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  • Thomas Bien

Taking refuge

Taking Refuge

The world can seem dangerous and uncertain. All of us need a sense of basic safety. All spiritual traditions provide for this need. Without it, it would be difficult for us to be peaceful and loving beings.

In Buddhism, a basic practice is to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, Dharma being the teaching of the Buddha, the path of practice initiated by him, and Sangha being the community of practice. In some Buddhist traditions, such as in Viet Nam, one says the refuges three times, the third time adding the phrase in myself: I take refuge in the Buddha within myself, the Dharma within myself, and the sangha within myself (the harmony of our body, feelings, perceptions, mind states, and consciousness).

What does it mean to take refuge in the Buddha in myself? This is often understood to mean something very practical. The state of a Buddha is a state of continual psychological balance or mindfulness—an openness of mind and heart to what is happening in the present moment. To take refuge in the Buddha in us means to take refuge in our own practice of mindfulness. When we are mindful, we can become at ease in any situation—“safe,” not in the sense that everything goes the way we want, but in the sense of being manageable, often even delightful.

The Buddha is always available to us. Just one mindful breath away.

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