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Lions Roar : March 2018
Refuge THE DECISION TO BECOME A BUDDHIST Taking refuge in the three jewels is like jumping into open space. A Commitment to Liberation by Christina Feldman AS OUR BUDDHIST PRACTICE DEEPENS, our eyes open to possibilities beyond the composure and balance that meditation brings. We open up to the possibility of an unshakeable liber- ation, a timeless wisdom, and being intimately part of a wider community of people who treasure compassion and integrity. We may be inspired to bind ourselves more deeply to the path and to those around us. At this point, we may begin to ask ourselves not only what meditation practice is but what it means to live a meditative life. To help us accomplish this, we look beyond our personal prac- tice and seek the support of what are known in Buddhism as the three jewels. These are the Buddha, or other living embodiment of enlightenment; the dharma, the philosophy and teachings of Buddhism; and the sangha, the community of realized beings and our fellow practitioners. As so many others have before us, we may decide to take refuge in the three jewels as a way of con- tinuing to open to the deeper possibilities we have glimpsed. So what does it mean to take refuge and what do the three jewels really mean? 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. “Taking refuge,” a good translation of the original Pali, literally refers to the act of returning to a place of sanctuary or shelter to find safety, peace, and protec- tion: 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 relationship 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 ourselves unreservedly to a life of wakefulness, to bringing all that is truthful and healing into every aspect of our life. If our devo- tion 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 own capacity for freedom. Taking refuge in the dharma, we bring the path of awakening to life. Taking refuge in the sangha, we acknowledge our interconnectedness. The Buddha: The Example The Buddha is the personification of an awakened being, a person who knows unshakeable inner freedom, peace, and compassion. In this context, the Buddha represents not only the historical Siddhartha we are familiar with, but also all the great teachers throughout time who embody a depth of wisdom and compassion that changes the world around them. The Buddha is a symbol of the third noble truth (cessation)—that it is truly possible to know the end of anguish and struggle, to discover a heart that is liberated from confusion and pain. The Buddha also points to the potential for awakening that lives in each of us. The Buddha encourages us to discover for ourselves the same freedom that buddhas throughout time have found. The Buddha is a symbol of possibility—encouraging us not to despair but to dive deeply into our hearts to find the wis- dom that can heal and liberate us. The Dharma: The Teachings The dharma is the path that leads to the realization of our bud- dhanature. It teaches us the universal story of change, unsat- isfactoriness, and nonself that runs through all of our lives. It reveals our interconnectedness, which is usually clouded by delusion and fear. The dharma is what we practice when we sit down with the intention to let go, to calm the waves of agitation in our hearts, and to understand what is true. When we go out into our day with the commitment to not harm and to protect the well-be- PHOTOBYOLIVERFURRER/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 63