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 is threefold:
The Buddha is the ultimate state, which has two aspects:
The Dharma, the means to attain Buddhahood, comprises two parts:
The Sangha, the community, has three divisions:
These two classes form the "Noble Sangha", which refers to those who have attained liberation from conditioned existence.
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.
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 is threefold:
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.
There are nine precepts: 3 general precepts, 3 particular precepts and 3 common precepts.
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.