Refuge, the Heart of Buddhism

Recently I attended  a refuge taking ceremony. It was a simple affair. The participant sat holding strands of various colored ribbons attached to the Buddha image and thrice recited her refuge vows along with the entire community. Taking refuge in Amida. Taking refuge in the Buddha. Taking refuge in the Dharma. Taking refuge in the Sangha. Taking refuge in the Pure Land. Thus affirming her entry onto the Buddhist Path.

320px-Wave_Acapulco_BreakingDuring this particular ceremony the minister asked us to reflect on how we have been a refuge for other members of the community. This is a humbling contemplation because it quickly makes obvious how often we have actually failed to be a refuge to others. Life presses hard upon us all. It demands our time and energy. Thus we often only see others through the filter of our own life dramas. We cannot see or hear the other person for who they are; their unique life history, their pains, their joys, and their humanness.

Being a refuge, a shelter to others, is the heart of Buddhism. It is the perfection of compassion and wisdom. Only Buddhas can be a true refuge. Yet sometimes, the Buddha’s light shines through us and we are able to see and love another as they truly are. No pretenses, just openness to the other.

For some this openness comes more naturally than for others. We can all improve. Faith in the fundamental goodness of the universe is essential. Without this faith it is easy to lose heart, to be crushed by the ugliness of the moment.

Refuge is about going beyond one’s limited self. It is about being a friend to the friendless. It is offering hospitality to the stranger. It is providing shelter for those caught in the storms of life. Often we may find that the strangers or the shelterless are our neighbors, perhaps even our own family members. It is just that we never took the time to really notice them and ask ourselves, how we can be a refuge today?

Peace, Paul

Photo by Atruro Man at Wikimedia Commons

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6 Responses to “Refuge, the Heart of Buddhism”

  1. Relinquished Reversal Says:

    A refuge is what I seek in the Buddha. In turn, I must offer the same. Thank you for your post. In Gassho

  2. Dr Bob Rich Says:

    Thank you Paul. This is beautiful, and particularly apt at this time of the year, filled with loneliness for many people, hypocrisy for many others.

    • Peace Paul Says:

      Thank your for sharing your reflections. Yes, Christmas can be a time of despair and loneliness for many. We do what we can. The religious life is a very personal affair. The deeper our faith, the more our lives will reflect the Dharma in the minutia of our daily activities. Peace, Paul

  3. Bobbing Around Volume 14 Number 8 | Bobbing Around Says:

    […] I have often said that Buddhism and Christianity place the same requirements on people. Here are Paul’s beautiful words to show how correct this […]

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