Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taking Refuge - Becoming a Buddhist Part 4

The Refuge ceremony is reminiscent of the mediaeval ritual of swearing fealty to a liege lord. He/she offered protection and the possibility of improving one's lot in life, and the vassal offers his service in exchange. The important difference here is that you are not primarily taking refuge in the human before you, but in the Three Jewels. Also, it is up to you to maintain the relation; there are no threats involved.

You can also take refuge more than once, if you desire. Sometimes people want to renew their commitment or to have the experience with a different representative of the 3 Jewels, or in a different Buddhist tradition -- or even to get a "nicer" name. It is reported, however, that people who do that just to get a new dharma name, often find the "new" name is similar to the old!

On May 21, 2008, while at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, NY while on his first visit to the West, HH Karmapa said that there are two aspects to taking refuge: Anyone can readily Take Refuge in the 3 Jewels, but to take the Vows of Refuge, is a more serious undertaking. One must aspire to abjure certain things, such as : not to intentionally take any life; another is not to frequent bad companions; ie, those who could lead us from our chosen path.