”This act of taking refuge in the Buddha is a major step – it’s a new chapter in our life. It is vital for us taking this step to repeatedly pause and reflect upon just how significant this is. Often, what happens in our sanghas is we say we’re taking refuge in the Buddha, but we’re also prone to take these words and this step for granted. It is our reflecting on what this step means which will eventually bring us closer to our destination as well as give us a better understanding of the other steps.”
The Three Jewels are the foundation of all the various forms of Buddhism. The word buddha means “The Awakened One”. The Buddha we’re referring to when we speak of taking refuge in him is the one who awakened from the sleep of ignorance on his own some 2500 years ago.
What do we mean when we say awakened? The way I was taught was awakened means to be free from suffering, to be truly liberated and to posses true wisdom. This awakening will be found only in your true self – your own reality. You won’t find this via some special blessing by some person, or from magical occurrence, not even from membership in some group. Meditation alone won’t get you there either – not if it’s the only path you follow.
This act of ‘taking refuge in the Buddha’ is a major step – it’s a new chapter in our life. It is vital for us taking this step to repeatedly pause and reflect upon just how significant this is. Often, what happens in our sanghas is we say we’re taking refuge in the Buddha, but we’re also prone to take these words and this step for granted. It is our reflecting on what this step means which will eventually bring us closer to our destination as well as give us a better understanding of the other steps.
The thing we need to understand as the most important element of ‘Taking Refuge in The Buddha’ is, until we become buddha’s ourselves, is that Buddha is the ultimate teacher. He gave us the Buddhist Beliefs and the rules to follow a Buddhist lifestyle. It’s not some rigid indoctrination – it’s not some dogma being imposed on you. Rather, it’s the guidance we can use to develop ourselves, to learn, to ponder, to meditate upon, and eventually find a deep, profound insight into the wisdom and understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
So, we take refuge in the Buddha. We turn to the teachings brought down from the Buddha over the ages. If you dig deeply into the various teachings, and the teachers, you will see they tend to all point us in the direction of becoming happy. The teachers are all Buddha as far as we’re concerned. They are those who have learned from The Buddha and are now passing his wisdom along to us. The teacher (buddha) is the one who can point us towards the way of our true reality.
When we make the decision to take refuge in the Buddha it is important that we fully understand what the Buddha is and what is it about him that allows us to take refuge there. We need to be careful in our understanding here so we don’t become mislead. We need to be cautious that we don’t ascribe to him status he never claimed for himself. He is not a god – he is not a personal savior. We also don’t want to sell him short – he is more than a benevolent sage – he is more than an ancient philosopher – and he is more than some meditation guru.
Rather, a more correct view would be to see him in the same context he assigned to himself – a fully Self-Enlightened One. He is self-enlightened because he realized the truths entirely on his own. He didn’t have a teacher or guide other than himself. He’s self-enlightened because he figured out, on his own, the entire truth with all its twists and turns. As a Buddha he not only fathomed all the truths himself, he also went out and taught them to others so that others too, can awaken from the sleep of ignorance and become enlightened.
Many students of Buddhism, especially those of us in the western world, will ascribe to the notion that taking refuge in the Buddha is equal to taking refuge in the “Buddha-mind in ourselves”. Caution here is important so we don’t get caught up on the idea that whatever our mind contrives as we study can qualify as the true Dharma. This can lead us far astray from the true meaning of taking refuge in the Buddha. We need to understand that we’re seeking the guidance of one who is distinctly different from ourselves – one who has scaled heights we have barely begun to glimpse. Yet, the best way is to again, follow the teaching of Buddha. He taught this:
” Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
Side Note: One of the things discussed at our sangha this past Sunday was the “Present” – and how difficult it is to stay in the “present”. I talked about a song I have that speaks to the fact that “Now Is All There Is”. This is sung by Dave Carroll. I hope you enjoy this — Now!
Now, by Dave Carroll
Metta ….May I be well and happy. May I live in safety. May I be healthy and strong. May I live with ease. May all beings be well and happy. May all beings live in safety. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with ease.
Namaste — Be in Peace.
Just click the links that are sort of Grey in color to take you to where you can learn more about each book and how you can purchase a copy for your own library.
Stephanie Kaza — Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
Stephanie Kaza, an amazing writer and Buddhist teacher I knew from my 36 years living in Vermont, gathers key Buddhist thinkers to reflect upon aspects of consumerism, greed and economics. Certainly, many other authors have examined consumerism from the lens of their religious traditions, but this book’s Buddhist perspective is unusual, and its pairing of consumerist critiques with core Buddhist concepts is generally fruitful. Check this one out! Hooked!
Stephanie Kaza — Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking
Another one from my Vermont friend — Stephanie Kaza, a biologist and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Vermont, combines Zen Buddhist practices and teachings with her 40 years as an environmentalist for this guide to enlightened environmentalism, proposing a belief in the interdependence of people and nature as the genuine way to “go green”: “When we come to see ourselves as part of the green web of life… we are naturally drawn to respond with compassion.” A good read for Buddhists or anyone from any religion. Mindfully Green
Anam Thubten — No Self – No Problem
No Self – No Problem
shows how to realize the ultimate meaning of life in each moment by dissolving all notions of ego-identity. It asks that spiritual seekers wake up to their true nature, which is already enlightened. Based on Buddhist wisdom traditions, this easy-to-read book discusses in simple, but profound and inspiring language, how we can live a life full of love, satisfaction, and happiness. No Self – No Problem
Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook
“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that. — From The Kindness Handbook
Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, A New Earth
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, My Stroke of Insight: Nirvana is just a breath away!
And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.
This is a new one for you by Pema Chodron entitled: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Have a peaceful day!! —
P.S. If you’d like to read my memoir/novel, you can access it here: