A talk on Refuge.
A summary from notes (not a transcript)
“Taking refuge is finding a purpose and finding a path”
In Buddhism, we take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Refuge is not a prayer, it’s a commitment.
Going refuge to the Buddha means taking the Buddha as my goal and guide; that I would like to develop the qualities of the Buddha within myself. Thereby, I acknowledge that I can transform.
Buddha is somebody who has developed his or her wisdom and compassion to the utmost level. Wisdom is being able to see things as they really are. Compassion is the aspiration to help all the sentient beings.
We all have the same basic nature, and so we are able to develop compassion and wisdom. We have the seed, therefore it can be developed and strengthened.
Even the cruellest person has a tiny soft spot for at least something. That is the seed of compassion. And every being has a little bit of understanding and intuition, which is the seedling of wisdom. Our consciousness is basicly nothing wrong. It’s just disturbed. And when it is disturbed, we don’t like it. This shows that it is not our nature.
Our nature is peace, kindness, compassion and joy. When you let your mind relax, naturally there will be peace. When there is peace, there is kindness. When there is peace and kindness, there is joy. When there is peace, kindness and joy, there is more clarity and creativity. That is the nature of our mind. It is not disturbed, agitated, angry, instead, it is positive. Therefore there must be a way to bring that out and have this state of mind stabilized and experienced all the time. And that is what we call dharma practice.
The whole system of Buddhism is about training ourselves so that we can experience ourselves in a better way. If we train, we can experience lasting peace and joy, which is what the Buddha experienced. It’s just a matter of learning how to do it properly.
Refuge is not asking Buddha for help, it is stating that I would like to transform myself for my own benefit and for all other beings, who are all like me. I would like to make an effort to do this. This is my goal.
Refuge in the Buddha is finding the purpose. And then, it is not possible for somebody else do it for me, I have to do it myself.
Hence it becomes natural that I go refuge to the Dharma. It can’t happen just by a miracle, otherwise it would have already happened. Buddhas are always trying to help. But the buddhas can only show us the way, and then it is us who have to tread the path. – Here (at around 22:50) Rinpoche shares a story about the Buddha and a man in Benares, who asked why don’t all of the Buddha’s students seem to transform, although some of them do.
Dharma is like the roadmap to enlightenment. It’s the experience of the Buddha. Refuge to the Dharma is not just respecting the teachings. It’s a decision that I would like to learn the way and not only just learn, but use it on myself. Learning is knowing the way, and practice is going there.
The real sangha is Arya Sangha, the noble sangha. That means any person or group of people who has the real experience of the Dharma. Buddha is also sangha. Also somebody with at least some true understanding of the dharma can be sangha.
I would make myself inspired and influenced by the sangha. This decision is going refuge to the Sangha.
Deciding, or taking refuge, on these three things – Buddha: finding the direction, the purpose; Dharma: to work on that; by learning from those who have experience, the Sangha – you are a real dharma practitioner and practicing a spiritual path. That can be done as gradually and slowly or as quickly as you like and can.
The Refuge ceremony is just a reminder, a reference point, of this decision. Especially in times when you are not so inspired, it’s a reminder to bring you back on the path.
Purpose is not something that is assigned to you and you have to discover it. It is to find out by yourself what is the most important thing. What is it that I wish the most? To be free from suffering, pain and problems, and to be completely happy, always. And everybody else wants the same. So, I want this for myself and I want to help others also to get that. When you have this direction, you’re on the path.
Taking refuge is finding a purpose and finding a path.
Questions and answers:
What does it mean to take refuge in the Lama?
Sometimes it is said we take refuge in Lama, Yidam, and Khandro, or even Tsa, Lung, Tigle. These are the same three objects defined in the Vajrayana way. An enlightened Lama can also include all three: Lama’s body is the Sangha, his or her speech is the Dharma, and mind is the Buddha.
Meaning of Refuge name?
Generally, a name in Tibet can have different meanings, sometimes you’re given a name depending on which day of the week you were born! But it is good to study the meaning of your refuge name.