Buddha being one of the three jewels, how am I supposed to take refuge in him? Is it through meditation? The only meditation I know is 'mindfulness', and I think that it isn't enough. That being so so, how do I reach out for him?

4 Answers 4


Buddha being one of the three jewels, how am I supposed to take refuge in him

I think that refuge-going can be (initially) an expression of gratitude, when (after) you understand dharma and find it helpful.

There's a formula at the end of some of the suttas, for example the Kalama Sutta:

Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir! As if, venerable sir, a person were to turn face upwards what is upside down, or to uncover the concealed, or to point the way to one who is lost or to carry a lamp in the darkness, thinking, 'Those who have eyes will see visible objects,' so has the Dhamma been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One. We, venerable sir, go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Community of Bhikkhus for refuge. Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life, from today.

I interpret that as an expression of gratitude: gratitude for being saved or freed (liberated), "point the way to one who is lost".

Also as an expression of agreement, and acceptance.

It's also an expression of respect, or reverence, for example as told in the Garava sutta: which says that the newly Self-awakened Buddha thought he would suffer if he couldn't respect a teacher (and, lacking a teacher, he decided to respect the teaching, the dharma). That sutta (e.g. "It would be for the sake of perfecting an unperfected aggregate of virtue that I would dwell in dependence on another brahman or contemplative, honoring and respecting him") also reminds me of the Upaddha Sutta (e.g. "When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path" -- and, "It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth", so "admiration" too). Perhaps analogous to a doctor and medicine, too: out of respect for the doctor you use the medicine as prescribed.

In my mind (in my 'personal practice'), the Buddha and the dharma have overlapped. If I remember dharma, my thought might be like, "Oh yes, the Buddha told me (or, the Buddha said) such-and-such. He was right!"

Further to that (overlap) is the Buddha's statement in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha:

  1. Now the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: 'Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.' But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone.

See also Dhammakāya .

By the way the very next paragraph after that in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta is:

  1. "And, Ananda, whereas now the bhikkhus address one another as 'friend,' let it not be so when I am gone. The senior bhikkhus, Ananda, may address the junior ones by their name, their family name, or as 'friend'; but the junior bhikkhus should address the senior ones as 'venerable sir' or 'your reverence.'

... which goes to the "reverence" mentioned earlier.

But, getting back to the Buddha, I find it helps to consider not only the abstract, impersonal Dharma but the fact that it was conceived, improved, experienced, spoken, practiced, and proven -- by the Buddha who was born human.

Because of that humanity, human relationship, additional human factors happen, for example "faith": when you're learning something, you might have faith in the teaching, because you have faith in the teacher.

And, for example, "conceit": i.e. comparing yourself with the man, telling yourself that what was true for him could be true for you too if you apply yourself and learn to understand, experience, practice.

But the Tathagata transcends various human limitations -- defilements, and knowledge-obscurations -- so there's attempting to follow the Buddha (not as a human but as one who has "gone" before or "arrived" before).

I'm not sure why the triple jewel is listed as "Buddha, Dharma, Sangha" in that order -- whether the order (Buddha first) is meant to be significant. Respect.

There's an Uruvelā sutta, which is like the Garava sutta but with a different ending - the Buddha says:

Then, having acknowledged Brahmā’s request and what was proper for myself, I honored, respected, and dwelled in dependence only on the Dhamma to which I had become fully enlightened. And now that the Saṅgha has acquired greatness, I have respect for the Saṅgha, too.

So you might respect the Buddha at least no less that respecting the "arya Sangha".

But actually there's part of the Maha-parinibbana Sutta which says,

  1. "Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.

    "And how, Ananda, is a bhikkhu an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge?

  2. "When he dwells contemplating [etc.]

Incidentally, apparently the word Saraṇa means not only refuge and protection but also house.

Is it through meditation?

I think it's through the whole practice: the "noble eightfold way" for example.

A lot of the suttas contain what seem to be instructions for "meditation", but that might be a partial or advanced doctrine for monks who already have a lot of other lessons.

  • Monks have the Vinaya (the Buddha is said to have taught "the Dharma and the Discipline").
  • For lay people that might start with the precepts, which you might (formally) undertake soon after a (formal) refuge ceremony.

It's quite a broad question, I suppose the whole of Buddhism is about taking refuge, reaching out (and there do seem to be many Buddhist practices, if you look at different traditions and countries; including meditation[s], but also for example dharma lessons, prostrations, tantra, mantra, remembering, etc.).


In the Vakkali Sutta – SN 22.87 Supreme Buddha said:

He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."

The Buddha is rightly described as a teacher par excellence. He attempts only two things: (a) make you think and (b) gradually train you in an orderly way to lead onwards to realize immediately this truth [sandittiko, opanaiyko]. The truth and meaning of Dhamma becomes a private experience by the wise only when there is INSIGHT or vipassana. But insight (vipassana) depends on samadhi or CONCENTRATION. And concentration (samadhi) depends on Sammaditthi or RIGHT VIEW.

To make Dhamma easy is a travesty. Always learn to ask: Why is the Buddha saying this and not that? Some statements that you do not understand right now, you must put aside, till you have understood thoroughly the fundaments. Later, when you detect the structural principle of the arising and cessation of dukkha, and the principles of paticcasamuppada, in the entirety of the teaching, then you would find the answers all your questions. Let us first know the Noble Qualities of the Dhamma, as one who truly seeing Dhamma, one sees Buddha.

The Teaching of the Buddha also has six supreme qualities:

Svâkkhato ~ Perfectly explained and taught with great compassion Svākkhāto (Sanskrit: Svākhyāta "well proclaimed"). The Dhamma is not a speculative philosophy, but is the Universal Law found through enlightenment and is preached precisely. Therefore it is excellent in the beginning (sīla – Sanskrit śīla – moral principles), excellent in the middle (samādhi – concentration) and excellent in the end (paññā - Sanskrit prajñā . . . Wisdom),

Sanditthiko ~ The benefit of the Dhamma can be seen in this lifetime, Here and Now Sandiṭṭhiko (Sanskrit: Sāṃdṛṣṭika "able to be examined"). The Dhamma can be tested by practice and therefore he who follows it will see the result by himself through his own experience in this very lifetime.

Akâliko ~ The timeless truth that is immediately effective Akāliko (Sanskrit: Akālika "immediate") The Dhamma is able to bestow timeless and immediate results here and now, for which there is no need to wait until the future or next existence.

Ehi-passiko ~ Inviting any wise person to come and see Ehipassiko (Sanskrit: Ehipaśyika "which you can come and see" -- from the phrase ehi, paśya "come, see!"). The Dhamma welcomes all beings to put it to the test by applying it to their own lives and seeing its effects.

Opanâyiko ~ Each person must practice the teachings and realize their value within one's own experience Opanayiko (Sanskrit: Avapraṇayika "leading one close to"). The Dhamma is capable of being entered upon and therefore it is worthy to be followed as a part of one's life.

Paccattam veditabbo viññuhiti. ~ To be realized by the wise, each for himself. Paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi (Sanskrit: Pratyātmaṃ veditavyo vijñaiḥ "To be personally known by the wise"). The Dhamma can be perfectly realized only by the noble disciples (Ariyas) who have matured and enlightened enough in supreme wisdom.

To get closer to Buddha, you will have to know His nine supreme qualities. You will find a detailed description of these nine supreme qualities HERE.

In going for refuge, when we say, "Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.; Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi." (i.e. "I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha) it is important that we know of the Supreme Qualities of the Three Jewels: so we have to have a good knowledge of the Ariya Sangha too. You will find a detailed description of the supreme qualities of the Sangha HERE.


You can do Buddhanusathi Bawana. You take each quality of the Buddha and recite the quality mentally:

Buddho – Awakened

Sammasambuddho – Perfectly self-awakened

Vijja-carana-sampano – Endowed with higher knowledge and ideal conduct.

Sugato – Well-gone or Well-spoken.

Lokavidu – Wise in the knowledge of the many worlds.

Anuttaro Purisa-damma-sarathi – Unexcelled trainer of untrained people.

Satthadeva-Manussanam – Teacher of gods and humans.

Bhagavathi – The Blessed one

Araham – Worthy of homage. An Arahant is "one with taints destroyed, who has lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached the true goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and is completely liberated through final knowledge."

(Sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha#Nine_virtues)

This is one of the 4 Protective Mentations, which are done before the main Kammaṭṭhāna you practice. Say if you main Kammaṭṭhāna is Anapana, you start by Loving Kindness, Recollection of the Buddha (sometimes the Noble Triple Gem), Meditation on Foulness, Meditation on Death in brief and then do your Anapana.

Like with Buddhist meditation activity it is necessary to take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and also take the 5 precepts beforehand. If you are learning under a meditation master, depending on the tradition, you will have to make a formal request to the teacher / preceptor that you be given this particular meditation subject or any general mediation subject with a view to realise Nirvana. Some teachers do not give Kammaṭṭhāna without being asked formally, perhaps due to a Vinaya rule.

Buddhanusathi Bawana as a meditation where recollect the qualities of the Buddha. In taking refuge, you take the Noble Triple Gem as your teacher, guide and protector.

Also Buddha has said, you see him when you see the Dhamma. Hence if you realise the Dhamma you see the Buddha. So for this matter mindfulness will suffice to see the Buddha or to reach out to him, by realising the true Dhamma. Or you can do Buddhanusathi Bawana.


I think this is a good answer:

To take refuge in the Buddha means, not taking refuge in him as a person, but taking refuge in the fact of his Awakening: placing trust in the belief that he did awaken to the truth, that he did so by developing qualities that we too can develop, and that the truths to which he awoke provide the best perspective for the conduct of our life.

Full text here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/refuge.html

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