The Refuge Vow
Ven. Lopon Osel
Those who have the attitude of shravakas orpratyekabuddhas are not able to appreciate that the whole of space is filled with beings who were once their parents, and that it is for their sake that they should practice Dharma. They are satisfied simply with the idea of freeing themselves from the ocean of samsaric sorrow.
And it is in accordance with this ideal of individual liberation that they observe ethical discipline, abstaining from evil actions of word and deed. They spend their lives in the practice of purification and meditation, through which they reach the level of pratyekabuddha. This happens, however, only after practicing for as long as one measureless kalpa, or at least for three lives, sixteen lives, and so on.
People who have the attitude of the Mahayana think that it is somehow shameful to want liberation only for themselves, when other beings who were once their loving parents are sunk in the ocean of suffering. They are unable to imagine anything worse, and resolve to practice the Dharma in order to be able to lead beings, their parents, to liberation.
They are determined to do this regardless of the consequences, and are ready to remain in samsara for as long as it takes to accomplish the task. This is the vast, great-hearted attitude that we too must have.
Nothing we do-not a single prostration or recitation of a single mani, not a single meditation on the stages of creation and perfection, no practice, no sadhana- should be without prayers of refuge and bodhichitta at the beginning , and prayers of dedication and aspiration at the end.
The sacred Dharma, as we have been saying, is extremely vast and profound, containing innumerable instructions. It is said that to suit the different mental capacities of individuals, the Buddha set forth no less than eighty-four thousand sections of doctrine.
When we practice, our task is to condense all these teachings into a single, essential point. But how are we to do this? In fact, although the Buddha gave innumerable teachings,
the crucial message of all of them is contained in one verse:
Abandon every evil deed, Practice virtue well,
Perfectly subdue your mind: This is Buddha’s teaching.
The Buddha did indeed say that we should not do evil but practice virtue. Well, then, what is an evil action? An act of body, speech, or mind is evil when it brings harm to others. And as the Buddha said, we must refrain from doing anything that injures others. Conversely, actions are positive or virtuous when they bring benefit to others.
What is the root of all this, the source of both good and evil? The doer of all virtue is the mind, when it makes positive use of body and speech, its servants. The doer of all evil is also the mind, when it uses body and speech negatively. The root cause of good and evil is in the mind itself. Nevertheless, in a sense, this mind of ours is something unknown to us. It does anything and everything, like a lunatic running here and there at the slightest impulse. This is how it accumulates karma.
The mind is the root of every defilement. It is here that anger is born; and from anger, every kind of hurt and injury to others: fighting, beating, and the rest. The mind is the soil in which all this grows: all malevolence, envy, desire, stupidity, arrogance, and so forth. That is why the Buddha told us to get a grip on our minds.
Having realized that the mind is the root of all affliction, we must be vigilant in keeping it under control, holding down our defilements as much as we can. We have to be completely focused on this, gaining mastery of whatever arises.
The mind can move in a positive direction as well. It can recognize the qualities of the Lama and the Three Jewels, thanks to which it experiences faith, and so takes refuge. Through the practice of the Dharma, the mind can also accumulate the causes for its own liberation and that of others. Therefore, since the mind is the root of both good and evil, it stands to reason that it must be corrected and transformed.
The examination of one’s mind is the common concern of all the vehicles of Dharma. This is particularly true of the tantrateachings. Once again, it is the mind that enters the mandala of the Secret Mantra of the Vajrayana and accomplishes all the practices. teaching by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche.
The fourteen vows of taking refuge in the Supreme Three Jewels
Three vows about what you should do:
From the moment that you take refuge in the Buddha, you should think of all images of Buddha as the truly enlightened.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Dharma, you should respect any Dharma text.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Sangha, you should respect the Dharma clothes dressed for any monk.
Three vows about what you should not do:
From the moment that you take refuge in the Buddha, you should not look for refuge in worldly gods, external masters and protectors.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Dharma, you should not harm any sentient being.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Sangha,
you should not associate with people of wrong views.
Three vows group by similarity:
From the moment that you take refuge in the Buddha, you should respect your Guru as the true Buddha.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Dharma, you should think of the words of your Guru as the precious Dharma.
From the moment that you take refuge in the Sangha, you should think of your Guru’s disciples and followers as the true and precious Sangha and respect them with pure vision.
Five common vows:
Never slander the Three Jewels at all, even for saving your life or under pressure or seduction.
Never give up the Three Jewels and look for refuge in another place while you’re in terrible difficulties.
Offer our food to Three Jewels before eating, especially on
Invite those that haven’t found the Three Jewels yet to take refuge and keep our own refuge vows.
Wherever you go, respect the Three Jewels with sincere devotion.
The benefits of following the vows of taking refuge: We can benefit ourselves if we follow the vows of take refuge.
Temporary benefits as told in the Sutra Surya Garbha
We can avoid external obstacles, catastrophes of earth, fire, wind and water nature elements, and the influence of demons.
We can avoid internal obstacles and resulting unbalances from earth, fire, wind and water elements in our body and receive the blessings of the Three Jewels.
We can avoid secret obstacles as our impure thoughts that can prejudice. As opposed to this, we supervise our minds according to the Buddha teachings.
Definite benefits as told in the Sutra Prajnaparamita If the benefits of taking refuge be measured by the form, they are bigger than the Universe and eventually, you can reach buddhahood.
Taking refuge in the Buddha, you can reach buddhahood.
Taking refuge in the Dharma, you can teach “the three turns of the Dharma Wheel”.
Taking refuge in the Sangha, you will be a possessor of a peaceful mind like the harmonious followers and disciples like Shravakas, Pratyekabuddha and Boddhisattvas.
Soon, we can benefit uncountable sentient beings through the taking and observing the taking refuge vows.
This comes from a commentary of Vimalamitra,.