Monday, March 22, 2010

The Meaning of Taking Refuge

Venerable Lama Karma Samten Gyatso responds to queries:
Question: Please would you say something about Taking Refuge?

Answer: Taking Refuge is a decision of commitment to Buddhism. It is also a commitment to practice from that day forward. The principle of Taking Refuge also means a commitment of taking care of yourself and others.

When we Take Refuge it is in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Buddha is our destination and Ultimate Refuge, Dharma is the Path, and the Sangha are our Spiritual Friends. These are the Three External Objects of Refuge.
The Three Internal Objects of Refuge are your Body, Speech and Mind. Your Body is the Sangha, your Speech is the Dharma and your Mind is the Buddha. Mind is regarded as the Ultimate Refuge because, when you die, it is the mind that continues. The external objects of your Body, Speech and Mind are left behind.

Mind, in its Ultimate form, has three different aspects. These are the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. Dharmakaya is the Ultimate aspect of Enlightenment, Sambhogakaya is the communication aspect between the Nirmanakaya and Dharmakaya, and Nirmanakaya is the manifestation aspect.

When you analyze your mind, you are unable to find it. This part of Emptiness is called Dharmakaya. It may be un-findable but none-the-less there is something there. This is the communication aspect, the Sambhogakaya. The recognition of how-ever many thoughts arise in your mind is the manifestation aspect, the Nirmanakaya. As these three forms are the ultimate qualities of your mind, they are the Ultimate Objects of Refuge. This is what constitutes the Ultimate Refuge: Dharmakaya is the Buddha, Sambhogakaya is the Dharma, and Nirmanakaya the Sangha.

By Taking Refuge, you make a commitment to take care of and respect the teachings. This also means you take care of your mind because your mind is the Ultimate Refuge. As these same qualities are to be found in the minds of every sentient being, you must also respect all other beings as well.

So, this is the sort of discipline involved in Taking Refuge.