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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
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Taking Refuge

By Jenna Sundell


God is with us in our failure as much as in our success.
It is only when we stop trying that we create the illusion we are separate from God.
God is never separate from us, even when we believe it to be so.

The holiday season is a time of family reunion and celebration; however sometimes it brings with it a sense of separation. At moments like these, we can rely upon our spiritual practice to help us reconnect. The Buddhist tradition contains a wonderful practice that is called ďTaking Refuge in the Three Jewels.Ē

There is a similar tradition in Christianity, where practitioners take Christ as their Savior. Many religions share this common theme of taking refuge in something greater than the personal self. When you feel isolated, you can reach for this line into Light, in whatever form is appropriate for you.

In Buddhism, the Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha represents the Enlightened One, a person who has united their mind and entire being with God. Buddhas are not God, and are not worshipped. Rather, we think of a Buddha as one of Godís really close friends.

A Buddha no longer wants anything from God; he or she is simply present with God in every aspect. Everyone has the potential to be a Buddha; when we take refuge in the Buddha, we accept and recognize this possibility for ourselves.

The Dharma is the highest truth in action. It is the collection of teachings that lead us to experience our full potential. Dharma is the path we follow to wisdom. By taking refuge in
the Dharma, we set our intent to find and follow the highest truth we can access.

The Sangha is the community of committed practitioners. They are all the spiritual seekers who have gone before us and have fulfilled their highest potential. They are the ones who live in a state of constant meditation. They are also the ones who are still struggling against the bonds of their attachments, and even though it is difficult, they practice their path every day. Taking refuge in the Sangha reminds us of the success others experienced and that we are not alone on the Path.

We donít need to do any special rituals or visit a holy place, though that can be fun and inspiring. We donít need to meet with a teacher or announce it to our family and friends. Taking Refuge is a private and personal practice of connecting with the Divine present within all of us.

Many feel drawn to remember this connection during the holidays. Some people may take refuge everyday. Others may do it only when they feel lost. Itís up to you. Taking Refuge is easy. With your mind focused, say to yourself: I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Say it a few times, and spend a few moments contemplating what the Three Jewels mean to you. Whenever we feel stuck or lost, during the holidays or any time of year, we always have the opportunity to stop and take refuge in whatever spiritual symbols and traditions are most powerful for us.

Jenna Sundell teaches Practical American Buddhism at Dharma Center in San Diego ( and is the author of Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light. This article is adapted from her current book project, Making Peace with Pain. She will also be teaching at CIIS in San Francisco on December 10th.