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Buddhists "take refuge" in, or to "go for refuge" to, the Three Jewels or Triple Gem, (aka the "Three Refuges"). This can be done formally in lay and monastic ordination ceremonies.
The Three Jewels general signification is:
- the Buddha;
- the Dharma, the teachings;
- the Sangha, the community of (at least partially) enlightened beings, often approximated to community of monks and nuns (Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis).
Refuge in the Triple Gem is common to all major schools of Buddhism.
Faith is an important teaching element in both Theravada and Mahayana traditions. In contrast to perceived Western notions of faith, faith in Buddhism arises from accumulated experience and reasoning.
In the Kalama Sutra, the Buddha explicitly argues against simply following authority or tradition, particularly those of religions contemporary to the Buddha's time. There remains value for a degree of trusting confidence and belief in Buddhism, primarily in the spiritual attainment and salvation or enlightenment. Faith in Buddhism centres on belief in the Three Jewels.
Having taken refuge in the Buddha a Buddhist should not go for refuge to other deities.
Having taken refuge in the Dharma a Buddhist should do no harm to other sentient beings.
Having taken refuge in the Sangha a Buddhist should not rely on heretics.
Lay Buddhist Practices
A student who takes refuge may make vows to adhere to the Five Precepts (pañca-sila). Laypeople undertake at least one of the five, but traditions differ in how many vows are common to take. The Five Precepts are not commandments, such as "thou shalt not ...", but are promises to oneself: "I will (try) ..."
- To refrain from harming living creatures (killing).
- To refrain from taking that which is not given (stealing).
- To refrain from sexual misconduct.
- To refrain from false speech.
- To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness.
Serious lay people or aspiring monks may take an additional three to five ethical precepts, and strengthen some of the five precepts. For example, the precept pertaining to sexual misconduct becomes a precept of celibacy.
- बुद्धं शरणं गच्छामि।
- धर्मं शरणं गच्छामि।
- संघं शरणं गच्छामि।
- Buddhaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Dharmaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Sanghaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- I take refuge in the Buddha.
- I take refuge in the Dharma.
- I take refuge in the Sangha.
- Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- ពុទ្ធំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- ធម្មំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- សង្ឃំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- To the Buddha for refuge I go
- To the Dharma for refuge I go
- To the Sangha for refuge I go
- Dutiyampi buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Dutiyampi dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Dutiyampi saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- ទុតិយម្បិ ពុទ្ធំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- ទុតិយម្បិ ធម្មំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- ទុតិយម្បិ សង្ឃំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- For the second time ...
- Tatiyampi buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Tatiyampi dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- Tatiyampi saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
- តតិយម្បិ ពុទ្ធំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- តតិយម្បិ ធម្មំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ។
- តតិយម្បិ សង្ឃំ សរណំ គច្ឆាមិ ៕
- For the third time...
- 南無皈依佛 (to the Buddha for refuge I go)
- 南無皈依法 (to the Dharma for refuge I go)
- 南無皈依僧 (to the Sangha for refuge I go)
- (I take refuge in the Buddha, wishing for all sentient beings to understand the great way and make the greatest vow.)
- (I take refuge in the Dharma, wishing for all sentient beings to deeply delve into the Sutra Pitaka, gaining an ocean of knowledge.)
- (I take refuge in the Sangha, wishing all sentient beings to lead the congregation in harmony, entirely without obstruction.)
Tibetan : The basic refuge in Tibetan is:
- Sang-gyé la kyap-su chio (I go for refuge to the Buddha)
- Chö la kyap-su chio (I go for refuge to the Dharma)
- Gendün la kyap-su chio (I go for refuge to the Sangha)
A Mahayana refuge in Tibetan:
- Sang gyé chö dang tsok kyi chok nam la
- Jang chup bar du kyap su chi
- Dak gi jin sok gyi pa di dak gi
- Dro la pen chir sang gyé drup par shok
According to Atisha in the 11th century Lamp for the Path, and in the subsequent Lamrim tradition of the Tibetan variant of Buddhism as elaborated by Tsongkhapa, one can distinguish several levels of refuge. These purposes are introduced using the concept of the practitioner's "scope" of aspiration:
- Worldly scope is taking refuge to improve this life (not Buddhist, since "to go for refuge perfectly we need to be motivated at least by concern for the welfare of future lives").
- Initial scope is taking refuge to gain higher rebirth as a human or god, and to avoid the lower realms such as animal, hungry spirit, or hell being.
- Intermediate scope is taking refuge to achieve liberation or Nirvana.
- Great scope is taking refuge to achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings.
- Highest scope is also sometimes included, which is taking refuge to achieve Buddhahood in this life (using Tantric Buddhism techniques).
Another distinction between different levels of going for refuge, given by the English Buddhist teacher Sangharakshita (Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood) in his text Going for Refuge is:
- Ethnic refuge, when one is born into a Buddhist culture and practice is a matter more of social conditioning than personal commitment.
- Effective refuge, when one has taken the conscious decision to commit oneself to the three refuges, typically by joining a Buddhist Order.
- Real refuge, when the three fetters of conditioned arising has been broken and stream entry has been attained.
- Absolute refuge, which corresponds with the attainment of enlightenment.
- Driven only by fear, do men go for refuge to many places — to hills, woods, groves, trees and shrines.
- Such, indeed, is no safe refuge; such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from all suffering.
- He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Teaching and his Order, penetrates with transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths — suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of suffering.
- This indeed is the safe refuge, this the refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all suffering.
- — Dhammapada 188-192
- A Buddhist View on Refuge
- Refuge Vows (including commentary)
- Taking the refuges and precepts online by Bhikkhu Samahita
- Vajrayana refuge prayer audio
- The Threefold Refuge (tisarana)
- Five Precepts (pañca-sila)
- Abhisanda Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya)
- Saranagamana (Khuddakapatha)
- Going for Refuge and Taking the Precepts by Bhikkhu Bodhi
- Refuge: An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
- Refuge Tree Thangkas by Dharmapala Thangka Centre
- "Kalama Sutta, The Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry" by Soma Thera
- Gampopa Sonam Rinchen; Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen (translator) (1998). The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-092-1. p.143
- Kelsang Gyatso. (2001). Joyful path of good fortune: The complete Buddhist path to enlightenment. Ulverston, England: Tharpa Publications, p. 12.
- Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha, tr Nanamoli, rev Bodhi, Wisdom Pubns, 1995, pages 708f
- Sangharakshita, Going for Refuge. Windhorse Publications. (1997)
- Ceremony for Taking Refuge and Precepts by Ven. Thubten Chodron
- Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Joyful Path of Good Fortune - The complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment, pp. 189–226, Tharpa Publications, England (1990).