Going for refuge


The Buddhist Refuge

'I take Refuge in the Buddha'
'I take Refuge in the Dharma'
'I take Refuge in the Sangha'

Using the word refuge it doesnt mean a centre of excellence or a place to hide but its a place to gain strength, to be rebuilt and refresh, also a place to be tranformed and purified.

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The Dharma

  • The Dharma as a whole is the teaching of the Buddha, later to become the Pali Canon.
  • However as new scriptures arised as Buddhism expanded, like Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Taking refuge in the Dharma means different things to different types odf Buddhists.
  • Before the Buddha's death there were many disputes and fallouts about his teachings and beliefs, when he died these disputes were settled and the Pali canon was establised and written down, even though this was hundreds of years after the Buddha's death. 

Theravada Buddhists:

  • They take refuge in the Pali canon

Tibetan Buddhists:

  • When Tibetans take refuge in the Buddha's teaching, therefore they are found in the Vinaya, Tibetans recognise that refuge in the Dharma incororates a variety of interpretations of the Buddha's teachings.

Zen Buddhists:

  • Don't neccessarily follow the holy texts but follow other aspects.
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Arguments for and against the Dharma

  • Keeps Buddhists focused on the importance of the middle path.
  • Allows them to focus on ways in which they can escape the cycle of Samsara.
  • Provides spiritual tools to help themselves, this including meditaion, meditations allows them to have further spiritual progress. 

'The Dharma is the spiritual law of deliverance'

  • However in Zen Buddhism it is based on the special transmission outside the scriptures which did not stand upon words. 
  • Zen is reffered to as non-intellectual. 
  • Therefore Zen Buddhists when taking refuge in the Dharma is a very different experience overall 

'A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words and letters.
By pointing directly to the mind,
It lets one see into own true nature and attain Buddhahood.'


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The Buddha

  • The Buddha purifies uplifts and strengthens the heart of the Buddhist.
  • The Buddha reminds Buddhist of calm, wise, spiritual people and states of mind and so he helps to engender (create within) these states.
  • The Buddha is the enlightened being, he is wise and has good conduct, he has attained Nirvana and teaches others the path in which they can reach enlightenment.


  • Refers to the Buddha primarily as Siddhatta Gautama, who is regarded with grattitude as the re-discoverer of truth. 
  • Who also shows other how to live by and experience the Dharma.


  • The Buddha refuge not only refers to Gautama but also the other previous Buddhas to show how the principle of enlightenment is something that should worthly be attained.
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The Buddha continued

  • The Buddha is a role model for all buddhists:
    • The Buddha adopted the term the 'middle way' and therefore through this process attained enlightenment.
    • Because of his wisdom he was able to explain the truth to others and therfor lead them also to reach enlightenment.
      • Therefore making it simpler for others to follow in his path to end their suffering.
  • Buddhists can turn to the Buddha's previous experiences in life to help them with guidance for any situation that they need support in and a way of gaining comfort.
  • The 8 fold path is a practicle guide for Buddhists who hope to improve their rebirth or enlightenment.

'he was the preacher of the great peace, of love, of charity, of compassion and so clear in his teaching that it can never be misunderstood.' 

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The Sangha

  • The sangha is the Buddhist community, the sangha is a refuge of training.
  • The aim of the Sangha is to follow the path that the Buddha taught and to gain help and assistance from others. the gathering of like-minded people who all had the same end goal, enlightenment. 


    • The elephants characteristics began to change and was prone to tempers and was getting diffcult to handle.
    • the problem was identified and that was that a group criminals were hanging around the elephants stables, the elephant had picked up some of the characteristics of the criminals which was the cause for change of behaviour. 
    • This shows that over time people can pick up the characteristics of those around them and that can cause a change in behaviour.
    • Therfore a sangha is a place of positive, wholesome activities with people who will help not hinder your spiritual progress.
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The Sangha continued

'Without the Sangha there is no Buddhism' 

However some Buddhist schools dont have sanghas like Mahayana Buddhism and pureland Buddhism.

Which proves that there can be Buddhism without the Sangha as other branches of Buddhism dont have a Sangha. 

  • Mahayana-> Dont rely on the Dharma and sangha
  • Theravada-> Focus on the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha as refuges
  • Zen-> Focus on the Sangha and not the Dharma. 
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The relevance of going for refuge in the modern wo

  • Taking refuge seems to be a human trait, whether that is in a hero or a heroine it seems to be a way in which humans attch themselves to other things. 
  • Alternatively as there are so many different interpretations of the refuges means that they are of varying importance. 
  • Also that is someone focuses on one of the refuges that does not mean that the other two are of less importance, its a way of practicing rather than a way of priority. each of the refuges display an inter-relationship and can work with each other. 
  • There is also the importance of the refuge to consider, they are a point of fuse for Buddhists in this way they will always be relevant within contemporary society no matter what type of Buddhism a person follows. 
  • If someone was supporting the Sangha financially but not attending any meetings, you would still be upholding the principles of the Buddha and the Dharma, and supporting the Sangha upon the principles in which it is founded. 
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