Refuge Offers Safe Direction | Step 11

buddha dharma gradual awakening gradual path lam rim refuge sangha three jewels triple gem Jul 22, 2021

 What is refuge?

What have been our “usual suspects”, the sources we automatically turn to for quick relief? More than just behaviors and coping mechanism, what have been the relationships and subtle beliefs we have turned towards to provide safety and comfort?

While these may have provided temporary relief, can we now see no lasting contentment or freedom has been gained? Most importantly can we now see how some of these behaviors, experiences, and people in the long run actually reinforce and reconfirm our worst case thinking, our experience of inadequacy or worthlessness for example?

The gradual path offers three sources of reliable refuge:

The Buddha - our ultimate nature is already free. We can rely on our own potential to change.

The Dharma - while our ultimate nature is free and open, we are still tightly bound by habits that must be disrupted and replaced. We can rely on our own efforts to resist the “usual suspects” and create more realistic beliefs, flexible attitudes, virtuous lifestyles, and healthy habits that will deliver in the long run the lasting relief we seek.

Sangha - our experience doesn’t occur in a vacuum, we are part of a system. The people we choose to surround ourselves with can either reinforce our “usual suspects” and worst case thinking or support our evolution and awakening. Choose wisely and rely liberally, we can’t do this alone.

Do an inventory of your “usual suspects” so you are aware of what to resist in critical moments. Then, clarify the views, habits, lifestyle, and people you want to cultivate on your path. This will give you safe direction through the storm.

How to “take refuge”? In the heat of the moment, amidst the storm out at sea, find the “gap” in your experience between adverse emotion and reactive action. Just as your momentum is pulling you towards the usual suspects, “take refuge” and plant a new seed, blaze a new pathway. It might not provide temporary relief in the moment, but with repetition it will eventually grow into a new garden.


Learn more about the gradual path to awakening with the Lam Rim Meditation course.