Do Not Defame the Three Treasures; the Three Refuges

Do not defame the Three Treasures is the last of the Ten Great Precepts, and taking refuge in the Three Treasures, of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, are the first three of the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts of the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism (the remaining three being the Three Pure Precepts, which will be the subject of the next blog post).

Since the Three Treasures start and end the sixteen precepts let’s look at them all together. The first three precepts ask us to take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and the last of the Ten Great Precepts asks us not to defame Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The word refuge refers to a shelter, a place we can rely on to find true peace. To defame is to damage the reputation of someone/thing.

What does it mean to take refuge in the Buddha and how do we defame the Buddha? We take refuge in the Buddha by taking him as our teacher and our guide. We also take refuge in our own Buddha-nature by paying attention to the inner promptings of compassion, love and wisdom. We defame the Buddha when we turn away from him or deny the Buddha-nature of any being, including ourself. This can happen when we allow ourself to become discouraged and give up our practice.

What does it mean to take refuge in the Dharma and how do we defame the Dharma? The Dharma is both the teachings of the Buddha and the teaching that is there in each moment of our daily lives and which can be discovered by being willing to attend fully to each moment. We defame the Dharma when we choose to cling to our own views and opinions rather than open ourself to see more clearly.

What does it mean to take refuge in the Sangha and how do we defame the Sangha? The Sangha is the community of those who take refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma. In a wider sense it is all beings as none are outside of Buddha-nature. To take refuge in the Sangha is to respect and aid all beings and allow them to do the same for us. We defame the Sangha when we turn away from others and try to maintain our perceived separation.

To take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is the fundamental commitment in Buddhism.

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