The Buddha stated in SN 6.2 that he doesn't have a teacher but instead look up to the Dhamma, and in MN22 he states:

Bhikkhus, when the gods with Indra, with Brahmā and with Pajāpati seek a bhikkhu who is thus liberated in mind, they do not find anything of which they could say: ‘The consciousness of one thus gone is supported by this.’ Why is that? One thus gone, I say, is untraceable here and now.

If the Buddha pointed more to Dhammaism than Buddhism, is taking refuge in the order of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha - placing the messanger in the position of the message - a mistake along the lines of idolatry?

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    Here is the reference (SN 6.2). – ChrisW Aug 18 at 19:39
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    Reading the reference might answer this question. – ChrisW Aug 18 at 19:40
  • So if 'lead by example' stands, then what is good for the teacher is good for the pupil? – Ilya Grushevskiy Aug 18 at 19:57
up vote 2 down vote accepted

This is the way my teachers have explained it:

  • The Buddha is like a Doctor on who we rely to correctly diagnose our condition and to prescribe a treatment.
  • The Dharma is like the actual medicine and is thus referred to the supreme jewel or true jewel.
  • The Sangha is like the nurses who aid us in our treatment and recovery.

Just as we take refuge in our Doctors, Medications and Nurses when we become sick just so we should take refuge in the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha to shelter us from the sicknesses of samsara.

That said, the Dharma jewel is considered the Supreme Jewel because it is the actual antidote to our suffering. And we must choose to take our medication. The Buddha cannot force us to take our medicine nor can the Sangha. We must choose to listen to the Doctor's advice and take the actual antidote and listen to the Nurses as they help us take the medicine and recover.

  • So, basically the standard form advises against self medication when the Buddha's message is extant.. makes good sense! :) – Ilya Grushevskiy Aug 18 at 20:31
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    Yes, I asked much the same question to one of my teachers once after I heard him say the Dharma is the actual refuge in contradistinction to the Buddha and Sangha. Without the Dharma jewel we'd all be utterly lost and beyond hope like if the Doctor ran out of medicine. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 18 at 20:33
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    BTW, personally that's why I think Buddha's don't continually manifest in the world at all times revealing themselves as Buddhas. We'd all be lazy and neglect taking our medicine thinking the Doctor could magically heal us without us actually taking our medicine :) – Yeshe Tenley Aug 18 at 20:35

Realising the Dhamma is not easy, which is why the Buddha is the Buddha, who achieved a close to impossible achievement.

But, yes, the only reason to take refuge in the Buddha and Noble Sangha is to find the Dhamma.

The supreme refuge is the Dhamma.

Thus Buddha said to Vakkali (SN 22.87; against idolatry): "Seeing the Dhamma; sees the Buddha".

In SN 45.2, the Buddha said He was as the Noble Friend the whole of the Holy Life because it would be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path (the Dhamma).

In DN 16, the Buddha said make the Dhamma the only refuge.

But the Buddha reveals the Dhamma and the Noble Sangha perpetuates the Dhamma. We can't do it without the Buddha or maybe the Noble Sangha.

If we have keen intellectual comprehension of the Pali suttas (similar to Dhammadhatu), we can avoid the discordant diversity today that calls itself "The Sangha".

I think a clear example of it is e.g. here -- Exclusive interview with Oprah, May 2010:

  • Oprah: I see. I know that you were born in Vietnam in 1926. Is there any wonderful memory of your childhood that you can share?
  • Nhat Hanh: The day I saw a picture of the Buddha in a magazine.
  • Oprah: How old were you?
  • Nhat Hanh: I was 7, 8. He was sitting on the grass, very peaceful, smiling. I was impressed. Around me, people were not like that, so I had the desire to be like him. And I nourished that desire until the age of 16, when I had the permission of my parents to go and ordain as a monk.

That reminds me of this paragraph of the Bikkhuni Sutta ...

This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears,

'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.'

The thought occurs to him,

'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now. Then why not me?'

Then he eventually abandons conceit, having relied on conceit.

'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

... where "conceit" is as defined in this topic: How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same?

Also the triple gem/triple refuge is mentioned/identified in the canon.


If the Buddha pointed more to Dhammaism ...

I don't think he did -- see for example the Upaddha Sutta: Half of the Holy Life (SN 45.2)

Per SN 6.2 his dwelling in dependency on the Dhamma only was a consequence of his being a Buddha and an arahant.

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