The Three Jewels of Buddhism

What it means to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.


09/14/2011 11:40:03 AM

This is just one Buddhist's opinion. The Buddha stated to effect, that all religions are good. And if I might be so bold as to interpret that- I believe all religions have the power to elevate humans to a higher level of thinking, acting, living, behaving, etc.. In that regard, I see religion as somewhat 'The First rung on the ladder' on the path to Right Understanding and enlightenment, so to speak. But make no doubt, I believe Buddhism is the highest path, that one can follow, and I believe there is no superior path that humans have developed, or ever will develop. I believe a Catholic or Muslim, for instance, who is a good person, has good morals, good actions, and develops positive karma in their life, will be lucky enough in a next life, to discover Buddhism, understand the Dharma, and progress in their ultimate path of breaking the cycle of rebirth and attaining nirvana. I don't see other religions, with the possible exception of advanced Hinduism, as bringing about nirvana, ending the death/birth cycle, etc.. Although other relisions can do much good in other areas, they are neither designed, nor founded to do such things as break the vicious cycles of rebirth and samsara.. For a person, the road to nirvana takes many, many, life times. Did the Buddha not teach us, that our past lives were so frequent, that the mother's milk we consumed could fill oceans? And that our bones from previous bodies, could stack as tall as mountains? So while I see other religions, as good, beneficial and valid for people at a particular stage in their development, I also unapologetic believe, that no other paths are at the same level as Buddhism, as far as being a vehicle for the attainment of Right Understanding and eventually enlightenment. I apologize if this is not a particularly 'warm and fuzzy,' modern, or politically correct belief to hold.


07/03/2005 04:31:09 PM

The eightfold path in its entirety is reserved for practicing monastics. Only the moral parts are expected of lay-people. Lay-practice traditionally meant giving alms to monks, and a variety of different practices, such as pilgrimages to sacred places, praying to ancestors, and chanting texts. Really, that's not so different from most religions. Even in monasteries, not all monks meditated. Some monks specialized in reciting the Buddha's sermons, or writing texts, or translating them. Basically, there's refuge, there's the precepts, and the rest depends on your inclinations and abilities. There were followers of the Buddha who remained householders, but they were rare. There were also members of the monastic community who never became Arhats. After the death of the Buddha, it seemed there was no one who had the same power to enlighten through his presence alone. Therefore, rules became codified to ensure that the path to enlightenment could not be sidetracked.


07/03/2005 04:27:29 PM

Yoga was also an esoteric movement, and several of its forms developed after Buddhism was an established religion (particularly the tantric forms like Hatha and Kundalini). Religion for most people varied along caste lines. Only Brahmans could study the Vedas, and only high castes could hear the Vedas. Buddhism was certainly an alternative to the Vedas, but that's not how every Indian practiced religion back then. There are accounts where the Buddha took the rituals of simple village people and gave them a sort of twist to fit his teachings. As Buddhism spread to other cultures, it did the same to assimilate to other peoples. I see that parallel today in how Buddhist teachers are reaching out to non-Buddhists today.


07/03/2005 04:26:37 PM

However, he did know about certain paths in his neck of the woods. He was critical of the Jains, but they had a lot in common, so much so that they were the categories used by Mughal rulers to distinguish from the religions lumped together as "Hinduism." At the time of the Buddha, it's unclear whether the shramanas where a widespread movement yet. Some of their writings, known as forest texts, influenced the developed of the Upanishads, and later Vedanta. Advaita Vendanta is said to be influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, although it seems Shankara was not trying to assimilate Buddhism, but preserve the validity of orthodox Vedism, seen in a new light. It's perhaps a sister religion of Buddhism, but certainly different than the standard religion in the Buddha's time.


07/03/2005 04:25:59 PM

Now, I like the lines to be open, at least in terms of philosophical freedom. But there are limits. I believe in respecting all religions, but if someone holds a religious doctrine that they need to conquer all other belief systems in the world, then I'm not going to honor that belief. I believe in individual rights, but not to the point that they are used for their opposite (which is always the danger in this society).


07/03/2005 04:17:39 PM

All religions, even the most open ones, are institutions and as such have boundaries. You need to draw the line somewhere. Religion is just institutional spirituality. Huston Smith makes a good point. People say they're "spiritual but not religious," but for the human mind, which feeds on form, spirituality also takes some external form. The real thing people like to avoid is discipline. And Huston Smith makes another good point. Institutions are ugly, and that's why many of us seek a non-religious spirituality. But even if you do, you will find that your spirituality will take a form, and without guidance, it can take on the fickle whimsy of an ego that does not want to change, but only seeks its own comfort. That's fine, but why elevate that habit with the special term "spirituality"? How's that different from what we do normally?


06/01/2005 09:35:12 AM

Brendan, The problem with your disagreement is that the Buddha lived before the formative period of Judaism, before Christ, before Muhammad, before most world religions developed into the forms they are today. He didn't have them to compare with his own teachings. The Dalai Lama has also stated emphatically, as has Thich Nhat Hanh, that people do not need to become Buddhist (i.e., adhere to the Eightfold Path) to live an enlightened life. And I think we can all admit that there are "Buddhists" who live decidedly unenlightened lives. The Dharma is not a magic escalator to nirvana, and other traditions are not inherently less effective at assisting followers in gaining control over their egotistical attachments. In the end we know that what a person's heart intention is in their religious practice is the clearest indication of whether or not they will be achieving new spiritual heights, or merely aping external practices of religion.


04/07/2005 12:05:57 PM

(Part 2 of 2) I have to disagree, particularly with the boldface portion I quoted. The Buddha taught us that there are skillful and unskillful means of achieving happiness; his Noble Eightfold Path is, according to Buddhism, the most skillful means of doing so. As I said, I like the article overall; I do see a certain trend in modern Buddhism to embrace other teachings to the point where they all become indistinct and lose meaning.


04/07/2005 12:05:23 PM

(Part 1 of 2) It is a good article; it's nice to see an article about Buddhism that is primarily about the Dharma itself, rather than some of the "fluffier" topics I've seen here before. Still, I can't help but feel that perhaps Dr. Thurman is being a bit inaccurate when he says: So, we take refuge in the Buddha [...] We turn to the teaching of the reality of bliss, the teaching of the method of achieving happiness in whatever form it comes to us, whether it comes as Christianity, whether it comes as humanism, whether it comes as Hinduism, Sufism, or Buddhism. The form doesn't matter. (continues in Pt. 2)


04/07/2005 11:23:59 AM

What a wonderful article. I hope many people take the time to read this.