 

Chaplaincy guidance from the Scottish Inter Faith Council, please refer to:



Human Resources

University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School

Abbey Walk
St Andrews
KY16 9LB
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)1334 463096