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Posts Tagged ‘3 Jewels’

It is a tradition for us to set some resolutions at the beginning of each year, to start the year with ways for us to improve our lives with goals that we set to follow for the year to come. I have never really been big on new year’s resolutions as such, it seems that I would follow them for a month or so and then would break them and then spend the rest of the year feeling like I failed. This feeling of failure and disappointment would come up in spurts throughout the year and give me feelings of hopelessness and failure. It is good for us to want to improve our condition and to create better habits to help us achieve different goals we have. As a Buddhist I have found that the best way to begin the year is to renew my intentions for the coming year, to take refuge in the 3 jewels and renew my commitment to the 5 precepts. I have found this to be a much more productive exercise than the traditional resolutions (exercise more, stop smoking, eat better, etc), this is a time to reflect on our practice and to renew our commitment to it. I will be doing my first intention ceremony with my meditation group this year and find that this will also help build a strong sangha that is committed to this practice and walking this earth with a more tender heart. You may be wondering what it is exactly these intention setting ceremonies that you see different Buddhist centers and groups do every New Years, put simply, it is a time that a sangha will take refuge in the 3 Jewels (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha) and to take the 5 precepts again (Not Killing, Not Taking what is not given, Right Speech, Not Misuse Sexuality, Avoiding Intoxicants). Intention ceremonies help us to renew our commitment to being more mindful in the world, this mindfulness will help us improve our lives by default, we will be more in tune with our bodies and the world around us.

Taking refuge in the 3 jewels is often done formally in lay and monastic ordination ceremonies, it is also done on a yearly basis so practitioners can renew their commitment to the practice and teaching of the Buddha. The general signification of the 3 Jewels are:

The Buddha;

The Dhamma, the teachings;

The Sangha, the community of enlightened beings (or at least partially), traditionally it was the community of Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis (monks and nuns).

In Buddhism, instead of looking for an external saviour, most Buddhists believe that one can take refuge in oneself. The Dhammapada states:

160. One truly is the protector of oneself, who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled one gains mastery which is hard to gain.

165. By oneself is evil done, by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone, by oneself is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself — no one can purify another.


The Buddha said in the Mahaparinibbana sutta that the teachings and sangha that he delivered and created would be the teacher when he is gone. Faith is an important element in Buddhism, whether it is Theravada and Mahayana traditions. The Sanskrit word for faith is sraddha; the original word has connotations of trust, perseverance, humility, and steady effort. As opposed to Western notions of faith, sraddha implies thorough reasoning and accumulated experience. The Buddha stated in the Kalama sutta to not simply follow authority or tradition. There is a certain degree of trusting confidence and belief in Buddhism, especially in the spiritual attainment and salvation or enlightenment through the wisdom of the Buddha. In other words, faith in Buddhism centers on the belief in the 3 Jewels. The wording for the refuge in the 3 Jewels goes something like this:

Buddham saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Buddha)

Dharmam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Dharma)

Samgham saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Sangha)

Dutiyampi buddham saranam gacchami (For the second time… repeat for each of the three)

Tatiyampi buddham saranam gacchami (For the third time… repeat for each of the three)

This taking of the refuge helps to renew our faith in this practice and teachings, it is a time to help us reflect on what brought us to this practice and our determination to free ourselves from the chains of ignorance, greed, delusion, and hate; which is what ultimately makes us suffer. In the Dhammapada, Refuge is mentioned:

Driven only by fear, do men go for refuge to many places – to hills, woods, groves, trees, and shrines.

Such, indeed, is no safe refuge; such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from all suffering.

He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Teaching and his Order, penetrates with transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths – suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of suffering.

This indeed is the safe refuge, this the refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all suffering.

– Dhammapada 188-192


Usually during this refuge ceremony, many will take the time to renew their commitment to the 5 precepts, it is usually explained as people making vows to adhere to the Precepts. One does not necessarily have to follow all the 5 precepts (and if you are a monk it can be much more than 5, traditionally monks or very serious lay people will take an additional 3-5 ethical precepts, and some of the five precepts are strengthened. For example, the precept pertaining to sexual misconduct becomes a precept of celibacy). The Precepts are not given in the form of a commandment such as “thou shalt not…”, but rather are promises to oneself: “I will (try)…”

1. To refrain from harming living creatures (killing)

2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (stealing)

3. To refrain from sexual misconduct

4. To refrain from false speech

5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness

If you are in the Montreal area and would like to participate to an New Years intention ceremony feel free to come at the NHC center on the 10th of January. More info on the group is also posted on the Against the Stream Website in the Dharma Punx Nation section. All are welcome no matter what your spiritual or religious affiliations may be, this is a great time to take some time to reflect on our spiritual practices and what we want to bring into the world for this new year. It is a 5$ suggested donation to help cover the costs, but no one will ever be turned away for lack of funds. 2010 was a year that started on a very sour note for me, but shaped up to be a year full of different experiences and accomplishments, I would not trade it for the world. My biggest teachings of 2010? Impermanence, Kindness, and Compassion! What was yours? 2011 is already looking like a year that will bring exciting new beginnings and challenges, keep reading to see what will be happening in the new year! Thank you if you are reading this, your readership and support means the world to me and I hope that you will keep reading in 2011! Here is a wish to all of you for 2011 from our man Sid!

“May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness; may all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow; may all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless; and may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion, and live believing in the equality of all that lives.”

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