When was taking refuge in the 3 jewels of Buddha, Dharma & Sangha started? Was it started by the Buddha in his time or was it after him? When I mean taking refuge, I mean for a lay Buddhist and not for a Bhikku.

What is the source of the 3 refuges mantra:

Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

1 Answer 1


Taking refuge in the 3 jewels of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha was recommended by the Buddha as providing protection from certain afflictions. It is specifically mentioned in the Dhajagga-paritta ("Banner Protection") - SN 11.3. Dhajagga-paritta is about the recollections of the Three Jewels, and is for the lay followers for protection against fear, trembling and horror. You will find it here

There are six heavenly realms, viz: Catummaharajika, Tavatimsa, Yama, Tusita, Nimmanarati and Paranimmitta Vasatti. Sakka is the ruler of the Tavatimsa Deva Loka. Although Buddhists worship and pray to Sakka to receive his blessing and protection, in the Dhajagga Sutta the Buddha says that Sakka is not free from mental defilements like greed, hatred, delusion and fear. However, it is a traditional belief among Buddhists that Sakka has undertaken to protect Buddhism.

In this discourse of the Banner protection (Dhajagga) the Buddha introducing himself to monks said “O monks, the Tathagata who is Arahant Supremely Enlightened, is free from lust, free from hate is free from delusion, and is not liable to fear, terror, fright or flight”.(Tathagato bhikkhave araham Samma Sambuddho Vitarago Vitadoso Vitamoho abhiru acchambhi anutrasi apalayiti)

In Dhajagga-paritta you will come to know that the qualities of the Supreme Buddha’s community of Sangha are most precious and admirable. These precious qualities were taught to us by the Awakened One himself in the Dhajagga Sutta.

In going for refuge, when we say, "Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi." it is important that we know of the Supreme Qualities of the Three Jewels". Many of us know the qualities of the first two jewels, but not of the third Jewel. So let us take a few moments to contemplate and recollect the great qualities of our Great Teacher’s noble community of Sangha.

“Supatipanno” - The Noble Sangha follow the path to eradicate passion, lust, ill-will, hatred and delusion.

“Ujupatipanno”- The Noble Sangha follow the straight way, the Noble Eightfold Path.

“Nayapatipanno” “ - The Noble Sangha follows the path to realise the Four Noble Truths in order to eradicate suffering.

“Samicipatipanno” - The Noble Sangha teaches the Noble Dhamma to others, so that they too can understand the Four Noble Truths.

“Yadidam chaththari purisa yugani” - The Noble Sangha consist of four types when taken as pairs: The stream entrant, The once-returner, The Never Returner and The Arahant.

Eight individuals “Atta purisa puggala” - When taken individually, the community of Sangha consist of eight individuals:

  1. The one striving to Enter the stage of Stream Entry Fruit
  2. The stream Entrant
  3. The one striving to attain the stage Once-Returner
  4. The once-Returner
  5. The one striving to reach the stage of a Non-returner
  6. Non-Returner
  7. The one striving for the stage of Arahanthood
  8. The arahant

“Ahuneyyo” - Because they hold these great qualities, The Supreme Buddha’s community of Sangha are worthy of receiving offerings even from those residing faraway.

“Pahuneyyo” - Because they hold these great qualities they are worthy of hospitality.

“Dakkineyyo” - Because they hold these great qualities they are worthy of receiving offering from others in expectation of merits.

“Anjalikaraneeyo” - Because they hold these great qualities they are worthy of respect and worship.

“Anuttaram punchakketham lokassathi” - Beholding these supreme qualities, the Supreme Buddha’s Noble Sangha is a field of merits to both humans and deities.

May the homage be to those Noble disciples who encompass such supreme qualities!

  • 1
    Thanks for the great answer. From reading it I understand that Buddha asked people to take refuge in himself(Buddha) & Dharma(his teachings). But I don't get where he asked to take refuge in Sangha. Also could you mention where the phrase "Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi." is first mentioned?
    – Bharat
    Sep 6, 2016 at 22:52

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