A Brief Teaching on "Refuge"
By H.H. The 17th Karmapa
For sentient beings limitless as
space to attain supreme Enlightenment understanding and observing "Refuge"
is the most necessary.
Today, for the benefit of the devotees, benefactors
and disciples of Hong Kong, I would like to present a brief teaching on Refuge,
and hope you can fully understand the meaning of Refuge and correctly observe
There are three aspects of Refuge:
* The Roots of Refuge;
Essence of Refuge &
* The Commitment of Refuge.
The roots of Refuge
are faith and compassion: trust and confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,and
compassion wishing to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. The faith of
full confidence is to understand that the Three Jewels are your only and ultimate
refuge, and to have heartfelt understanding of and trust in the Buddha, Dharma
and Sangha. Compassion for all sentient beings is to want liberate all sentient
beings from all kinds of problems and sufferings in the ocean of Samsara.
is the essence of refuge?
It is that:
*I have no other ultimate guide but
the Buddha, and in this world, the Buddha Shakyamuni who has shown us the path
*I have no other true path but the Dharma, and through contemplation
and meditation, I will attain enlightenment without going astray;
*I have no
other companions with whom to tread the path but the supreme Sangha. It is said
that there may be two types of Sangha: the ordinary Sangha such as Biksu and Bishuni,
and the Supreme Sangha who are Bodhisattvas such as those who have obtained the
tenth bhumi. However, Sangha here means anyone who assist you in the Dharma path
in whatever way.
Therefore, one should have these clear and unchanging commitments
in one's mind that:
* One has no other ultimate Refuge other than the Buddha;
has no other true path but the Dharma;
*One has no other companions with whom
to tread the path but the supreme Sangha.
The instructions on observing the
Refuge commitments are many and can be categorized into the general and the particular
and so on.
First of the general instructions is not to give up our Refuge even
on exchange for your life, or for great awards. If someone were to pile up the
greatest amount of wealth on one side and tell you it could be yours if you would
abandon your Refuge, you would not want to give up your Refuge; not even for your
life. Secondly, whatever sufferings and hardships you go through, you should not
rely on anything but the Three Jewels. Third, you should always make offerings
to the Three Jewels and the sacred objects of body, speech and mind. Fourth, you
yourself should observe the Refuge and bring others to the Refuge of the Three
Jewels as much as possible; it is not enough that oneself alone should abide by
the Refuge precepts, one should try to bring others to the right direction; if
somebody is going in a wrong way you should try to lead them on the right path.
Fifth, you should make prostration to the Buddha of the ten directions, to the
Buddha of whichever direction in which you are heading. This means to pay homage
to the Buddha, morning, noon and evening.
Then there are the instructions on
the particular precepts regarding the Three Jewels. First, if we go for Refuge
to the Buddha we don't take worldly deities and gods as an ultimate Refuge. Since
they themselves are in the Samsara, how can they help you to become liberated
from it? So as it is said in the Thirty-seven ways of a Bodhisattva, one should
not go to them for Refuge. Secondly, going for Refuge to the Dharma means to give
up harming sentient beings, semchen. Semchen here includes not just those with
four legs and hairy beings but all those who have senses and minds. One should
give up killing and robbing, and should try to tread the path of non-violence.
Thirdly, when you go for Refuge to the Sangha you should not spend time with negative
companions; if you spend time with negative companions you will be led into negative
ways and not in the positive ways.
There are three precepts to observe with
regard to paying respect to the Three Jewels. First, regarding going for Refuge
to the Buddha, you show reverence to the Buddha and their representatives. This
includes putting Buddha images in a place of respect and making prostration and
offerings and so on. Second, going for Refuge to the Dharma requires you to show
reverence to the Dharma and its representations, even to a letter or a syllable
by which the Dharma is written. Not to mention the books and Dharma materials.
Third, taking Refuge in the Sangha, even those who are merely wearing the robes
of the Sangha; even if you find a piece of red robe on the street, you should
think that this is also representation of the Sangha and should not treat it in
a disrespectful way.
Now for the three instructions on accordance. First, in
going for Refuge to the Buddha, let you mind be in accordance with the Dharma.
If we claim to go for Refuge to the Buddha but our mind is completely in opposition
to the Dharma it is not all right. Let your mind be infused with the Dharma, we
should let our speech be in accord with the Dharma. We claim to be taking Refuge
in the Dharma, and so to let our speech go totally contrary to the Dharma is wrong.
Therefore we try to give up telling lies, slandering others, and speaking hurtful
word; we try to infuse our speech with the Dharma in our daily life. Thirdly,
in going for refuge to the Sangha we should let our body be in accord with the
Dharma. We should try to live our live in accord with the Dharma and give up negative
actions of the body, such as sexual misconduct and so on.
What are the benefits
of observing the Refuge precepts? We should not go for Refuge if there were no
benefits. First, by going for Refuge we begin to practise Buddhism or Dharma.
Second, we create a favorable basis for all precepts and levels of ordination.
Third, we are protected from harm from human and non-human beings; all obstacles
and harmful influences are pacified. Fourth, we will not be separated from the
blessings of all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in all our lives to come. Fifth, the
effects of negative karma will be reduced. There are so many benefits that it
is difficult to count them all.
The reason why I talk about Refuge is that
we should not waste this life of ours which is endowed with the eight freedoms
and ten opportunities. Of course there are many who are more learned that I am,
but I have tried to say a few words on this. A fool like me doesn't know much,
but if you keep it in mind I think there will be some benefits.
All the devotees
in Hong Kong should always make efforts to observe refuge and have strong confidence
and pay homage to the Three Jewels through practising the above teachings in general;
and in particular, it is most important not to be discouraged, and preserve with
devotion and confidence, our precious lineage of Karma Kamtsang. Since one follows
the Karma Kamtsang Lineage, one should always practise the view and the teachings
of the Lineage. Any subsequent diversion to the wrong view breaks the spiritual
commitment which is not just breaking an ordinary material thing.
ask all of you to always keep these teachings in mind, contemplate theirs meanings
and put them into practice in your daily life.
May all of you have good health
and may there be happiness and well being in this life and other lives to come.
I wish and dedicate that all positive deeds I have done in all three times will
ripen for the benefit of all my mother sentient beings and especially you all.
I request you all to engage in non-violence and abandon all harmful deeds towards
any beings. I pray that there will be timely seasons, good harvest and the greatest
prosperity and happiness for all the beings on this earth.
Due to my young
age I am unable to serve the monasteries and the Buddhadharma very well at present,
but I will ensure that I do not become a disgrace to my lineage in my contributions
to the Dharma and the Lineage.
The above teaching was given by H.H.The 17th
Karmapa, at the request of the Lama Jigme, Resident Lama of Karma Kagyu (H.K.)
Buddhist Society for the benefit of the Hong Kong disciples and devotees on July
8th, 1998 at Tsurphu Monastery.
English translation was partly done by Raymond
Leung, under the guidance of Lama Jigme, Lama Tenam and Khennpo Sherab; the rest
was derived from the translation by Ven. Ringu Tulku (Nov.1998).
Holiness The 17th Karmapa Have Good Health,
Long Life And Always Turn the Wheel
May All Sentient Beings, Limitless as Space, Be Liberated
Samsara And Swiftly Attain Buddhahood!
Whatever Merits Accumulated, However
Small, Are Thus Dedicated.