Refuge— Buddha, Dharma, Sangha

3 weeks 4 days ago #117776 by Kate Gowen
Bits and pieces of conversations (and dramas, both here and in memory) are fermenting in my mind, these days.
There is no finished product, no “final answer,” no “whole story.” I can’t say I expect there to be, or that I have the skills to present or conceive such a thing.

My spiritual path has been random and probably bass-ackwards and upside down. Bits of experience have flashed like neon signs and then later, I have found writers/teachers who seem to be talking about those things, and followed their streams of teaching back toward the source. I’ve never been methodical, and I am temperamentally unable to cease from questioning. Or to grant authority to anyone who simply claims it. Those I respect as teachers are those whose lives are continuous with their teaching, not those who set up shop and present official credentials. To my mind, the student makes the teacher, not the other way around. I intuit that, for the extremely capable student, there are no bad teachers. But even the most accomplished teacher goes unrecognized by great numbers of people every day. A Buddha can even say something like, “ If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Or, “(If you truly grasp my teachings) what I have done, you can do also. And even greater things, for I am returning to my Father.” Or “The Way that can be named is not the true Way.”

Ngak’chang Rinpoche translated “taking refuge” as “establishing confidence in Actuality.” I have understood him to mean that taking refuge is not a one time ceremony of joining a church, but a continuing, complete practice path— a subtle version of “praying without ceasing.”

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3 weeks 4 days ago #117779 by Noah
I agree with this!  In the past few years I've moved from a more perennialist approach to feeling more aligned with Buddhism specifically.  As part of that transition I've enjoyed taking refuge as a formal practice (tantric ngondro) & also as an informal/ongoing investigation & study.  I did find it helpful & deeply meaningful to participate in a formal refuge ceremony in 2020, but I don't think it was necessary.

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3 weeks 4 days ago - 3 weeks 4 days ago #117780 by Shargrol
Actuality is also similar to the daoist idea of immortality. If we are living in the atemporal present, it is like living an eternal life. Even if you live a few days this way, you have lived the equivalent of many lifetimes. 

I have a reminder note on my laptop: "Really alive is really right here. So easy to overcomplicate. You are free of blame if
you truly serve the actual lived course of events."

This is one of the best descriptions of the many levels of refuge, including "secret refuge":  Refuge - Unfettered Mind

At a less-ultimate level, there is a refuge in the clarity created by intentional mindfullness... when you can distinguish between sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts --- and accept the thusness of those limited pieces of meaning --- then life is basically sane. You know what you know and you don't over-extrapolate into some samsaric bigger problematic embroilment. And so you take refuge in your ability to know and acceptance of what can't be known... and this thusness is the refuge.

I also have this reminder note on my laptop: "Most of your “problems” are reactions to your reaction. Don’t get hung up on the second reaction, also question the first. Why is this a problem instead of just another momentary experience? What is the ill will? What needs defending? Just because you are being challenged, doesn't mean anything is actually wrong. And just because you are comfortable that doesn’t mean you are correct."

Last edit: 3 weeks 4 days ago by Shargrol.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #117782 by Shargrol
Some related quotes from a recent KMcL newsletter:

"Nirvana is how we experience life when we do know what we are. This knowing is not an ordinary knowing. It is not a conceptual knowing. It is a qualitative different kind of knowing, a direct knowing not mediated by the conceptual mind. In that knowing, we are not presented with a sense of self that perceives a world out there. Instead, knowing and experience arise without separation. We are what arises in experience, all of it. In particular, in this knowing, there is no one thing that makes us what we are. And there is no “other”.


Spiritual practice acts like a mirror, and sooner or later, you find yourself looking in that mirror. For me, the only question that counts at that point, is “Do I work with what I see, or do I turn away?” Why, I cannot say, but I have repeatedly chosen and continue to choose to work with what I see. For this, I feel deeply grateful, though to whom or what I cannot say. It has not been easy, but the alternative always seems to be worse. In this process, I have to question not only myself, but everything that I think I know or understand. And I think this is what Arendt is pointing to. The qualities that develop in us from questioning ourselves deeply are precisely the qualities that make it difficult for us to accept things at face value or how they are presented to us by an arbitrary authority. These same qualities may make it possible for us to exercise personal responsibility even when it means that we may pay for it with our welfare, our well-being, or even our lives."

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3 weeks 4 days ago #117787 by Ona Kiser
Kate, my life has often felt as if it were undertaken backwards... 

"Sangha" and "refuge" may have a specific meaning in their tradition that I am not well familiar with, but I remember some moment this year when it occurred to me that (in my own way of understanding, which is of no authority) 'taking refuge in the community of believers' meant something surprising. That it meant being with, without ill will, the whole of the community, entirely. That the refuge was the 'being present with', which was a shelter not in a sense of hiding or keeping at bay, but in the non-hiding and non-keeping-at-bay. And that there was a blessing in the abrasive and rough and harsh relatings just as much as in the joyful or inspiring or peaceful relatings to the community. This was in the context of the church group I most often participate in, but I suspect it applies fairly broadly.

I was put in mind of Saint Catherine of Siena, who has a rather wordy but really clear way of talking about the blessings even our enemies bring us (and which at some point I recall finding also in Shantideva, albeit with a different vocabulary). 

Point being, that there is a sense of turning towards, instead of turning away, from abrasive people and that this is the sense of 'refuge' that seemed to arise. Sometimes that turning towards is by grace, more and more, other times by effort. The turning towards being a kind of sense of listening, attending to. The way you might gently listen to a chatty elderly relative go on and on about random things - perhaps recognizing that most of what's coming out is nonsense, but that there's something being expressed there that needs expressing, even if it's poorly expressed or hard to follow or even just simply not true.  

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