Becoming a buddhist involves taking refuge in the Three Treasures—the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This happens during a formal ceremony, following which the commitment and vows become part of life, always alive in one’s heart and aspirations.
These verses, adapted from Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, capture the essential meaning behind the three refuges:
With a heart of genuine sincerity,
I take refuge in the Buddha,
the Awakened One who has attained
perfect understanding of the workings of the universe
with its deep, subtle, and profound laws;
who with his example
shows me the path to rediscovering
my own true enlightened nature, Buddha nature.
I vow to walk the path
by bringing forth the same heart as the Buddha—
a heart of true love for all living beings.
With a heart of purity,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
the teachings that guide me to
penetrate the true principles of the universe.
I vow to learn them mindfully
and to see the living sutra in each person,
awakening to the principles of the Dharma
in every encounter with people and matters in everyday life.
With a heart of great vows,
I take refuge in the Sangha,
the monastics who continue the Buddha’s legacy,
deeply understanding the teachings,
making them applicable to our world and our lives.
I vow to learn from them respectfully
and pass on the Buddha’s teachings to others
through my own living example
so they may also benefit and attain awakening.
Given the challenges of life, sometimes it may seem hard to continuously hold fast to this commitment. In the next blog on the topic, Upholding the Spirit of Refuge, Master Cheng Yen offers a teaching that can guide and inspire us on the path, revealing how sincerity and purity of heart alongside great vows are essential in our spiritual practice.