Question: “Hello! So I want to become a Buddhist and I wanted to ask/know what are the first steps I should take to become one?”
Laugh! Especially at yourself. I think that’s important 🙂
I think everyone on some sort of level is a little bit Buddhist if they practice compassion and generosity. I don’t encourage people to become Buddhist. I encourage them to be better people. Buddhism is about bettering yourself for the benefit of others, so you may help them better themselves.
A lot of people come to Buddhism because it’s a “popular” religion, it’s hip, everyone’s doing it, or because they like getting the attention or reactions from people. Others come to it because of the “no god” concept of it, the belief in karma and the afterlife, or because of its mysticism and mystery. And then you have the people who come to Buddhism because they see what it can do for them, for their minds. They see the benefits it can lead to by living a life of meditation, compassion, and generosity.
So, if you’re fairly new to Buddhism (i.e. think it’s cool, but haven’t done any actual research), then you need to read and research. Knowledge is wisdom, and wisdom leads to Truth, and Truth is Nirvana. So do all you can do on reading. I’d suggest reading The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s one of my favorite books and probably the best book for an intro to all of Buddhist major teachings.
Meditate and contemplate on the Four Noble Truths, practice the Eightfold Path, and practice daily meditation. These are your first steps to a serious practice. And then after about a year of reading, research, and practice, you can officially “initiate” as a Buddhist at a Buddhist temple by taking Refuge and the Precept vows. Though you can also do this on your own if you don’t have a temple near you.
Traditionally, a Buddhist is one who lives by the Eightfold path (a moral life) and has vowed the five precepts, and practices meditation. But, it’s also a personal thing and different people will tell you different things, especially in different cultures and countries, but that’s usually how one is “officially” titled as a Buddhist.
Smile and be well!