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What Does it Mean to Take Refuge?

Feb 15, 2020
 

Excerpt from Class 3 of Find True Refuge

I actually want to put this under the point of what does it mean to take refuge. Now that you have the causes, what are the two causes? Fear and confidence.

Then what are the three objects? The reliances. You rely on the Buddha as the epitome, as the benchmark. He did it. It's possible. It's like the first four minute mile. Somebody did it. It's possible. Once somebody does it then it catches fire. It becomes a possibility for anyone. Now you have people in their sixties and seventies doing four minute, three minute miles. Same like that, the Buddha did it. Boom. The world changed.

Dharma. Conventionally you rely on his teachings. Without the teachings where are you going to go? What are you going to do? And without support how much gain do we make without support? How much gain do we make on our own?

Whether it's worldly or spiritual, the same package is there. Whether you're training your body, whether you want to be an athlete, whether you want to be an artist, you find someone who's incredible. You learn their method and you ask. You join a community. You pay your dues into your membership of like-minded people. Same recipe.

We have the inclination. We have the Kobe Bryant moment. The Kobe Bryant moment is no longer the 81 points. The Kobe Bryant moment is the recognition of the reality of the imminence and the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time of death. That's what the Kobe Bryant moment is. That brings you into the objects of refuge. You have your Buddha, Dharma Sangha.

How do you take refuge? The taking of refuge, we do formally together with the vandana, the beautiful voices of Kim and Erica, when we go to holy sites when and we start our dharma practice. We recite some prayers, we recite some verses. But how do we really take refuge?

This is how I have come to best understand it in the most practical way. If you understand that things are truly open, if you understand that you are open,
if you understand the dharmakaya, the openness of things, that things are not fixed, are not substantial, are not rigid, that you're not predestined, you're not pre-programmed. Your nature is open. Your brain is flexible. Your soul is flexible, neuroplastic. Soul-plastic. Soul-plasticity, if you understand soul-plasticity.

But you also understand conditioning, that the two come together. That's the Wheel of Becoming. You have emptiness on one side and on the other side of the coin you have dependent origination. They come together. They're two sides of the same coin. We did that in the workshop with Lama Tsongkhapa. The day that he gained enlightenment he scripted 'In Praise of Dependent Origination' his pithy poem in praise of Shakyamuni Buddha who discovered the nature of reality and articulated how things arise based on causes and conditions, but also pointed out the very possibility that things are allowed to arise and change is predicated on their openness.

Without openness there can be no change. Because things change, it shows their openness. Things are all able to arise because they're not fixed, intractable entities. There are no solid things. You analyze solid things and you find their vacuity, their essencelessness

If we truly understand that we're open systems, if we truly appreciate soul-plasticity and we understand the nuance of karma, that the things that we think and say and do are constantly habituating us to experience the world in contracted ways. If we understand that's the real engine of humanity, that's the real cause and effect of our experience, then the taking of refuge is the actual enactment and the taking advantage of that reality.

If you understand that you're open and you understand that your openness is predicated on conditioning, then you maximize your fluidity or flexibility to intervene in your conditioning process so that you're not just a byproduct of habit. You leverage consciousness to make better choices, to turn the wheel of your becoming in a positive, favorable spin until it's full maximal conclusion at enlightenment, is the very act of taking refuge. You can do mumbo jumbo namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhasa but if you don't change your wheel of becoming, if you don't take advantage of your soul-plasticity, you're not taking refuge.

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