Taking Refuge

Taking refuge means turning toward and relying upon the Three or Four Jewels, as your standard for living in the world. You are resolving to rely upon the three or four jewels as your models up until the time you become a Buddha. They are your place of final refuge or your highest ideal. 

You must understand the truth of impermanence before you take refuge.  Only then can it be a true refuge.  In fact, a mere understanding of impermanence is not even enough. You must have a true feeling for it so that the desire to be liberated comes from the bottom of your heart. Taking refuge is not just chanting some mantras. You must practice and achieve a true refuge.

There are three ways that you may take refuge:

- The Exoteric Refuge Ceremony where you take refuge in the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

- The Outer Tantra Refuge Ceremony where you take refuge in the Four Jewels: The Master, The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

- The Inner Tantra Refuge Ceremony where you take refuge in the Four Jewels: The Master, The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Dharma Protectors must be present to witness your commitment. They may also approve the giving of a Dharma name.

You must have a true master to learn the true Buddha-dharma. The esoteric ceremonies are very solemn events and must be performed in a sacred mandala, usually with the appropriate dharma instruments and ritual items.

To be a Buddhist you must take refuge in the Three or Four jewels, however not all who have taken refuge are Buddhist. To understand this distinction, read The 128 Evil and Erroneous Views by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, particularly the erroneous view That One Who Has Taken Refuge is Definitely a Buddhist (90).

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