There are a number of Buddhist traditions, each with different teachings and practices. What are the daily practices lay people normally live by?

For instance, living by five or eight precepts, in the Theravada tradition, or just daily meditation practice.

How do the different Buddhist traditions compare, in terms of daily practices? What is common among different traditions, and what varies?

Revised question Since many people ask about choosing a tradition on Buddhism.SE, the purpose of this question is to gain clarity about the differences (and similarities) between the traditions. There appears to be a clinging to the known tradition(s) among many, and rejection of other traditions (as good or bad)

Here are a few examples. I am looking for some more insightful comments from those experienced with more than one tradition, since these are merely what Google provided:

Bhikkhu Kantipalo (1995) from the Theravada tradition:

  • Cultivation of calm and insight.
  • Practice giving (dana) according to their faith.
  • Make an effort to keep the precepts (sila) pure.
  • Develop the mind in meditation (bhavana)
  • Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha
  • Undertake the five precepts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche: (source offline when writing this, cached)

  • Taking refuge
  • Prostrations
  • Mandala offerings
  • Vajrasattva mantras
  • Samaya vajra
  • Dorje Khadro (burning offering)
  • Water bowl offerings
  • Guru Yoga
  • Making tsa-tsas

Venerable Thubthen Chodron highlights:

  • Affirmations upon waking up
  • Morning meditation
  • Cultivation of mindfulness

SGI members are encouraged to:

  • Believe in the teachings of Nichiren
  • Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as well as to explain Nichiren's teachings to others
  • Study and understand the Buddhist teachings

Found this about Zen practice on zenki.com (unsure of the authority, since I'm unfamiliar with Zen)

  • This sounds awfully broad to me. I think it would be fine to have multiple different questions like this (one for each school/sect/whatever, because even within a sect, you will have different people with different opinions), but as is, there are far too many possible answers for this question.
    – senshin
    Jun 20, 2014 at 20:13
  • 2
    I dunno... It could be taken as asking for a comparison between traditions, in which case an expert on comparative Buddhism might have a proper answer. Or at least, maybe that's what this question should be. Jun 20, 2014 at 20:44
  • Updated the question Jun 24, 2014 at 11:48
  • 1
    "daily lay"? : )
    – user2341
    Jul 9, 2015 at 12:41
  • I think this should be reopened as it is a very common and popular question. For Buddhist lay people throughout history and in all Buddhist traditions there have been two main practices: 1) dana to the sangha (giving donations, supporting the sangha) 2) ethics, usually in the shape of an attempt to live as closely as possible by the 5 precepts. As this question references mainly Mahayana sources, it does not belong in Theravada. May 20, 2017 at 11:44

3 Answers 3


I think the threefold path is quite a useful model. So

  1. Ethics - some form of ethical practice. Typically deriving from the 5 precepts
  2. Meditation - i think that most practictioners would have a (semi) regular meditation practice
  3. Wisdom - some continuing engagement with the Dharma whether self -study, study group or just an appreciation of the 4 noble truths and eightfold path


Practically membership of some kind of sangha. Maybe contraversial but without this I think it is difficult to maintain a practice. The other things would then flow from this.


Yes, it is the five precepts on normal days and 8 precepts on Poya days. Apart from that, do meditation and good deeds whenever there's an opportunity. Or simply come up with plans to avail opportunities to do good deeds. Just like how we normally plan or devise ways to gain sensual pleasures.

  • Hi Sankha. I have found this website: portalseven.com/calendar/Holidays_Sri_Lanka.jsp?year=2015 . I was wondering if one should keep the 8 precepts on the other days too or only on the Poya days?
    – user2424
    Apr 18, 2015 at 10:20
  • 1
    You can keep to 8 precepts on other days as well, if you are capable Apr 18, 2015 at 15:14
  • Ok thank you :)
    – user2424
    Apr 18, 2015 at 20:34

It depends on the tradition. Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and their myriad "flavors" recommend different practices for laypeople.

As a general rule, Crab Bucket's answer seems like a good place to start, including the part about joining a sangha of some kind.

The Pali Canon also includes the Sigalovada Sutta, where the Buddha gives some practical (though not geared towards reaching enlightenment) advice on how to lead a householder's life.

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