To take refuge
Every year in June there a refuge ceremony in Ehipassiko. This 2600-year-old ritual is for many a major event in their lives.
If someone wants to become a formal Buddhist, he vows to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha during a small ceremony. He intends to follow the five precepts and is given a Buddhist name.
To take refuge is an expression of trust. We put our trust in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. These are the Three Jewels -as they are traditionally called.
The Three Jewels offer a safe place, a place we can rely on.
Refuge in the Buddha
What does it mean to take refuge in the Buddha?
The Buddha is described as the Awakened One. He was a human being and as such he attained enlightenment. If he was able to reach the light, other people too.
Following the example of the Buddha we trust our inner strength to go on through life with attention and to grow in wisdom and compassion.
Refuge in the Dhamma
To have faith in the path of wisdom and compassion is an expression of confidence in the Dhamma. Through our tested experience we know which element of the doctrine is the most supportive and which element is best suited to a particular life situation.
Refuge in the Sangha
The Buddha often stressed the importance to take refuge in the community, the Sangha.
Our confidence in the Buddha and the Dhamma can greatly be enhanced by practicing with peers.
The five precepts (Sila Pañca)
When you take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha you accept to adopt the five precepts as a basic ethical guideline in your life.
The precepts help you to be attentive and to concentrate.
You accept to adopt the five precepts in your life on free will, not because they are imposed by supernatural or secular authorities.
The five precepts are as follows:
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
The five precepts are like the rope of a mountaineer. If all goes well you do not need your rope and you do not even notice that it is there.
If you are in doubt and you don’t see any way out, you can hold on to what you have spoken out once.
If you have not complied with its precepts, you can start over again. You can renew your intention by speaking them out aloud or silently. The purification process depends on you and no one else can do it for you.