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As I live in an extremely Christian centered country, and am still a closeted non-christian (if that makes sense), it's hard for me to just join a temple (there are none) or a community/sangha. Is it very important that I do, or can I practice Buddhism on my own?

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You don't have to join a physical Buddhist community or temple. Instead you can use online resources for learning and be part of virtual Buddhist communities on the Internet. You can also practice the Noble Eightfold Path on your own.

A classic book for a beginner to read is "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula, which can be downloaded here.

The Basics of Buddhism podcast series by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia (BSWA) seems to be good. Ajahn Brahm, who features in some of these podcasts, is also a famous speaker on Youtube.

Two good beginner articles to read are The Buddha and His Dhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi and An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Tricycle's Buddhism for Beginners has some nice articles.

If you want to feel close to a Buddhist community, watch the live and recorded videos of the BSWA on their Youtube Channel. During the live sessions, you can submit questions. Sometimes they have live events like the five precepts initiation ceremony on Wesak Day and the occasional monk ordination ceremony.

You can learn the basics of Buddhist meditation as taught by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu either using the booklet or the Youtube videos. You can join the online meditation courses also, where you could have interaction with other course participants.

Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu has also written many great answers on this website, which would be helpful to a beginner. His YouTube channel also has many good videos for beginners.

When you want to deep-dive into the teachings of the Buddha, use the accesstoinsight.org website's Self-guided Tour of the Buddha's Teachings. The book "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi is also highly recommended.

And of course, Buddhism SE, SuttaCentral and DhammaWheel are a few other online Buddhist communities you can participate in.

  • 1
    Very good and comprehensive answer, +1. – Lanka Jan 16 '18 at 18:25
  • yes indeed very good instructions to beginner and addition to above I suggest first read the "kalama Sutta" and start your journey towards enlightenment. wish you may gain courage and wisdom to realization and understanding and serve the worlds with your achievements. – danuka shewantha Jan 16 '18 at 21:56

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