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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 61 ment; the dharma, the philosophy and teachings of Buddhism; and the sangha, the community of realized beings and of our fellow practitioners. As so many others have before us, we may decide to take refuge in the three jewels as a way of continuing to open to the deeper possibilities we have glimpsed. This is an important step on the journey and one we will repeat many times over. So what does it mean to take refuge and what do the three jewels really mean? Taking Refuge I take refuge in the Buddha I take refuge in the dharma I take refuge in the sangha In monasteries around the world these three lines are chanted daily, and many meditation retreats here in the West begin with a recitation of this formula. We might see these as quasi-reli- gious sentiments or statements of belief that seem irrelevant to our own life and spiritual practice. But the great power of taking refuge is that it opens our eyes to the whole of the teaching, not just the parts we find convenient. Taking refuge can also help us find the capacity to meet hardship compassionately—and with steadiness—rather than with flight and denial. But before that can happen, we need to come to understand what we commit to when we make these statements. Taking refuge in the three jewels (also known as the triple gem or the three treasures) is a commitment born of reflection and investigation. “Taking refuge,” a good translation of the original Pali, lit- erally refers to the act of returning to a place of sanctuary or shelter to find safety, peace, and protection: a child finds refuge in the arms of a loving parent; we find shelter from a storm beneath the branches of a tree; we return home to a caring rela- tionship for sanctuary and peace. Taking refuge in the three jewels is an inner journey, com- ing home to what is true. It is a profound act of devotion and inner commitment to a clear mind, an open heart, and a way of engaging with life that is pervaded with integrity, respect, and compassion. If our commitment is profound, we give our- selves unreservedly to a life of wakefulness, to bringing all that is truthful and healing into every aspect of our life. If our devotion is wholehearted, we align our thoughts, words, and acts with the teachings that lead to liberation. Taking refuge in the Buddha, we commit ourselves to our MAY 60-63.indd 61 MAY 60-63.indd 61 3/6/08 11:31:27 AM 3/6/08 11:31:27 AM