|Posted on December 29, 2015 at 8:45 PM|
I would like to share some thoughts concerning the Buddhist notion of Taking Refuge and the Five Precepts. This by no means represents all traditions or lineages of Buddhism, but is intended as a general guideline….a generic ‘food for thought’ statement, as it were.
The moment you have formulated the intent to Take Refuge in the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) you have, for all practical purposes, already done so; any further ceremonies, rites or externalities to this intent as helps, blessings, empowerments, and certifications….of that which already is. Many wish to undergo a formal Initiation or Precepts/Refuge Rite for enrichment, as a further blessing, and celebration of their intent formulation; as to it being ‘mandatory’, I find such a notion to be empty. How can something be imparted unto you that, for all practical purposes, are already there? The seed is already planted, the soil, light, and water is already in place; such a formal Rite is, as it were, additional fertilizer, to help the grace of new growth to sprout more fully. Beyond this, it is a mere externality, and not a necessity.
Taking Refuge is a promise, a commitment, to take each day as it comes and to grow in renewal unto the Triple Gems, based upon three things:
1. Renunciation: Renewal/repentance/release…without looking back. A transformation.
2. Orientation: A realization that nothing external to oneself can fulfil one, make one happy, or lead to enlightenment.
3. Determination: Letting go of habitual patterns and proceeding anew in faith.
To summarize these three notions, they are the correctives for three unwholesome states or aspects of one’s life journey which are, by their nature, unskillful and serve you not. These are:
1. No longer taking refuge in worldly attachments; being non-attached, as opposed to detached.
2. No longer intentionally being harmful to oneself or other sentient beings.
3. No longer associating (intimately) with non-spiritual persons.
Taking Refuge therefore means having a daily practice of personal, spiritual cultivation, or disciplines, to help you along your newfound path. Again, (Buddhists do love their lists, so), three things come to mind, here:
• Honoring the Buddha
• Confidence in the Dharma
• Respect and support for the Sangha
Just what are the Triple Gems in which you are taking refuge, anyhow? Again, we turn to a famous Buddhist List (go figure) for the answer to this query:
1. Outer Refuge: Buddha (the teacher), Dharma (the way/teaching), and Sangha (your guides along the way)
2. Inner Refuge: Buddha (Wakefulness/mindfulness), Dharma (experiential understanding), Sangha (putting your learned experiences into use)
3. Secret Refuge: Buddha (emptiness-non ego), Dharma (clarity), and Sangha (unrestricted experience)
Each Refuge is normally repeated three times, which each repetition deepening your commitment unto each Gem, accompanied by three bows for each:
• First: Request for Refuge
• Second: Intent to observe the vow of Refuge
• Third: Acceptance of the vow of Refuge
Finally, I would like to add some comments about the Five Precepts and Buddhist Ethics in general.
Buddhist ethics simply involve developing what is often called the ‘skilled mind’; in this case, I refer to the ‘skilled mind’ of a lay practitioner as opposed to a fully avowed monastic. They are not etched in stone on tablets handing down a mountain from a higher power; rather, they are utilitarian and ethical guidelines to help one gauge whether any action of body, speech or mind can lead to intentional harm onto either oneself and/or another. They are a barometer by which to determine the Karma (effect) of such choices (causes/actions of body, speech, or mind).
For the new Initiate taking Refuge in the Triple Gems, there are five basic Precepts which are taken, and they are as follows (yes…another famous Buddhist list):
1. Precept 1: Not taking life
2. Precept 2: Not stealing
3. Precept 3: Not engage in sexual misconduct
4. Precept 4: Not to engage in false speech
5. Precept 5: Not to engage in the consumption of substances which can lead one into unmindfulness/heedlessness
What is important to keep in mind regarding these 5 ‘Nots’ are again that they are not etched into stone tablets as commandments which, if not literally followed, will lead you into external judgment and eventual hellfire damnation. Rather, they are daily guides/reminders/helps along the path of your spiritual journey….things which, if avoided, will help you grow without setback, distraction, and also provide a helpful context/condition for others to so choose and act as well. This is why the way I think of them are as promises, to oneself and others, to daily examine oneself and undertake a path of training, without guilt, to provide an enlightened environment within and without of loving-kindness, wisdom, and mutual support. So, instead of thinking of them as ‘Thou Shalt Not’s, think of them as, “I undertake the promise to daily train myself to…..”. None of the Precepts represent actions which are evil or bad in anyway; for instance, it does not really mean avoid all alcohol or even medicines, but just those choices involving them which are not conducive toward loving conduct toward yourself/others and impede your having a mindful conscience in your daily life which could keep you from your goal and lead you astray as a distraction.
To summarize, we take these Precepts as a daily reminder unto ourselves to be loving and skillful towards ourselves and others in all choices/intentions/actions of body, speech, and mind; one should never guilt-trip oneself or allow others to do so onto you if you ‘break’ any of them; they are trainings, signposts, pointing out unto us the most direct path/road to take leading unto transformation, growth, and ultimate enlightenment for ourselves and others. So in the words of that Heaven Metal song, remember to always…..
“….slow ride….take it easy….”
But please, do, take them in all seriousness.
With blessings in the Dharma.
Shihan Yin Shu Amatayus Sensei,
Rev. William L. Chamberlin, Abbot
Temple White Lotus, LLC. Of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Categories: Dharma Talks