The Practice of Refuge
Taking Refuge is a multiple level process based on the motivation adopted by the adepts of the three yanas, i.e. Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
From the highest level of the Anuttara Tantra and Mahamudra as well as Dzogchen, further understanding of this process, leads to commit to transform ourselves in order to become better individuals genuinely concerned with the benefit of others.
It does imply that we train our body, speech and mind; we must take up the responsibility
-> To develop a sane body, fit to serve and benefit others,
-> To improve our speech faculty in order to communicate better with them; and last but not least,
-> To control our mind so that our conduct demonstrates clarity and luminosity rather than emotional confusion. This is essential in order to truly gain the capacity to benefit others.
Because for countless lifetimes we manifested egocentric behaviour, we developed progressively strong habits maintaining ourselves in samsara, we now need to take sincere commitment to change our conduct.
To comment on this point, I wish to share with you some points written by His Holiness the XVI Gyalwang Karmapa in a short poem titled “A Reminder to Myself”.
I, performer of the three activities, from now on, I will take control of my own discipline in thought and deed. I make a firm commitment, as follows, to avoid thoughtlessness and senselessness.”
“Performer of the three activities” means “Töd-Sam-Gom”. Listening attentively, studying to get a clear understanding and, practicing this understanding in all we do, say or think.
“Thoughtlessness” means lack of consideration, so here, it means to consider carefully whether to act by body, speech and mind or to deliberately renounce action. These must be considered carefully. We should refrain to act impulsively or carelessly.
“Avoiding Senselessness” means “no nonsense” and wisdom. It must feel fine and beneficial.
The elaboration of this commitment:
- In physical conduct, I will not allow myself to be rootless and hurried,
Incapable of being still, carelessly following my every whim.
I will always hold my own space
And be adorned by the training in pure discipline (*).
(*) ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས། - “Tshul-thrim” literally meaning a code of conduct which is in alignment with the way of reality. Pure ethics is to abide in nowness or as-it-isness.
- In speech, whether spiritual or secular,
“I will choose meaningful words and shun unconnected talk of past events or boring discussions concerning any of the three times.
I will always exert myself in dharmic recitations, proclamations, and readings.”
Examine not others but yourself. This way, you will progress on the path of freeing your speech. When reciting the Dharma, train yourself systematically to improve your pronunciation and clarity of speech. This is a way to show respect (Gü-pa) to the words of the Buddha.
When proclaiming the dharma, do so according to the ethics defined by the Buddha. Train in the observances such as found in the various commentaries, i.e. request the blessings of the Buddha and address the audience by describing the subject matter that will be taught etc.
Much of these observances are explained by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thayay in “Buddhist Ethics”. When exerting in readings, develop the excellence of taking notes and complementing these by further enquiring and study.
- In mind, I will not flutter back and forth like a young bird on a branch.
Not getting absorbed in discursive thoughts of good and bad,
I will meditate, cultivating forbearance and relying on my own perceptions, not those of others.
I will reflect on how best to benefit the teachings and beings.
In particular, the vital essence of the thought of all victorious ones
Is the true nature—the uncontrived, innate dharmakaya (Chö-Ku).
Without ever lapsing, I will sustain it with one taste (‘Ro-Nyom’) in equipoise and post-meditation.
- In sum, I will hold myself to the sublime, dharmic conduct of the three gates,
Not falling under the influence of others.
Arrogance, haughtiness, or thoughts of self-aggrandisement -whatever of these arises, I will not let them move me in the slightest.
I will remain firm, dignified, and fearless, like a mountain.
Until this collection of elements has rotted away,
I will not waver from this way of being.
Of this way I will be a fearless warrior—that will be my quality.
This is my vow, like an image carved in stone. May it be virtuous!
Gods and protectors, work to help this come to pass!
May the virtuous signs of auspiciousness excellently blaze!
Further Considerations on Taking Refuge
A Person takes refuge in the Buddha not as a saviour—not with the feeling that you have found something to make you secure—but as an example, as someone you can emulate. He is an example of an ordinary human being who saw through the deceptions of life, both on the ordinary and spiritual levels.
The Buddha found the awakened state of mind by relating with the situations that existed around him: the confusion, chaos and insanity.
He was able to look at those situations very clearly and precisely.
He disciplined himself by working on his own mind, which was the source of all the chaos and confusion.
Instead of becoming an anarchist and blaming society, he worked on himself and he attained what is known as bodhi, or enlightenment.
The final and ultimate breakthrough took place, and he was able to teach and work with sentient beings without any inhibition.
The Buddha almost decided not to Teach after he became enlightened. He was concerned that people would only believe in his Teachings and miss the point of what he originally intended them to be, which was to put them into practice to come to our own realization.
Refuge relates to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha: the first is understood as the Teacher, the second as the teachings, and the third as the community of those who have achieved the Path of Seeing and are on the brumes of the Path of Meditation.
Originally, taking refuge was primarily an expression of faith that distinguished a follower of the Buddha from practitioners of other religions.
Refuge marked the beginning of an earnest undertaking of the Buddhist path.
In higher forms of Buddhist view and methods of implementation, refuge takes on deeper layers of meaning, and in the ultimate sense means taking refuge in “the buddha within,” the realization of the natural and unmodified intrinsic awareness lying within oneself.
“Just as fog is dispelled by the strength of the sun and is dispelled no other way,
preconception is cleared by the strength of realisation.
There’s no other way of clearing preconceptions.
Experience them as baseless dreams.
Experience them as ephemeral bubbles.
Experience them as insubstantial rainbows.
Experience them as indivisible space.
“In the monastery of your heart and body, you have a temple where all Buddhas unite”.
by Venerable Lama Gelong Sangyay Tendzin