Taking The Vow Of Refuge

The Refuge Series: Understanding Refuge | Taking The Vow of Refuge | Refuge Ceremony and Prayers

Do I have to take the refuge vow to practice Buddhism?

When you practice Buddhism, you are taking refuge. Whether you formalize your commitment in the vow ceremony is your choice. Many people find that taking the vow strengthens their motivation and practice.

Qualities Needed For Taking Refuge

When you take the vow of refuge, you are saying that you will continue to take refuge in the Three Jewels until you wake up, that is, until the experiential understanding of the Three Jewels arises in you. In the vow, you are also saying that you want to wake up so that you can help others become free of suffering, too.

Refuge is based on three qualities:

Renunciation is the quality of being tired with the lack of meaning in life, the sense that something is missing. It may arise as a sense of not being enough of a person, a sense of being incomplete or flawed, or a sense of separation or alienation. Whatever form it takes, it has become so strong that you cannot ignore it any longer and are willing to look for other ways of being.

Orientation means that you recognize that the only viable alternative is the clarity and openness of mind itself. To take refuge in anything else will be futile. Money, beauty, power, education, etc., (the “worldly” gods of this culture) cannot provide peace or meaning. This recognition and the subsequent shift in orientation lead to your taking refuge.

Determination signifies the faith to pursue this alternative. Faith is the willingness to open to what arises in experience. You are willing to open to the dissatisfaction you are experiencing and go where it takes you. Taking refuge will, in the end, require you to let go of any aspect of your life that is based on habituated patterns.

The Great Way isn’t difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences. Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear. — Seng-Ts’an

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