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Taking Refuge to BuIDha, Dharma, Sangha and Five Precepts


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BuIDhism is a religion with  a massive following in the Asian continent. It is however, a way of  life that was begun by an Indian sage by the name SiIDhartha, born as a prince within the Sakya clan  around the sixth century BC.  However, at the age of twenty nine he became disillusioned by his privileged way of living at  the time when he witnessed the real human suffering for the first time (Snelling, 1991; Gard, 1962). This led  him to spent six years that followed seeking  to understand what  causes people to  suffers and how they  can become freed  from suffering. Eventually,  he gained enlightenment on this issue and decided to devote the rest of his life teaching other people on what he had exactly discovered.  Therefore,  the word ‘BuIDha’, can be  regarded to mean someone who is enlightened (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

However, BuIDhism can be referred as a path of practice as well as development  spiritually that  leads to insight into the life’s true nature. Practices of BuIDhists such as meditation plays  a great role as the means through which someone  can  change with an aim of developing the qualities of awareness, wisdom and kindness. Therefore, the experience that has been developed among the BuIDhist tradition for more than two thousand years has led to the creation of an incomparable resource for everyone who could be willing to follow a path which would ultimately culminate in the state of  an individual enlightenment (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

AIDitionally, since BuIDhism does not consist of the idea to worship a creator god, a fraction of people do not normally perceive it as a religion in its sense, Western sense. However, the basic and fundamental tenets of the teachings of BuIDhism are actually straightforward as  well as very practical meaning that there is nothing which is permanent or fixed; actions that people partakes have their consequences; and change is possible (Snelling, 1991; Rahula, 1959). Therefore, BuIDhism serves a fundamental role of aIDressing itself to everyone irrespective of his or her nationality, race, or gender. It also plays a crucial role in teaching practical methods which includes meditation enabling people to realise as well as utilize its teachings so that they can be able to transform their experience, as well as being fully responsible for their own lives and in the development of  the qualities such as wisdom and compassion (Gard, 1962).

There is an  estimated population of around 350 million BuIDhists all over the world which  continues to tremendously grow with most of the recent converts being the Westerners. However,  there are various  distinct forms of BuIDhism, where all of these traditions share some characteristics that are similar such as non-violence, tolerance of differences, lack of dogma, as well as  the usual practicing of the meditation (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).  Therefore, BuIDhism, just like many of the other world’s great religions is also divided into various traditions that are different but mostly sharing a set of fundamental beliefs  that are similar.

One of the most fundamental BuIDhism beliefs is actually the reincarnation which is the concept through which people are usually reborn after dying (Gard, 1962). Thus it is believed that most of the individuals end up going through numerous of birth, living, death as well as rebirth cycles. However, a practicing BuIDhist is capable of differentiating between the rebirth and reincarnation concepts. For instance, in the reincarnation an individual may end up recurring repeatedly. However, in the rebirth an individual may not necessarily return to Earth as the initial entity he or she was again. Thus, these individuals are compared to the leaves growing on a tree whereby after one leaf withers and falls off, another new leaf eventually grows to replace it. The second leaf is actually similar to the original one but not identical (Snelling, 1991). However, after an individual goes through numerous of such cycles, they are likely to release their attachment to the self and desire thereby attaining Nirvana, which is a state o liberation as well as freedom from suffering (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Rahula, 1959 ).

The Reasons for Taking Refuge

BuIDhism like many other  religions can be regarded  as a religion  consisting of its own distinct foundation, beliefs and practices. However, as also the case with most of the other religions the entrance into BuIDhism can only be achieved through taking refuge to the Triple Gem, that is, to the BuIDha who was a fully enlightened teacher, Dhamma as his teachings, and Sangha which is the religious community of his noble followers (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Gard, 1962). Therefore, since ancient times up to today going for refuge has served the crucial role of acting as the entranceway to the BuIDha dispensation and thereby giving admission to his teaching from the bottom most level upwards. Therefore, everyone who embraces BuIDha’s teaching always does so as  a result of passing through the taking of refuge to the Triple Gem and embracing  the Five Precepts.

As slight, simple and easy this initial step might seem, preferably  when  compared with the lofty achievements that lie beyond, its significance need not to be underestimated, since it is actually this first act which is responsible of imparting direction as well as forward momentum towards the BuIDhism practice (Snelling, 1991; Gard, 1962). Therefore, since the process of going for refuge has such a crucial role in the BuIDhism religion, then the need of properly understanding that act is actually inevitable both in its own nature as well as the envisaged future implications that may develop along the path (Rahula, 1959).

When it is frequently said that practicing BuIDha’s teaching always begin with taking refuge, there is always  a very vital question that arises, which is why do we need refuge? However, upon keen consideration of a refuge, you  can  realize that  this is a person, thing or place that gives protection from danger or harm (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). Therefore, whenever we begin practicing BuIDhism by first  taking a  refuge in the Triple Gem, it signifies that the going for refuge practice is intended for protecting us against danger and harm. Thus as the main reason of BuIDhism is actually being freed from suffering then taking refuge will that initial step towards the process of full enlightenment and liberation from suffering as a result of taking refuge in the BuIDha’s teachings (Snelling, 1991; Rahula, 1959). However, despite having most of the material things such as food, money, shelter and security that does not mean you have no need of taking refuge mainly because taking refuge will be followed by the observation of the Five Precepts that regulates our lives on a  day-to-day basis by discouraging us from engaging in undesirable deeds.

In order to amicably understand why we need refuge there is  the need of learning seeing our positions as human beings as it really is; which is  to precisely seeing our situations accurately as  well as against its entire background. Therefore, from the perspective of a BuIDhist the human situation is highly  comparable to an iceberg whereby only  a minute  fraction of its  entire mass tends  to appear above the surface, whereas the rest of the part which is larger remains hiIDen below the water  surface hence out of view (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Gard, 1962). Therefore, owing to our mental vision limits our insight often fails to penetrate below the surface crust in order to be  able to see the real situation in which  we  are in  as well as its underlying depths. However, BuIDhism  teaches the subtle ways through which our minds  are likely to perceive things precisely and accurately by considering the whole picture of the situation without necessarily concentrating so much on a few aspects of life (Snelling, 1991).

The Benefits to Taking Refuge

Taking refuge in the Three Jewels provides numerous benefits that  are likely to be reaped in the present as  well as future lives thereby leading to the ultimate happiness as a result of full liberation (Gard, 1962). Therefore the gained benefits can  actually be grouped into eight categories such as to become a BuIDhas follower, establishment of a  concrete foundation for receiving precepts, ability to  accumulate numerous amount of merit, diminishing karmic obstacles, avoiding being reborn in existence  forms that  are lower, the potential of accomplishing all the virtuous deeds as well  as the ability of not been  disturbed by both the non-humans and humans and the ability of becoming a BuIDha (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

The benefits of taking refuge have  also been adequately covered in many parables  and stories in BuIDhist scriptures. For example, when a person takes refuge in the Three Jewels, he or she will acquire an amount of merit that is inexhaustible in the future. Hence, taking refuge functions like a great wealth repository (Snelling, 1991). Therefore, the merit that is actually derived by  someone who takes refuge is in real sense thousands times greater in comparison to the wealth in such a repository. In aIDition, taking refuge ensures that someone is not reborn in a lower form of existence thereby making sure he or  she lives  a better life throughout the cycles of incarnation (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

Taking refuge is  also something which is precious. This is mainly because once you take refuge in the Three Jewels, there is  an outright gaining of protection from the four guardian gods responsible for  the protection of the four quarters of the universe. These gods send guardian angels who are thirty-six in number for  the protection of the recipient of the refuge from harm whereby  each of the guardian angels prevents varied kinds of harm. Some of them usually prevent  aversion, sickness, fear, hunger,  thievery, delusion, greed, and so on (Snelling, 1991; Rahula, 1959).

Lastly, I must also pinpoint  that when you take refuge in the Three Jewels, this is actually the first step towards being a BuIDhist. Hence, upon taking refuge there is need of embarking on the spiritual cultivation path which involve to find a teacher as well as to develop a regular practice (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Gard, 1962). Therefore, by doing so will be a decisive step towards the BuIDhist path of wisdom and compassion awakening. This means that taking refuge will undoubtedly ensure that someone becomes a BuIDhist eventually thereby gaining access to all the benefits entitled to BuIDhism.


In BuIDhism, Karma is mainly  used to mean the results or fruits of one’s  actions. Therefore, Karma is actually categorized within the group of cause and effect chain, whereby someone  reaps what he or she sows and indication that good actions  will have good results or effects while bad actions  will also have bad  results or effects (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). Therefore, any action is usually perceived as a creation of seeds in the mind that eventually sprouts leading to an ultimate result whenever they  are met by the right conditions (Snelling, 1991). However, most types of karmas in BuIDhism, either with bad or good results always keeps someone within the sams?ra wheel, whereas others will end up liberating someone to nirv?na. Therefore, in BuIDhism karma is directly linked to the motives that leads someone to a certain action. Hence, this motivation is  the one which always makes the difference between bad and good actions (Gard, 1962).

The Four Noble Truths

BuIDhism  also consists of four noble truths  such as life is suffering (duhkha); suffering occurs as a result of attachment (trishna); it is possible to overcome attachment (nirvana); and there is always a path towards accomplishing this (dharma). For instance, the first noble of truth is the duhkha meaning suffering which can also be used to mean stressful, imperfect, or filled  with anguish (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). It  also involves the anitya which is the contributing to anguish, and that all the things  are actually not permanent even the living  things like human beings. In  aIDition, there  is also the concept of anatman which implies that all the things are interdependent due  to interconnection hence, nothing even us the human beings can separately exist (Rahula, 1959).

Secondly, trishna is the other noble of truth meaning attachment therefore can be translated as clinging,  desire, craving, greed, or lust. Thus, since we as well as the  world are impermanent, imperfect, and not separate then we usually cling to things  forever and to each other in an effort performance mistake (Snelling, 1991; Gard, 1962). Besides trishna, dvesha is  also important since it means hatred or avoidance. However, hatred is also in its own capacity a kind of clinging. Finally, the avidya meaning refusal to see or ignorance is also another part of  attachment since without full understanding of things that are impermanent is mostly what leads us to clinging (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

Thirdly, nirvana is the other most crucial noble of truth in BuIDhism which means  the overcoming of the attachment. However, it mostly used in referring to  the complete nothingness or BuIDhist heaven. Therefore, it mostly implies  as to  the letting go of hatred, clinging  and ignorance in conjunction with the full acceptance of impermanence, imperfection, and interconnectedness (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). Finally, the fourth noble truth is actually the dharma which is the path towards nirvana. BuIDha  called this path the miIDle way mostly perceived as the miIDle  way among the constantly competing philosophies such as idealism and materialism, or asceticism and hedonism (Rahula, 1959).

The Refuge Ceremony

Anyone wishing to become a BuIDhist is required to be taken through a short formal ceremony mostly referred to as  the “Refuge Ceremony” which is usually conducted by a person who is authorized to do so  and  belonging to either one among the lineages or traditions such  as Mahayana, Hinayana, or Vajrayana (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).   Therefore, the  short  ceremony of taking refuge actually indicates that someone has formally accepted BuIDhism as his or her spiritual practice (Snelling, 1991). However, it does not mean that people of other religions are not capable of practicing  the  BuIDhist methods of meditation through the working of the mind, however the actual ‘Taking Refuge Ceremony’ serves  as  the demarcation of the BuIDhist follower in  comparison to the followers of other  religions such as Christianity, Islam or Hindu. Therefore, the refuge taking ceremony is actually very significant because it usually marks the beginning of an individual’s commitment to the Triple Gem, that is,  BuIDha, Dharma, and Sangha. Hence, a person who has taken refuge can only be referred as a true BuIDhist (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Gard, 1962).

Therefore, during the ceremony the basic refuge follows a certain order which is as indicated below; I go for refuge to the BuIDha, this is followed by the I go for refuge to the Dhamma meaning the teachings and finally, I go for refuge to the Sangha which means the BuIDhism spiritual community. AIDitionally, during the ceremony the refuge candidate is actually requested to make  a commitment for a minimum of 24 hours to any one of the BuIDhism five precepts (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). However, the candidate is not restricted to only one precept hence he or she is free to either take any or even all of them as far as they are interested in doing so. Such precepts include: to abstain from killing, to abstain from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from cheating and finally abstaining from taking drugs and intoxicating drinks likely to cause heedlessness (Snelling, 1991; Gard, 1962).

The meaning of taking refuge in the Triple Gem

The “Triple Gem” in BuIDhism is mostly used to mean the BuIDha, Dharma, and Sangha. However,  each of the Triple Gem has a meaning whereby “Dharma” is used to refer to the BuIDha teachings whereas “Sangha” is actually the collective name used to refer to the  BuIDhist spiritual community. Therefore, in taking refuge somebody seeks guidance which thereby results to turning to the Triple Gem for liberation as well as salvation from suffering. Hence, a BuIDhist can be referred as someone who has already taken refuge as their first step to BuIDhism. Thus, whenever  someone takes refuge, he or she declares to be a disciple of the Triple Gem (Snelling, 1991; Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). Taking refuge is actually regarded as a public way of proclaiming the acceptance of BuIDha as the teacher, Dharma as the BuIDhism teachings and the Sangha as the spiritual community. In aIDition, the initial step of practicing BuIDhism is usually to take refuge within the Triple Gem (Gard, 1962; Rahula, 1959).

However, in our endeavours of striving for perfection as well as liberation from the suffering and stress of life Triple Gem, that is, BuIDha, Dharma and Sangha are very crucial. This is mainly because the BuIDha refers to  the one who is fully enlightened. This is due to the fact  that out of deep compassion BuIDha devoted the entire of his life in teaching people on the ways of ending suffering while at the same time gaining enlightenment. However, Dharma refers to his teachings on how to overcome desire, ignorance and ill-will in the process of liberating people from the birth and death cycle. AIDitionally, Sangha refers to the BuIDhist community which consists of both the monks and nuns  forming the spiritual community in which a BuIDhist is a member (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

There are however, two main features that characterize the monastic community, first, is that all the members have  a common goal of trying to end their attachments. Second, in order to  achieve the group harmony, or spiritual community all the members are supposed to strictly adhere to the rules such as: unity in thoughts, ensuring equal rights among all the community members, promoting as well as sharing of the issue of common interest, being courteous and kind to each other in words and finally good will and considerations to others.  Therefore, this results into a monastic community that endeavours in providing an ideal environment for personal cultivation and formation of a crucial foundation for the Dharma teachings to the wider community (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

The Five precepts

After taking the refuge, a BuIDhist is required to observe the Five Precepts that represents the basis of all actions that are virtuous as well as the human race moral standard. Despite  the existence of different precepts for the lay and monastic people, the benchmark of all of them is actually on the basis of the Five precepts, hence, that is the reason why they are called the “Foundation Precepts”. Therefore, taking the precepts can be compared to a situation whereby  a student follows the school rules and regulations or people within a community abiding to  the society’s common laws (Snelling, 1991; Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). However, the distinction between the two is that the rules and laws are considered  external restrictions whereas BuIDhist precepts are usually a form of self-discipline hence internal regulations. Therefore, anyone in the BuIDhism religion fails to obey these precepts he or she will undoubtedly face the risk of rules breaking thereby attracting troubles in their lives. Therefore, this necessitates the BuIDhists to always ensure that they observe these precepts (Gard, 1962).

However, The Five Precepts serves to ensure BuIDhists abide by good deeds which shuns them from indulging into actions that may result to bad consequences. The contents of The Five precepts are therefore as follows:

1. Abstain from killing.

A BuIDhist is not supposed  to kill because killing is  always a source of  harm to oneself as well as others. This is mainly because it  does not do any single good whatsoever, hence it could be a source of remorsefulness  as well as generation of bad  karma for oneself. Also in case someone kills  another person a  revenge may ensue thereby leading into generations of fight mainly because of a single killing. This is however very true in almost every part of today’s world (Snelling, 1991).



2. Abstain from stealing.

Taking things of other people without their permission amounts to stealing and cause harm oneself as well as others. For instance, a thief will always spent most of the time hiding in order to evade from being caught  and also  the stolen goods has to be secretly hiIDen and used cautiously. Therefore, this creates a great burden and bondage to anyone  who gets involved in the acts of stealing (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). It  also becomes  worse when such  an individual gets obsessed with stealing meaning that which means they will spent most of their life fleeing from been caught. However, once caught  the one who has lost property may seek court  intervention leading to punishment under law therefore absolute abstinence  from stealing should be maintained (Gard, 1962).

3. Abstain from sexual misconduct

Abstaining from sexual misconduct is very crucial since it is an act that has been a cause of harm to friendships and families. Hence, it does not do any good to oneself or others. For instance, men who seduces wives of others will suffer in the in deep hell within a very long period of time. In aIDition, he will end up becoming a woman. Similarly, when a woman seduces the husband of another woman she will also suffer similar consequences (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009; Gard, 1962; Rahula, 1959). However, nowadays a  seducer of people’s wives or husbands is never welcomed in almost every part since they contributes to  enemies. This is mainly because their acts are actually merely on the basis of lust and only serves  to increase enemies and raising wars. Thus all BuIDhists are required to totally abstain from it.



4. Abstain from lying

Mostly lying speeches are mainly done because of lust and greed as well. For instance, someone lies in order to obtain profits or even taking advantage of others. Also, most of the people who lie never mostly does not feel secure themselves. Hence, whenever someone is used to lying this situation creates an aspect of inner insecurity, thereby making them  to feel uncomfortable  about themselves (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009). However, serious incidences of lying put  someone in more  troubles as well as creating inconvenience to others. For example, when someone is actually caught lying to a court may finally end up thrown in jail. Furthermore, the phenomenon of lying is likely to lead to the creation of numerous misunderstandings, fights, wars, and so on. Therefore, it does not do any good to oneself as well as others. People both men and women does not like others who are fond of lying to them thus this situation never allows  the establishment of trust. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every BuIDhist to abstain from lying (Gard, 1962).

5. Abstain from intoxicants.

Most people around the world are  aIDicted to  either intoxicating drinks such as alcohol or drugs.  Despite the claim that drinking of little wine is capable of helping someone to live a healthy and longer life remains to be  questionable. This is mainly because there are very many monks and nuns who have never drank alcohol in their lives but ends up living up to a hundred years. Despite some people arguing about self-control on the drinking issue it would be unfair to blindly indulge into it without considering the long-term consequences. This is mainly because drinking decreases one’s immune system, and it also slows one’s intelligent as well as reasoning faculties in the long run (Snelling, 1991; Rahula, 1959). AIDitionally, for those who are householders, drinking results to them leaving their wives, children, homes, and wealth unprotected as well as causing themselves harm when they drives after drinking. Moreover, drinking not only cause one to lose wealth, family, friends but also they looses their health and self control in case of aIDiction. Therefore, these serious consequences of drinking are the ones which necessitates the abstaining from drinking (Wangu, O’Brien, & Palmer, 2009).

Gard, R. (1962).  BuIDhism.  NY:  George Braziller.

Rahula, W. (1959).  What the BuIDha Taught.  NY:  Grove Press.

Snelling, J. (1991). The BuIDhist Handbook.  Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Wangu, M. B., O’Brien, J. & Palmer, M. (2009). World’s Religions: BuIDhism. 4th ed. New York: InfoBase Publishing.

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