take refuge in the Three Jewels

  All Christian denominations, new or old, emphasize the importance of baptism. It is only after baptism that one formally becomes a Christian. For many Christian sects, the beliefs behind this ritual are similar to those of some Indian religions that superstitiously claim that bathing in a sacred river can cleanse one's sins.     If one wants to become an orthodox Buddhist disciple, one must take refuge in the Three Jewels. The significance of this ritual is very much the same as that of a royal coronation, the inauguration of a president, or the admission of a new member to a political party. It is an expression of loyalty from the bottom of one's heart, a zealous promise, a prayer out of admiration, a new life, and a pious taking of sanctuary. Therefore, Buddhism stresses the importance of taking refuge. Without taking refuge, even if one believes in and worships the Buddhas one remains a noncommitted student of Buddhism, an auditor who never registered for classes. This ritual functions to solidify one’s faith and commitment.     In the ritual of taking refuge, a monk or a nun is invited to witness and lead the recitation, which goes as follows: " I (your name), take refuge in the Buddha, take refuge in the Dharma, take refuge in the Sangha. (three times) I (your name), have taken refuge in the Buddha, have taken refuge in the Dharma, have taken refuge in the Sangha. (three times) I (your name), from now on, having taken refuge in the Three Jewels, having become a Buddhist, will study and practice in the Dharma, will always support the Three Jewels, and will never renounce this faith.   The ritual, simple but solemn, is designed to cause one to wholeheartedly take sanctuary in the Three Jewels, to rely on and revere the Three Jewels, and to bring forth pure, staunch faith and confidence. The first jewel is the Buddha, the second is the Buddha's teachings, and

  Having faith in the Three Jewels is certainly the most characteristic feature of a Buddhist. Followers of other, theistic religions either believe only in God (i.e., Jews and Muslims), or in the Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit (i.e., [Protestant] Christians), or in this trinity plus the Holy Mother (i.e., Catholics). Because Buddhism is an atheistic religion, Buddhists do not worship the Buddha as a deity, nor do they regard him as the one and only Buddha or as the creator of everything who can absolve all the sins of humankind. Rather, the Buddha is a teacher who can help students change their dispositions, acquire knowledge, and cultivate their bodies and minds; he cannot, however, learn for the students or take entrance examinations for them.   So for these reasons, we can see that faith in Buddhism is purely rational and ethical. Buddhists' worship of the Buddha is much like the filial reverence children give their parents: it is motivated by a desire to repay kindness. An orthodox Buddhist would certainly not worship the Buddha in order to seek prosperity or avoid misfortune. Although the power of a Buddha's vows may be stimulated by the mental power produced by prayer and thereby bring about a miraculous response, this mainly depends on the person praying. If the person who prays has fixed karma that ripens, even if he or she prays, the Buddha can do nothing to help. If one can practice in accordance with the Buddha’s Dharma—for example, developing the perfections of giving, keeping precepts, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom—then one's karmic energy from previous lives can be changed: heavy negative karma might result in only light karmic retribution, and light negative karma may be dissolved entirely. This is because the maturation of karma is analogous to the sprouting and growth of a plant, which require favorable conditions. A seed given sunlight, air, water, soil, fertilizer, and

Taking refuge means returning, taking shelter, relying on, trusting. Any action that involves returning, depending, taking shelter, and trusting is considered taking refuge. This word is not exclusive to Buddhism.   Children take refuge in their mothers' embrace; they rely on and trust their mothers, and, as a result, gain a sense of security. This sense of security arises from the power of taking refuge. Any such action that involves trust and a sense of security can be considered taking refuge, whether it is a secular relationship or a religious belief.     However, objects that are temporary, unstable, and unreliable cannot be true objects of refuge. People may climb a tree or a rooftop for safety in a huge flood, but rising water and strong winds may destroy their sanctuary. A mountain would be a far better haven. Who wouldn't choose this option over a house or a tree? Refuge in the Three Jewels is stronger than any of these. When you see that nothing is permanent and that everything is contingent and interdependent, you come to realize that there is little security in parents, teachers, plans, bosses, fate, strength, wealth -- in all the things we take for granted. As objects of refuge they are highly unreliable. Parents pass away, teachings become outdated, plans are thwarted, bosses come and go, and fate is unpredictable. Strength, schemes, and wealth are even more illusive and ephemeral. Today's king is tomorrow's prisoner; today's millionaire tomorrow's pauper     In other religions faith is said to lead to heaven, but it is not always assured. According to some Christian beliefs, some people not favored by God will never be destined for heaven, no matter how sincere their faith. From the perspective of Buddhism, heaven -- the highest aspiration in many faiths -- is still in the realm of birth and death. Heavenly beings live many times longer than humans, but there is sti