Taking Refuge In The Triple Gems

What is taking refuge?

Taking refuge in the Triple Gems is the:

Basis of all paths to liberation,
Foundation of all vows,
Source of all good qualities, and
Differentiator of Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

What are the Triple Gems?

The Triple Gems are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

The Buddha is the Teacher who shows the Path to Liberation,
The Dharma is the actual Path of Liberation, and
The Sangha are those who learn the Path to Liberation.

Procedure For Taking Refuge

Repeat three times:

I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
I take refuge in the Sangha.

When you say, "I take refuge in the Buddha," you should regard the Buddha as the Teacher who shows you the Path to Liberation and ask him to show the Path to you and other sentient beings.

When you say, "I take refuge in the Dharma," you should regard the Dharma as the actual path and ask it to be the Actual Path and Vehicle to yours and others' Liberation.

When you say, "I take refuge in the Sangha," you should regard the Sangha as your Assistants and Guides for you and others on the Path of Liberation and to help you remove negative circumstances and bring forth auspicious conditions.

In the Vajrayana Tradition

We take refuge in Guru as the spiritual master. In that case the Guru is the embodiment of all the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Therefore, one should regard Guru as the teacher, as well as the source of all the Dharma and spiritual guidance on the path to enlightenment.

The Benefits of Taking Refuge

Soon after one takes refuge in the Triple Gems, one becomes a Buddhist, observing the refuge precepts and thus can be regarded as a person who follows the Holy Path. In this life and all future life times, one will be able to meet the Buddha's doctrine and the Spiritual Teacher. In this way, one will gain all the good qualities gradually, through the Path of Accumulation, Path of Application, Path of Seeing, Path of Meditation, and the Path of Liberation and ultimately one will attain Buddhahood. The Sutra of the Essence of the Sun states:

"Those who take refuge in the Buddha for the sake of sentient beings, even millions of demons cannot disturb them, although they may decline in morality and their minds may be disturbed but still they will certainly go beyond Birth."

That means any one who take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha whole-heartedly, will not be harmed or interrupted by negative forces of millions of human and non-human beings; even if they decline in morality, they will be able to revive their faults and in the future they will be liberated from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death, and ultimately attain Mahaparinirvana.

The Buddha

The Buddha is the one who has the three Kayas (Holy Bodies):

1. The Dharmakaya (Reality Body) - the result of accumulation of Primordial Wisdom, which is away from all extremes and beyond concepts.
2. The Sambogakaya (Enjoyment Body) - the result of accumulation of Meritorious Heaps, the Buddha's physical form which can be perceived only by 10th Bhumi Bodhisattvas.
3. The Nirmanakaya (Emanation Body) - similar to the Sambogakaya but can be perceived by ordinary people according to their karmic link, such as Buddha Sakyamuni who took human rebirth and performed the twelve Holy Deeds.

The Dharma

The Dharma is embodied in scriptures and realization.

Scriptural Dharma is the Three Baskets (Tripitaka). The Vinaya Basket tames the negative emotions of the Mind Continuum. The Sutra Basket abbreviates the teachings in words and categorises them by meaning. The Abhidharma Basket generates wisdom to directly understand the nature of reality.

The Dharma of realization is the Three Precepts. The subject of the Vinaya Basket is the exalted Precept of Morality. The subject of the Sutra Basket is the exalted Precept of Concentration. The subject of the Abhidharma Basket is the exalted Precept of Wisdom.

Through the practice of the Three Precepts, the renunciation and realization of the Five Paths and Ten Stages arise within the Mind. The perfection of renunciation is the Truth of Cessation. The perfection of realization is the Truth of the Path. These are known as the Two Truths.

The Sangha

The Sangha is the community of Bodhisattvas who have reached the Irreversible State. Through their wisdom, they directly realise emptiness and do not fall into samsara. Through their compassion, they love beings like the mother of an only child and do not abide in the state of nirvana. They remain from the first to the tenth Bhumi Bodhisattva Stage. However, the community of monks and nuns who is embarking on the noble path is also regarded as the Sangha.

By Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen for Sakya Tenphel Ling on 20th December 1995.