Let us go for Refuge to the Triple Gem with Insight
We all prefer a peaceful and comfortable life however life is filled with many problems. There is no one who would prefer their own life to end abruptly without solace. Therefore, isn’t it better to live carefully as we grow older? To live in such a way, everyone seeks some kind of help or refuge.
Most people forget or ignore the fact that life is unbelievably risky and uncertain! We cannot predict what kind of misfortune will come our way at any moment. One can see a certain kind of helplessness in whichever angle we look at life. There is a certain kind of insufficiency in life that we cannot express in words. How many people spend their lives sighing with regret and facing the consequence of their previous misdeeds? How many lives are filled with mental anguish and painful hearts?
Isn’t life insecure?
Isn’t life truly without protection? Isn’t the mind filled with great uncertainty about the future due to this state of affairs? Many people pursue various things to safeguard their lives. They run after auspicious times, divine pronouncements, divine protection, the protection of gods connected to the nine planets, the help of miracles, and miraculous blessings. They are compelled to look for the help of some mystical force. However, our helplessness is so great that we are not motivated to question the truth or untruth of any of these practices.
The Buddha revealed an amazing secret about gods in a discourse named ‘Dhajagga sutta’. The Buddha explained that even those gods, whose minds are filled with defilements, become helpless and run away in fright and panic when faced with sudden misfortunes. If the same gods that we fearfully plead for protection from are as helpless, panicked, and flee from misfortune as we do, isn’t it a delusion to think that we could gain protection from such deities? This is not to say that gods do not exist. It is only to emphasize that they are as helpless as we are. But it is a very good practice accepted by the noble ones to share the merit of our wholesome actions with the gods as well. However, we should have the ability within ourselves to identify the greatest noble source that is capable of providing great help and refuge in this life. We should be able to consider wisely and realize certain things. We must listen to and learn the teaching of great teachers.
The Fearless Teacher who was above all three worlds…
From time to time various teachers who instruct about life appear in the world. Among them, our great teacher, the Blessed Supreme Buddha, stood foremost above all three worlds with his teaching that was extremely clear, very logical, contained liberated thinking, and had the highest regard for humanity. The Supreme Buddha described his nature and qualities in this way:
“Oh Monks, The Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One is free from all greed, hatred, and delusion. Therefore, he has no fear. He has no panic or dread. He has no mental anxiety. He does not flee under any circumstances. He is fearless.”
(Dhajagga Sutta – The Connected Discourses of the Buddha)
See how amazing this is! Which other teacher in this world could fearlessly proclaim that he had completely eradicated all defilements? There is no one else to be found in the human, Brahma or heavenly realms, other than a Supreme Buddha who has achieved such an incomparably exalted level. Once the Supreme Buddha described his compassion in this way:
“Oh Monks, there is only one person who arises in the world for the welfare of many people, for the happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans. Who is that one person? The Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One.”
(The Book of the Ones – The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha)
The Dawn of Good Fortune for Gods and Humans
The arising of a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha in the world does not happen often. It is the rarest of occurrences in the whole world. The Buddha explained it thus:
“Oh Monks, a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha is the highest and most amazing human being who arises in this world. Oh Monks, the arising of a Noble individual who achieves Buddhahood is the arising of the light of wisdom in the world, dispelling the darkness of ignorance. It is the dawn of truth that tears apart the screen of falsehood filled with deceit and trickery. It is the dawn of well-being that overcomes sadness and suffering. It is the dawn of permanent liberation freed from all mental shackles. It is the arising of the Stream Enterer, the disciple of the Tathāgata who has identified the path of happiness and well-being. It is the arising of the Once-Returner, the disciple of the Tathāgata, who, having recognized the Dhamma, has dedicated himself to attain liberation and calmed defilements. It is the arising of the Non-Returner, the disciple of the Tathāgata, who has permanently eradicated greed and hatred from his mind. It is the arising of the Arahant, the disciple of the Tathāgata, who is permanently freed from all defilements, and has realized the eternal bliss of Nibbāna. In this way, Oh Monks, the arising of a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha is the dawn of good fortune for gods and humans.”
The Marvelous Realization that spreads across the world…
Consider for a moment the rarity of this opportunity we have got. The power of the Supreme Buddha’s infinite wisdom is truly amazing. The Blessed One had the ability to spread his Dhamma across the entire universe without any obstacles. One day, The Buddha explained this to the Venerable Ānanda in this way:
“Oh Ānanda, a thousand planets are illuminated by our sun and moon. There are a thousand such world systems. The Tathāgata has the ability to transmit rays of light to the entirety of these world systems. The beings of those outer worlds are able to recognize these rays of light. The Tathāgata is able to transmit sound waves through the rays of light, and those beings are able to recognize the sounds.”
(The Book of the Threes – The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha)
The Supreme Buddha is incomparable…
The Supreme Buddha possessed an exceptionally marvelous, unmatched spiritual power. It is impossible to see anyone else with such unblemished purity, serenity, magnificence, and nobility of character. The Buddha’s life was filled with noble qualities such as love, kindness, compassion, patience, humility, intelligence, wisdom, and was without dishonesty. Followers of sects with wrong views as well as certain ignorant disciples, envied the profoundly dignified life of this noble gem who was clad in a robe, content to survive on alms-food, and lived a simple life. A disciple named Devadatta tried to harm the life the Buddha on several occasions. On one occasion, he made a fierce elephant named Nālāgiri drunk and sent it to attack the Buddha. As well, he sent teams of assassins to kill the Buddha. But all those attempts failed. In the end, Devadatta decided to end the honorable life of the Buddha with his own hands.
A wonderful miracle…
On that day, the Blessed One was walking with a tranquil mind at the foot of the Gijjhakūta mountain. Devadatta climbed the mountain and pushed a large rock aimed at the Supreme Buddha’s head. But, what happened then was amazing indeed. There were no humans or gods around to save the Buddha from this danger. However, the great earth sprang to action at that moment. A large rock suddenly appeared from the ground and blocked the rock pushed by Devadatta. Once more it became clear to the world that the Supreme Buddhas could not be murdered by any external scheme or plot.
The nature of an unflappable mind…
However, this incident deeply saddened disciples of the Buddha who loved him with all their heart. Seeing their anguish, the Supreme Buddha who possessed an absolutely composed mind, described one of the amazing qualities of his in this way:
“Oh Monks why are you getting upset? Why are you getting agitated? Why are you panicking? No: You should not be upset. You should not be afraid. You should not panic. There is no need for any external protection. Oh Monks, know it exactly as this, the life of the Tathāgata will not be ended by any external scheme. It will be ended by a conscious decision taken by the Tathāgata himself, with great mindfulness and serenity.”
The Supreme Buddha is the unmatched, unique, and infinitely pure leader of all three worlds. The Buddha’s greatness is unrivalled. Once, the Blessed explained this to Veranja a nobleman.
“Brahmin, if I were to use a simile, these lives are like eggs completely immersed and enveloped by a shell of ignorance. I am the first person to escape by piercing the eggshell of ignorance with the wisdom of my unsurpassed perfect enlightenment. Thus I am the eldest, the best in the world.”
(Veranja Sutta – The Book of the Eights – The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha)
Our Good Fortune…
So how can we find someone in this world to be even remotely comparable to the Supreme Buddha? Let’s rejoice abundantly in our good fortune to have selected such a great spiritual leader. We are definitely not followers of leaders of any other sects or religions. All of us are disciples who have gone for refuge to only the Supreme Buddha, with great love and confidence. We have gone for refuge to the sublime Dhamma that the Supreme Buddha taught with complete realization. We have gone for refuge to the noble disciples who have attained the fruits of the Noble Eightfold Path. In this way, we have found refuge in the Noble Triple Gem. The Supreme Buddha himself explained how one would go for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem wholeheartedly, with a clear conscience and honesty.
“Oh Ānanda, the fragrance of flowers such as sandalwood and jasmine spread only with the wind. But, do you know this? The fragrance of the disciple who has wholeheartedly gone for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem spreads upwards even to the heavenly realms. The gods in the heavenly realms discuss this way: Friends, behold the wonder of wise people in the human world. Men and women with these names over in that village have wholeheartedly gone for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem. They are truly fortunate human beings.”
(The Book of the Threes – The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha)
Follow pure things instead of beautiful things…
The Supreme Buddha knew very well that the Dhamma one selects has a significant impact on realizing about life. The Buddha frequently instructed that one should follow mostly pure things instead of mostly beautiful things. Going for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem is an extremely pure thing to do.
“Oh Ānanda, if someone loves his parents, if someone is affectionate towards his children, if someone is compassionate towards his friends, there is a noble and pure thing that he should do. That is to teach them how to go for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem clearly and permanently. It is in order to wholeheartedly establish them in that refuge.”
“Oh Monks, one who wholeheartedly accepts, believes, and reaches undoubted certainty about the Enlightenment of the immaculately pure-hearted Tathāgata, it is the first flood of great merit that brings him happiness.”
(Abhisanda Sutta – The Connected Discourses of the Buddha – 5)
“Oh Monks, one who does not accept, disbelieves, and doubts the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata is a poor person. Such a person lives in spiritual poverty.
(Ina Sutta – The Book of the sixes – The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha)
“Oh Monks, if one wholeheartedly goes for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem, and wholeheartedly accepts the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata, that sincere confidence that he possesses is his great wealth.”
The qualities of a sincere disciple…
One day Mahanāma a close relative of the Supreme Buddha from the Sakyan clan asked “Venerable Sir, please describe the nature of a sincere disciple’s confidence in the Buddha.” The Blessed One replied:
“Oh Mahanāma, this is the kind of confidence that a sincere disciple should have. He wholeheartedly accepts the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata. He recognized the qualities of the Supreme Buddha in this manner: He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of araham – for conquering the deceitful web of ignorance and eradicated all defilements such as greed, hatred, and delusion. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of sammāsambuddho – for realizing the truth without anyone’s help, with his own knowledge and effort. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of vijjācaranasampanno – for being endowed with virtue of the highest purity, an extremely well-concentrated mind, and dispelling ignorance to achieve true knowledge. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of sugato – for striving mightily to achieve liberation, following the noble path, and successfully achieving the blissful state of Nibbāna. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of lokavidū – for discovering all secrets and mysteries, and achieving complete knowledge of the entire universe including the human world, hells, heavenly worlds, and the Brahma worlds. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of anuttaro purisadammasārathi – for having the ability to show the path to liberation for any human, god or brahma possessing the requisite merit to achieve liberation. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of satthā devamanussānaṁ – for being the only and beloved noble teacher of gods and humans. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of buddho – for unconditionally sharing and teaching the Dhamma that he had realized with supreme effort and sacrifice. He wholeheartedly accepts the Blessed One’s quality of bhagavā – for being the sole human being who was the Blessed One imbued with an unlimited array of amazing qualities.
Oh Mahanāma, if one abides recollecting the qualities of the Supreme Buddha in this way, such confidence is truly sincere.”
The Greatest Thing in the world…
Meritorious disciples, let us wholeheartedly go for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem. Let us not go for refuge to any other person or any other thing whatsoever. How could we gain anything greater than going for refuge to the Blessed One, the Supreme Buddha who is the most honest, most virtuous, most wise, kindest, most intelligent, and the Noblest? It is not only this present life that becomes successful when one goes for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem with true realization. The next life will certainly be a happy one. Such fortunate disciple will not be born in a bad destination. This has been stated by the Blessed One himself.
“Oh Mahanāma, if someone has wholeheartedly gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha over a long period, how could such a sincere and confident disciple be reborn in a bad destination?”
(Sarakāni Sutta – The Connected Discourses of the Buddha – 5)
So it is very clear to us now. There is a great person who can relieve us of all our suffering in life, and provide encouragement, happiness, and good fortune. The Supreme Buddha’s power is amazing and immeasurable. This power extends across the universe.
You can undoubtedly have the help of this noble power. We can have the help of this same power of the Buddha to fulfil all our hopes and to quickly negate the harmful impact of previous karma. The help of the Supreme Buddha can be used to gain the blessings and help of gods with right view. Furthermore, the help of the Supreme Buddha will pave the path to end suffering in this endless cycle of rebirths, to gain the fruits of the Noble Eightfold Path, and to achieve the true happiness of Nibbāna.
Most Venerable Kiribathgoda Gnānānanda Thera