The Dhammapada in Masonic Initiation

In Freemasonry, one must take the oath of initiation on the sacred text of one’s particular religious faith, whatever it might be:

For Buddhist Freemasons, a standard text for taking the Masonic oath is the Dhammapada:

The Buddhist hold Holy 31 books that comprise
the Tripitaka, the three baskets which contain the
essence of Buddha’s teaching. Only one is held as
the Volume of Sacred Law – the Dhammapada. It
consists of 423 melodious Pali verses, set out in
26 vargas or chapters and is generally considered
one of the most perfect ethical manuals. Buddhist
sects may find other volumes more important but
the Dhammapada has been accepted by the
Grand Lodge of England and is acknowledged
acceptable for obligating candidates…

Freemasonry is non-sectarian and non-doctrinal
in character. We accept men of all faiths and
beliefs who can agree on the moral law – to be
good men and true and men of honor and

Now that I’ve learned Buddhists can become Masons, I might seriously consider it someday.

Freemasons are required to profess belief in a Supreme Being, whatever that being may be:

Freemasonry’s members - FREEMASONS - upon petitioning for membership are required to profess a belief in a Supreme Being. They are not required or requested to elaborate any further on their beliefs except to make a positive affirmation that they have such a belief.

A Buddhist Freemason may regard Buddha-nature, Nirvana, the Buddha, the law of karma, the Dharma, etc. as their Supreme Being for the sake of Masonic initiation, rather than a theistic god.

I can tell you all sorts of Masonic secrets. They have no threats of samaya.

Most claims about Masonic secrecy are baseless paranoia.

From my own research, it’s pretty clear that they mean deity when referring to “supreme being”. In fact, the specific terms ‘Deity’ and ‘god’ are mentioned pretty frequently in masonic materials. For example, from the Regius Poem of the Halliwell Manuscript (a very early and foundational text for freemasonry, one of the “old charges”) “and pray we hem, for our Lordys sake”, “He most love wel God, and holy churche algate”, etc. And from Anderson’s Charges,

“A Mason is oblig’d, by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.”

Furthermore, “Great Architect of the Universe” (GAOTU) obviously implies a deity of a specific type — a creator deity. The point in qualifying if a candidate believes in a supreme being is that when he takes his obligations there is some fear of retribution hanging over his head of the scale that only a big guy in the sky can really provide. In practice, at lodge meetings, freemasons engage in a form of prayer/petitioning directed towards a deity… all of this may be a little uncomfortable for someone not particularly engaged in a theistic religion.

Nevertheless, this may still be grok-able to a Buddhist of a more mahāyanist bent with concepts like a dharmakāya, etc. If not, there’s still the Grand Orient de France (GOdF, of which Benjamin Franklin was a notable member), they accept theists and atheists alike and are generally more liberal than their UGLE cousins (United Grand Lodge of England). American Freemasonry is overwhelmingly of the UGLE type, which has an unfortunate streak of racism since the KKK disbanded (since it’s an ancient institution that never really caught up with the times after the 15th Amendment, many racists/bigots flocked to hiding/congregating in the ranks of masonry), and considers continental/latin/GOdF masonry to be “irregular” (i.e. not really masons).

I do still have some respect for Freemasonry in it’s ideal form, it was critical in the “Enlightenment” of Europe and the US. Many of the best ideals of Western society have their root in masonic thought: freedom of religion, embracing science, and a more democratic form of government to name a few. They are also one of only a handful of spiritual institutions that are non-proselytizing. In a way, without putting on a tinfoil hat, freemasonry paved the way (along with coffeehouses and “salons”) for the creation of the Great Experiment that is the US and a Europe free of monarchical rule.


The idea of a Great Architect seems symbolic to me, like the idea of there being a Great Butcher or a Great Car Salesman. The Great Architect of the Universe could mean many things, depending on the interpreter, including the laws of physics when taken as a whole.

Like Buddhists who are in the twelve step program, one may regard the Dharma itself, which is the impersonal moral order, as one’s “supreme being” or “higher power.”

There’s really no point of getting into a semantic argument as to whether “supreme being” or “higher power” are natively Buddhist terms when a Buddhist gets involved in a multi-faith organization.

In the words of Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Dhamma itself is “the universal law of righteousness and truth which stands at the bedrock of the cosmos.”

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If you doubt me I can post photos of Masonic ritual costumes still held in a chest at my parents house. I will PM them to you next time I visit.

That’s not the kind of secret I am talking about. There’s some real crazies out there who think that the Masons, along with the lizard people, are taking over the world.

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That’s fine, and you may find freemasons who are totally down with that. Then again, depending on which part of the country and which lodge, you might not.

As in all things, you’ll find some adhering to a stricter interpretation and some a looser kind. My only point is that if you personally interpret such things in an indiscriminate way and you’re surrounded by those who don’t, you might be in an uncomfortable situation.

Freemasonry has long been a fraternal organization for men of all faiths, including Buddhism.

A goal of Masonic initiation is enlightenment, something a Buddhist might identify with.

I don’t really want to get into a semantic argument, but an architect is a being, a designer. In the context of religion, and at a cosmic scale, this is significant in a way that a butcher isn’t. I don’t think there’s much wiggle room for what is really intended there (of course there is still a very commendable amount of room for different expressions of creationist belief).

Interesting also that you mentioned 12-step programs, AA was founded by a freemason and I think the influence is clear enough.

Indeed. All the same, I will PM you when I next visit my parents’ house. You know I am good on my word for PMs, I hope. If nothing else, to demonstrate that I am/was not lying.

Yes, but you’ll find that usually it’s only mahāyana.

Also, what do they mean by enlightenment?

I would say that the Masonic GAOTU is purposely kept vague as to allow members of any major religion, including Buddhism, to join.

Bill W. or Dr. Bob?

Where specifically?

If that were true, why would the Dhammmapa be a standard text for Masonic initiation?

Does Freemasonry not exist in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia?

For sure.

Regarding AA founding, I’m not sure, you’d have to fact check me on that. “Higher power” is vague in the same way that “supreme being” is (more vague actually since a being isn’t qualified), and the allowance of a high degree of personal interpretation, wouldn’t be surprised if meetings and the organizational structure have some semblance as well.

Regarding the Dhammapada, I did always find that odd since I’m not really sure where you can find a deity or architect in there. What is the makeup of Sri Lankan lodges, are there many Buddhists? I’m not trying to challenge you, genuinely curious.

In the words of Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Dharma itself is “the universal law of righteousness and truth which stands at the bedrock of the cosmos.” Most Freemasons would accept this as a Buddhist version of a “Supreme Being.”

I wouldn’t know.

That’s the second time you repped the same Bhikkhu Bodhi quote. Frankly, I’m not really sure what that quote means, and without context it kinda sounds like new age word salad.

It’s from the glossary to In the Buddha’s Words.

Dhamma. The cosmic principle of truth, lawfulness, and virtue discovered,
fathomed, and taught by the Buddha; the Buddha’s teaching as an
expression of that principle; the teaching that leads to enlightenment and

And also here:"“the+universal+law+of+righteousness+and+truth+which+stands+at+the+bedrock+of+the+cosmos"&source=bl&ots=0zwhY8UH63&sig=5rWB4tUDT-gYyHirA29790GQ72g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjrrc_sovLXAhUrw4MKHcnsBesQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q="“the%20universal%20law%20of%20righteousness%20and%20truth%20which%20stands%20at%20the%20bedrock%20of%20the%20cosmos"&f=false

Ok, that’s a bit more palatable.

The context seems to me to be talking about the ethical dimension of dhamma and the universalization of such. When you first quoted it you used it in the context of a supreme being. Personally, I find it hard to see the crucial “being” part in that expression.

How you interpret things is of course up to you. I just don’t really see the connection.