It may be agreeable for certain people to live a retired life in a quiet place away from noise and disturbance. But it is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practice Buddhism living among your fellow beings, helping them and being of service to them. It may perhaps be useful in some cases for a man to live in retire- ment for a time in order to improve his mind and character, as preliminary moral, spiritual, and intellectual training, to be strong enough to come out later and help others. But if a man lives all his life in solitude, thinking only of his own happiness and "salvation," without caring for his fellows, this surely is not in keeping with the Buddha's teaching which is based on love, compassion, and service to others. If one desires to become a Buddhist, there is no initiation ceremony (or baptism) which one has to undergo. (But to become a bhikkhu (monk), a member of the Order of the Sangha, one has to undergo a long process of disciplinary training and educa- tion.) If one understands the Buddha's teaching, and if one is convinced that His teaching is the right Path and if one tries to follow it, then one is a Buddhist. But according to the unbroken age- old tradition in Buddhist countries, one is considered a Buddhist if one takes the Buddha, the Dharma (the Teach- ing), and the Sangha (the Order of Monks) - generally called "the Tripled Gem"- as one's refuges, and under- takes to observe the Five Precepts (Panca-sila) - the minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist. There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has to perform. Buddhism is a way of life, and what is essential is following the Noble Eightfold Path. (Of course, there are in all Buddhist countries simple and beautiful ceremon- ies on religious occasions.)