November 21 : Words on Refuge from Our Teachers

Geshe Sopa never messes around. He scares our self-centeredness in a very nice way. “Living in the bottomless ocean of samsara (the situation we are in) My body is devoured by t he sea m onsters of i nsatiable d esire (endless d esires of I d o n ot want it like that, I want it like this) and other afflictions (endless anger, irritation, confusion arising). Where can I go for refuge today?” He says, “The ocean of samsara is boundless in depth. When you live there, you are eaten up by desire, hatred, and other mental afflictions, just like a small creature is devoured by crocodiles. Beginning immediately, take refuge to be protected from them.”

At the Abbey, we do this beautiful prayer twice a month to renew our refuge and our precepts: “From beginningless time until the present, in my attempt to find happiness (which is what everyone is doing), I have been taking refuge, but the things I rely upon have not been able to bring me the lasting state of peace and joy that I seek. I have taken refuge in material possessions (if we do not feel good, we go out and buy something, or go to our comfy little home and close the door and shut everybody out, or go for a ride in our new car). I have taken refuge in money, status, reputation, approval, praise, food, sex, music, and a myriad of other things. Then (and this is the key piece) these things have given me some temporal pleasure (We acknowledge that. There is nothing wrong with that. Enjoy all you want. We are here to be happy. If it is responsible.) But they lack the ability in themselves to bring me the lasting happiness. Why? Because they are transient and do not last long. My attachment to these things has in fact made me more dissatisfied, anxious, confused, frustrated, and fearful.” Think about that.

Pema Chodron wrote, “Taking refuge in the Dharma is traditionally taking refuge in the teachings of the Buddha. The teachings of the Buddha are ‘Let go and open to your world. Realise that trying to protect your own territory, trying to keep yourself enclosed and safe is fraught with misery and suffering. It will keep you in a very small, dank, smelly, introverted world that gets more and more claustrophobic and more and more misery-producing as you get older.”

These words are for our benefit. They help us understand where we are at and how to get to where we want to go. They are a gift, just like the gift the Buddha gave to all sentient beings. Enjoy and learn.

“365 Gems of Wisdom” e-book is out now!