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A refuge is a shelter, a safe place. There are very few safe place in this world. In fact, to find a totally safe shelter anywhere in worldly life is impossible. Physical shelters burn down, get demolished, disappear. Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha is not physical shelter but spiritual one, a haven protected from the storm. On the ocean the storms, winds, and waves make progress difficult.

When a ship finally reaches the shelter of a harbor, where the water is calm, it can come to anchor. This is what it means to take refuge in Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha. We feel that we have finally found the place where we can come to rest: the teaching that promises, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is an end to suffering, to all the ills besetting mankind.

The teaching, the Dhamma propounded by the great teacher and perpetuated by his Sangha, shows us the way. Buddham saranam gacchami To the Buddha I go for refuge.

Dhammam saranam gacchami To the Dhamma I go for refuge. Sangham saranam gacchami To the Sangha I go for refuge. It is essential to understand the meaning of the Pali. When we feel that taking refuge is a reality for us, our hearts open up in devotion, gratitude, and respect toward Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha.

Taking refuge can become the most important thing in our lives. Everything that we do can be done for Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha. I can carry stones for Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha, and they weigh nothing. It is not difficult at all to perform task for the highest ideal that promises another level of being once we have seen that the reality in which humanity lives is unsatisfactory and are willing to let go of it.

Most of us gladly take refuge with utter devotion, gratitude, and respect in someone who has reached the most elevated consciousness possible and is able and willing to explain the path in such a way that we can actually follow it. When we feel gratitude, devotion, and respect, we have love in our hearts. Love and respect go hand in hand with the spiritual path.

These two feelings are appropriate and essential for any relationship we may have, but even more so for the spiritual path, which is the closet relationship we can have because it concerns our own being. Heart and mind must both be engaged. The mind understands and heart loves, and unless that fusion happens, we may limp along on one leg. The integration of intellect and emotion helps us walk ahead steadily. Unsteadiness in our practice will again and again bring dissatisfaction into our hearts and skeptical doubt: Am I doing the right thing?

Skeptical doubt arises because lack of emotional connection to our practice leaves us shaky. We need to be solidly grounded and have both heart and mind wholeheartedly involved in all our actions. In this human world we are beset by troubles, difficulties, and constant fears for ourselves and our loved ones. Finding a refuge, a safe place within all anxiety, is so rare and valuable that most people cannot fathom its importance.

The jewels are not physical bodies of the Buddha and the Sangha but the transcendence that they represent, the nibbbnic conscious, overriding all human desires and foibles. Being able to take refuge is not only rare but excellent karma.

But such a wonderful opportunity will bear fruit only if we take refuge with our hearts and not just with our mouths. All of us have at least once lives been in love, and we can remember the feeling, especially if the love was reciprocated. The same exhilarating emotion can be ours if we love Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha, because we meet all three within our hearts. This can be a perpetual love affair, and whatever we do, we do for the ones we love, which becomes can easy task.

It arises from certainty and direction, from a heart fully connected to all we do. When we enter the path leading to final elimination of all dukkha suffering , we enter a relationship that can purify us totally and that will eventually make us part of the Enlightened Sangha.

If taking refuge is understood in this way, we derive great benefit from it. The same chants that encourage gratitude, devotion, and respect also help us memorize the reaching, leading thereby to wisdom and insight. Here I give the English translation of the Pali original. Homage to the Buddha: Indeed the Blessed One is thus: The accomplished destroyer of defilements, A Buddha perfected by himself, Complete in clear knowledge and compassionate conduct, Supremely good in presence and in destiny, Knower of the worlds, Incomparable master of those to be tamed, Teacher of devas and humans, Awakened and awakener, And the Lord by skillful means apportioning Dhamma.

Homage to Dhamma: The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded, To be seen here and now, Not a matter of time, Inviting one to come and see, Leading inward, To be known by the wise each individually. Wisdom has three stages. The first one is knowledge acquired by hearing or reading. We reach the second stage when we make this knowledge our own by taking its guidelines to heart and trying to actualize them through thought, speech, and action.

As we do this more and more, our thoughts, words and deeds are purified, and the third and the highest stage of wisdom arises. We have all seen status or pictures of the Buddha. Nobody knows what the Buddha really look like, for in those days there were no camera, and no drawings of the Buddha were made either. We can make our own Buddha statue in our minds, according to how we visualize our own perfection and beauty.

We can let golden rays emanate from it, make it the most wonderful thing we can possibly imagine, and carry it around in our hearts. This will develop love for ourselves and also help us to love others, since we see that might be carrying the same beautiful statue around in their hearts.

Even if they speak differently and look different from us, they still carry the same beauty in their hearts. Anyone who has a successful love affair has a happy heart. When we love the Three Jewels it is the kind of love affair that cannot disappoint us. Our lover does not run away or pick someone else. When we become enlightened, the whole consciousness of our beloved, the Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha, will be available to us, and we cannot possibly be disappointed.

This kind of transcendental relationship, not dependent upon a human being who will eventually die and who is imperfect. It is a relationship with perfection itself, which is difficult to find in the human or any other realm. We are extremely privilege to have that opportunity.

Yet we must also turn our perception toward our imperfect inner reality and recognize clearly what the Three Jewels means for us. Then loving devotion will arise and fill us. When see the greatest beauty and purity, the greatest wisdom, we cannot help but their expression. We have a lot to be grateful for, and it is our own good karma that has made it possible to be here at this moment. The Dhamma protects the Dhamma practitioner.

We are protected because our reactions are dependable and we have found the pathway to freedom. This is the only safety we can find. The first line of this chant proclaims real faith in the Dhamma not a belief in everything without inquiry, but an inner relationship of trust. When we are faithful to someone, we trust that person, we put ourselves in his or hr hands, we have a deep connection and an inner opening.

When we have the teaching of the Buddha, this is all the more true. Those aspects of the Dhamma that we do not understand we leave in abeyance, but that does not shake our faith and trust.

Dhamma is the truth expounded by the Enlightened One, the law of nature surrounding us and imbedded within us. There is nothing else to be found that is without blemish, or is there anything tat approaches such perfection.

If we have that trust, faithfulness, and love for the Dhamma and believe it to be perfectly expounded, then have found something beyond compare. We are blessed with an inner wealth. The Dhamma has been made clear by the Enlightened One, who taught it out of compassion, but we have see it ourselves with an inner vision. This awareness helps us to watch our reactions before they result in unskillful words or actions.

When we see the positive within us, we cultivate it; when see the negative, we substitute the positive.

When we believe all our through and claim justification for them, we are not seeing the Dhamma. There are no justifications, only the arising and ceasing of phenomena. Some people think there has to be a perfect teacher or perfect teacher or perfect meditation. None of that is true.

Mental and physical phenomena dhammas are constantly coming and going, changing without pause. When we hang on to them and consider them ours, we believe any story our mind tells us, without discrimination. We are not invited to come and see a meditation hall or Buddha statue, a stupa or shrine, but to see the Dhammas arising within us.

The defilements as well as purifications are to be found inside our own hearts and minds. The arising and ceasing phenomena, which are our teachers, never rest. Dhamma is being taught to us constantly. All our waking moments are Dhamma teachers, if we make them so. Our minds are very busy, remembering, planning, hoping, or judging. We could make our body equally busy by picking up a little stones and throwing them into the water all day long.

But we would consider that a foolish expenditure of energy, so we direct the body toward something more useful. We need to do the same with the mind. Instead of thinking about this and that, allowing the defilements to arise, we should direct the mind toward something beneficial, such as investigating our likes and dislikes, our desire and rejections, our ideas and views. When the mind inquires, it does not get involved in its creations.

It cannot do both at the same time. As it becomes more observant, it remains objective for longer periods. That why the Buddha taught that mindfulness is the sole means of purification.





Be an Island: The Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace



Be an Island




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