Teachings Refuge

When we have become aware that our own life as well as that of all living beings who endure conditioned existence (samsara) is characterized by suffering, and when we also recognize that on our own we are unable to free ourselves from this experience, then we seek for a true and stable refuge, capable of protecting ourselves and others definitively from suffering and establishing all beings in a state of permanent happiness.

The object

The object is threefold:

The Buddha

The Buddha is the ultimate state, which has two aspects:

  • Perfect purity: the complete purification of all obscurations: karmic veils, emotional veils, veils concerning understanding and veils of fundamental tendencies.
  • Perfect development: having understood the nature of emptiness of oneself and all phenomena, having followed the path of enlightenment to its conclusion, is the attainment of the ultimate state, the dharmakaya (Body of Reality). Then this attainment is expressed by the awakened activity of the Form Bodies, the sambhogakaya (Body of Perfect Joy) and nirmanakaya (Body of Emanation). These two Bodies express perfect compassion acting for the benefit of all living beings.
  • The Dharma

    The Dharma, the means to attain Buddhahood, comprises two parts:

  • All the teachings given by the Buddha
  • The realization of relative and ultimate reality through practicing these teachings
  • The Sangha

    The Sangha, the community, has three divisions:

  • The community of bodhisattvas
  • The community of arhats: the "listeners" and the "self enlightened"
  • These two classes form the "Noble Sangha", which refers to those who have attained liberation from conditioned existence.

  • The ordinary community: comprising spiritual friends and fully ordained monks.
  • These three sources of refuge are known as the "Three Jewels" and make up respectively:

    - the goal: the realization of ultimate and relative reality, the state of Buddhahood.
    - the path: the means to attain this realization, the Dharma.
    - the guides: the spiritual friends and companions who help us to follow the path, the Sangha.

    Only the Buddha is a permanent and ultimate refuge, being both the cause and the fruit of spiritual development. The Dharma and the Sangha are temporary and relative refuges, representing the conditions and the circumstances for realization. These become insignificant once the goal is attained.

    The duration

    One takes refuge from the present moment until one reaches the heart of enlightenment.

    The motivation

    In the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) one takes refuge because the suffering experienced by beings trapped in conditioned existence (samsara) is intolerable. The intention is to attain ultimate enlightenment through which one has the capacity to completely liberate beings from suffering and to establish them in a state of permanent happiness.

    The commitment

    The commitment is threefold:

  • To maintain one's faith and confidence in the Buddha, the ultimate refuge, and not rely on worldly sources of refuge.
  • To act according to the Dharma, which means abandoning all acts that are harmful to other beings and endeavoring to practice virtue.
  • To associate oneself with spiritual friends.
  • The benefits

    By taking refuge we close the door that leads to being reborn in lower states of existence. We have open before us a path of spiritual development that leads infallibly to enlightenment. Outer obstacles, human or non human, can no longer harm us. Fears and inner doubts are pacified. Our body becomes a precious recipient, suitable for receiving the Dharma. Through the Dharma one purifies all negative acts. By learning and putting the teachings into practice the mind's qualities such as confidence, clarity, joy and understanding are revealed. Our wishes are fulfilled. We rapidly attain the state of Buddhahood.

    The precepts

    There are nine precepts: 3 general precepts, 3 particular precepts and 3 common precepts.

    The three general precepts:

  • Strive at all times to honour the three precious refuges, even by offering them the first portion of food before eating.
  • Never abandon the three precious refuges, whatever the circumstances may be.
  • Develop the habit of repeatedly calling to the mind the qualities of the Three Jewels and taking refuge in them.
  • The three particular precepts:

  • Having taken refuge in the Buddha, do not seek refuge in any other deity.
  • Having taken refuge in the Dharma, avoid harming sentient beings.
  • Having taken refuge in the Sangha, do not trust those who cannot lead beings towards enlightenment.
  • The three common precepts

  • Respect all representations of the Tathagatha, even a fragment of tsatsa (small symbolical clay sculpture), because they symbolize the most precious Buddha.
  • Show respect for the books and collected works of scripture, even a mere letter of a text, because they represent the most precious Dharma.
  • Show respect for the Buddhist robes, even a simple patch of yellow cloth, because they represent the most precious Sangha.
  • Refuge payer

    Sangye la kyap su chio

    I take refuge in the Buddha

    Chö la kyap su chio

    I take refuge in the Dharma

    Gendün la kyap su chio

    I take refuge in the Sangha


    At the end of each meditation session one dedicates the merit created by the practice for the benefit of all living beings so that it becomes indestructible.