In Buddhism, it is very important that one takes refuge. But what does this mean? This is when you make the sincere commitment to study under a Teacher/Guru. In a ceremony you take refuge by honoring the three-jewels: The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition you would also add the fourth jewel which would be the Guru .
The relationship between a Guru and disciple is deeper than that of a father and son. The Guru has the responsibility to teach and train the disciple, passing down his knowledge and wisdom to them. This tradition includes all schools of Buddhism and has been passed down from the beginning of Buddha’s time.
Therefore one who wishes to learn and practice Buddhism should make an effort to seek out an accomplished master to be their Teacher/Guru, and take refuge in them.
The Three Jewels refers to: The Buddha jewel, (due to his enlightenment and kindness in sharing his teachings). The Dharma jewel, (all the Buddha’s wisdom teachings). The Sangha Jewel, (The Buddhist community, the monastery monks and nuns). During early days of Buddhism, The Sangha referred to the Arahants, (those who had high levels of realization). Today we refer to any group of practicing Buddhists as The Sangha.
At a basic level, one takes refuge in the visible forms group of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
- Relying on the Guru’s teachings.
- Study the Sutras (Buddhist Scriptures).
- Practicing Buddhism with a group of Buddhists and following the precepts.
On a higher level, refuge in The Three Jewels refers to:
- Commitment to attain the enlightened Buddha mind, which is emptiness and Nirvana.
- Commitment to comprehend the ultimate truth, the law of nature, the Dharma as methods, the way, and supreme wisdom.
- Sincere and diligent practice to achieve a pure mind, free from contamination (hatred, judgment, and delusions).
Taking refuge is an important commitment to genuinely practice the Buddha’s teachings. It has nothing to do with superstition. The goal is to learn how to achieve mental and spiritual liberation and to live a truly happier life.