Taking Refuge II

April 25, 2018

In the tradition of Soto Zen Buddhism the formal ceremony of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is called Jukai or Receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts. Refuge is described as a place of safety, shelter or protection. Whether we are aware of it or not, seeking shelter and safety affirms our experience of Shakyamuni Gautama’s teaching of the First Noble Truth: Life is Suffering. We are experiencing the dis-ease, sometimes subtle and sometimes intense ,of the human condition; having our being in a constantly changing and apparently unpredictable universe. No matter how hard we try to get life right and then hold it still, we are unable to find a guaranteed place of comfort and calm. Even when it seems that all is well, we are aware that the next breath may bring deeply unwanted circumstances.. Even when all seems well, we  have some worry about what difficulty and discomfort may come next. We seek a place  where we can be assured that all will be well and in accord with our particular experience of comfort and pleasure. We seek a place of refuge in this spinning world  that assures such a thing. This very desire is  the essence of our suffering. Given our definition and view, we cannot find such a place. This is the Second Noble Truth.

The Third Noble Truth is that with a clearer view of  our misperception is possible. A more realistic view of our circumstances is possible. We can experience this clearer  and  realistic insight into  our condition by entering upon what Shakyamuni Gautama called the Eightfold Path. This is the Fourth Noble Truth.

Embarking on this Eightfold Path we are seeing refuge is the very  life from which we are seeking protection. In accord with the teaching I received in my childhood religion, we are being invited to “Wade in the Water”.

It seems a parados to be encouraged to seek safety and shelter in the very place of suffering, but we know we have no other place we can be. It is our minds we must allow to shift. Taking Refuge is the deep intention to allow and nurture this place and path of shift.

We take refuge in the Buddha, in our essential Buddha-Nature and in our essential spacious capacity to see more and more clearly who we truly are.

We take refuge in the many changing appearances of this Buddha-Nature. We allow ourselves to see that this, too, is who we are. We allow ourselves to directly experience the manyness of our being. We take refuge in the Dharma.

We take refuge in the Sangha. We allow our experience of being both ourselves and other to guide our care of all the beings and circumstances have previously seen as “not-me”. Seeing  all being as ourselves, we act to care for each seemingly distinct appearance and circumstance as  compassionately and wisely as we would care for ourselves.

We allow a radically inclusive awareness and being of ourselves. We are thus.  In response to this liberating awareness, we act with wisdom and love for our whole self.