I go for refuge in the Buddha, the enlightened teacher, I commit myself to the enlightenment;
I go for refuge in the Dharma, the spiritual teachings; I commit myself to the truth as it is.
I go for refuge in the Sangha, the spiritual community; I commit myself to living the enlightened life.
These are what's known as the Three Jewels of Buddhism also known as the Three Treasures. The Three Jewels are a core element in all schools of Buddhism. In Buddhism making a commitment to awakening is known as taking refuge. The refuge ceremony is one of the first thing a new Dharma student does. The Buddha made his commitment without a formal ceremony and so can we. It is a matter of making a heartfelt commitment to the way of the truth and seeking refuge in the three jewels.
Taking Refuge in the Buddha: means you are seeking spiritual awakening. Traditionally, the Buddha component means seeking a qualified teacher of the Dharma such as a Guru. Buddha never presented himself as a god or savior, but as a teacher. He is not there to save you, rather it is up to you to save yourself. This jewel, is about committing to seeing things as they really are, truth uncolored by our own beliefs or prejudices. It is making the connection with the Buddha within. It is finding and relying on the purity of our heart and mind and trusting your intuition linked to them.
Taking Refuge in the Dharma: is a commitment to a life that reflects truth. Dharma is the official body of Buddhist teachings but also refers to the teaching the universe provides for us. It is seeing and accepting reality exactly as it is and managing to joyfully live that truth. Living with joy and happiness within the confines of truth is the path to enlightenment. The Three Poisons, are referred to as the main source of unhappiness or feeling dissatisfied.
Poison One: Ignorance of the Truth. In Buddhism ignorance refers to being deluded or confused. Our view of the world and the happenings we live are colored by our own desires. We see things as we would want them to be, we rationalize and create our own stories. Seeking the truth is a process that continues until we reach enlightenment.
Poison Two: Attachment. We can be attached to habits, behaviors, people, things, wealth, ambition, success... the list is endless. Those attachments most times become our lives. Within Poison Two are jealousy and pride. We attach and identify ourselves by our possessions and accomplishments. I am a doctor, lawyer, or I own a Mercedes. It is the tying of our pride to these things that halts the path to enlightenment and awakening. Jealousy of possessions, prestige, 'I want', are all tied to ego as is pride. In order to achieve happiness, releasing our grip on these attachments, letting go of our ego based view of reality is essential.
Poison Three: Aversion. When it comes to this Buddhist teaching, aversion translates most closely to dislike. We usually form aversions from our attachments. We base our happiness on our attachments, and when we are unfulfilled or upset by that person or thing, that disappointment turns to dislike. Dislike can then lead to hatred. It can be the simplest of things like going to buy the pair of shoes you fell in love with and they don't have your size. You become obviously upset and the poisons are at work. On a mid-level, we fight with a loved one and then we feel dislike, we avoid them. It is a pattern or cycle of behavior. Dislike, anger, hatred; one can follow the other. Your are unfulfilled by your work, but you stay because it is in your comfort zone. You dislike your job but dislike change as well. The three poisons work together and are a huge source of pain. It is through the Dharma that we can change this cycle.
Taking Refuge in the Sangha: Sangha translates to community, a community of Buddhists and sentient beings. It is a spiritual community with it's beautiful healing energy. That energy is generated by it's dedication. It is vital that a Sangha work at keeping it's individual energies. Groups have a tendency to become conforming and the lemming or herd mentality takes over. To keep a positive spiritual community means being aware of heart and warmth and that each journey is individual.
Taking refuge in The Three Jewels is the first step in ending the cycle of Samsara and moving closer to achieving enlightenment and Nirvana.