Question: Can a Buddhist, having taken the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem formally, convert to another faith? What about one who also committed to the Five Precepts?
Answer: Since there is no one forcing any Buddhist to remain a Buddhist, it is not so much a matter of whether is is permissible or not, but a question of whether it makes sense. First, one who had taken refuge sincerely with the right understanding will never relinquish Buddhism, since one should already know the ultimate worthiness of the Triple Gem as the supreme refuge. Second, the very process of taking refuge expresses lifelong commitment to the Triple Gem, to never take refuge in externalist paths – which are spiritual paths not aligned to the Dharma, which naturally includes other religions.
Due to the reasons above, conversion creates negative karma, as it is goes against one’s supposedly truthful commitment, in effect breaking the Fourth Precept against false speech. This is a serious misgiving. Such negative karma is created whether one had committed to the precepts or not. It does not make sense too, that one who once saw it as sensible to observe the precepts for the good of one and all relinquishes these moral guidelines, as if it makes more sense to live without these moral guidelines.
If taking of refuge and committing to the precepts were both done insincerely, this already created negative karma in the first place. It is thus best to learn the significance of these ceremonies for expressing commitment before going through them, and to keep learning and practising the Dharma after, to strengthen commitment.
Since decommitment to commit to another religion can make it more difficult to recommit to Buddhism, before Buddhists consider conversion to another religion, it is also best to relearn Buddhism with the help of good Buddhist teachers and committed Buddhist friends, to realise what crucial understanding was missed on the priceless value of the Triple Gem, to even consider such a drastic decision.
Question: Is it advisable to let children take the Threefold Refuge, as they might wish to covert to another religion later?
Answer: It is alright for children to take refuge as long as they understand its essential meaning, as explained by their parents, and are agreeable. Of course, they should be offered opportunities to further learn the Dharma after taking refuge too, which will naturally reduce the possibility of them converting.
Question: Some other religions see conversion to be Buddhist as a misgiving. Is this true?
Answer: From the Buddhist perspective, since becoming a Buddhist is the taking of the right refuge for progress towards Buddhahood, which is spiritual perfection for one and all, conversion to be Buddhist thus creates great blessings instead. There are no misgivings at all. Also from the Buddhist perspective, other forms of refuge are either inadequate or non-existent. Thus, there is all the more no misgiving in converting to be Buddhist, to have true spiritual refuge for life.
Can True Buddhists Be Converted?
Is There A God Who Allows Suffering?