The Three Jewels of Buddhism are also known as the Three Refuges because when you commit to a spiritual practice you can take what’s called the Refuge Vow. This is where you take refuge in the Three Jewels to support and guide you on the path of liberation from suffering. The Three Jewels are:
- The Buddha
- The Dharma
- The Sangha
Taking refuge in the Buddha means you recognise the Buddha Nature of all things, including yourself. It’s not just about acknowledging the reality of the Buddha, but the reality of you being the Buddha. This may be hard to accept at first, so you take refuge in the potential for awakening. One day you’ll realise the truth of it – but only if you follow the teachings, which brings us to the second jewel…
Taking refuge in the Dharma means recognising the wisdom and truth inherent in the teachings of the Buddha, and in following the practices outlined in those teachings. This includes the Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, and everything else, so that means you’re going to be doing a lot of studying – which brings us to the third jewel…
Taking refuge in the Sangha means recognising the importance of the spiritual community and joining with others on the path of enlightenment. Practising alongside others means you can help each other to understand the teachings and share your experiences and receive guidance and support. It also helps to keep you accountable.
Taking refuge isn’t about blind faith. It’s not about worship or surrendering your will to a higher power. The Buddha encourages you to question and doubt and not to accept anything you haven’t personally verified through your own practice and study.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness