The Three Jewels of Buddhism
What it means to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
The highest meaning of Dharma is the reality reality that holds us in freedom from suffering, holds us in a state of bliss. Dharma is our own reality that we seek to understand fully, to open to fully. Dharma, therefore, also consists of those methods and the teaching of those methods that are the arts and sciences which enable us to open ourselves. The practices that we do, which will open us, which follow those teachings, which implement them in our lives, in our practice, and in our performance, which deploy those arts-they are also Dharma.
Ultimately, we take refuge in reality itself, because that is the only secure refuge. If we took refuge in any unrealistic thing, it could be blown down by this-and-that howling wind-but when we take refuge in reality, that is what endures. It is uncreated. It is not made by anyone. It lasts. It is there, and therefore it can give refuge. The final taking of refuge is embodying reality in our being, realizing that reality is our body and breath and thought and mind. Therefore, the final refuge is only being Buddha ourselves. But meanwhile, to whatever extent we can open to reality, we take refuge in reality, the second jewel.
The third jewel is the Sangha, the community of those who enjoy the jewels of refuge, who learn that teaching, seek that understanding, and work to embody that Dharma. They are consciously evolving toward being buddhas, sharing their understanding and bliss with others, as teachers of freedom to other beings, helping them discover these jewels. This includes all Buddhists everywhere and through time, in Sri Lanka, in Thailand, in Burma, in Tibet, in China, Korea, Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam, in ancient time and still now in India.