In Buddhism, the Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings of Buddha), and the Sangha (the community of believers). While on the path of becoming a Buddhist, one needs protection of the Three Jewels ,or the Three Refuges, as they offer protection from the fickle and unstable world we live in.
This past Sunday I was able to attend the Buddhist Group Sangha at the church I attend, the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – and I was fortunate to be able to share in this time because of the advances in technology – in this case – Skype and a webcam. Sunday was the third time I was able to do this thanks to the wonderful willingness of some of the members in the group to bring their laptops and webcams to the gathering so we could hear and see each other in this way. I am now home-bound. It’s not that I’m unable to go out in my non-motorized wheel chair, but I have chosen to drastically limit those times because of how difficult they’ve become.
This past week, there was some discussion about how to keep the present with us as we go about our everyday lives. We also open our Sangha gatherings with a reading about the Three Jewels – or the Three Treasures – or the Three Refuges – which are, taking refuge in the Buddha – taking refuge in the Dharma – and taking refuge in the Sangha. Our discussion on Sunday started my thought process of looking back on when I first began my voyage into Buddhism and what I learned from my teachers over the years of my study of Buddhist Beliefs. I decided to write about some of what I’ve learned about the Three Jewels and how some of my teachers taught me to apply them when following a Buddhist lifestyle.
Also, I would like to write more about the craving, clinging and attachments that are bringing about dissatisfaction in so many of our lives. Relating how the teachings about the Three Jewels relate to the Four Noble Truths is my goal for the next few posts to this blog. Today’s post will be more of a background venture into how I became a Buddhist and in the next posts we’ll delve into the topic of the Three Jewels more deeply.
It was in the late 1950s when I first took a look at Buddhism. I read a couple of books but never really changed how I was living. I had finished my time in the Navy and was in the early stages of my banking career coupled with the adventurous aspects of a free-wheeling culture. It was several years later, the early 1970s, when I began to delve more deeply into what it meant to be a Buddhist. This happened at the time I first moved to Vermont from the south – Florida and Georgia.
Soon after arriving in Vermont, I became friends with some of my neighbors who were studying Buddhism. These folks were studying with two Buddhist teachers who had decided to live in Vermont. These teachers were both Zen teachers and they were a married couple. When I first met them they were in a bit of a quandary because they had accepted some money from the wife’s parents to help them build their home. They felt accepting this money was giving in to seeking more personal comfort. As the husband would state from time-to-time, “I’d be content with a small cabin in the woods!” However, they did plan to start a family soon. They were also desiring a larger space for the growing Sangha which held twice-weekly meditations and the hopes of hosting retreats at some point. As a group we spent some time discussing this and we came to the understanding that we are rather spoiled in this country and compared to many other cultures, we’re basically unaware of just how spoiled we are. We’re surrounded with abundance. There are so many material goods readily available to us.
(This reminds me of that awful musical commercial by one of the furniture companies that went, “I want it ALL – I want it ALL – and I want it NOW!” I would cringe and grab for the remote mute button every time I heard it!)
We have grown to believe that all we have to do to be happy is to satisfy our desires. We’ve become addicted to the drug of more. Yet, as people who take refuge in the dharma, we’ve been taught how true fulfillment comes to us by learning how to put our desires on the back burner. Buddha said that chasing after desires is like drinking salt water – you can never satisfy your thirst – you will only make yourself want to drink more. Desire builds on itself – it only leads to more desire.
The sad part for us born into our Western culture is we were taught, starting at birth, to develop the habit of desire – a habit which results in learning about greed and attachment at an early age. We want our children and grandchildren to “have it better than we had it”, so they learn that most anything they want will magically manifest in their lives. These habits that have been with us for so long are darn hard to break. It’s easier not to even try. But, consider this – our small (ego) self is habitually and addictively drawn to greed and attachment. We know how difficult it is to break a life-time habit. We also know through our studies, that the practices of Buddhism provide a path to the way out. Buddhist practice is the answer to learning another way of living. With practice, with training our minds, we can become less vulnerable to the ego’s incessant demands.
The basic foundation of Buddha’s teaching, taking refuge in the Three Jewels, is taught in most all of the various sects. In the Zen teachings I learned originally, this act of taking refuge is a daily function. Every morning I would speak the following:
“I take refuge in the Buddha, and resolve that with all beings, I will understand the Great Way, whereby the Buddha-seed may forever thrive.
I take refuge in the Dharma, and resolve that with all beings, I will enter deeply into the sutta treasure, whereby my wisdom may grow as fast as the ocean.
I take refuge in the Sangha, in its wisdom, in its example, in its never-failing help, and resolve to live in harmony with all sentient beings.”
(Yes, I did still have this written on a card in my desk drawer!)
By putting our trust in the Buddha (seeing our true nature as no-self), by following the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and by practicing with a Sangha (a community of followers of the Way of the Buddha), our lives can change in a dramatic way. This is how we can transform our lives from selfishness to selflessness. This is how we can learn to live lives of wisdom, compassion, and joy. This is how we can learn to free ourselves from the addictions of egocentric consumerism.
In the next post I’ll write more about the first of the Three Jewels, Taking Refuge in the Buddha.
Metta ….May I be well and happy. My 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.
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: