Three Refuges

The difficult-to-attain human form has been attained.
The difficult-to-encounter Dharma has been encountered.
If this delusive form is not liberated in this lifetime,
until which lifetime must this delusive form wait to be liberated?

Taking the Three Refuges means to return to, and to rely on the “Three Jewels,” the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. We turn to and rely on the Buddha as our teacher, the Dharma as our medicine, and the Sangha as our friends. When we take refuge in the Three Jewels, we become formal Buddhist, just like students formally registering to attend school.

  • First, we take refuge in the Buddha, the Awakened One, the teacher who guides us on our path of cultivation.
  • Second, we take refuge in the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha gives us many methods to enlightenment, including the five precepts, the four noble truths, and the six paramitas. They teach us the ways to transcend suffering, and attain happiness, liberation and peace.
  • Third, we take refuge in the Sangha, the community of ordained Buddhist monks and nuns. There are many paths of cultivation. To ensure we do not take the wrong path, we should seek guidance from those who truly devote themselves to the practice and teaching of the Dharma.

The Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, says, “Buddha is the awakened mind; Dharma is truth; Sangha is purity.” The ultimate goal of taking refuge in the Three Jewels is to commit ourselves to realize our intrinsic Three Jewels, the awareness, wisdom, truth and purity inherent in our Buddha mind.