November 28 : Homage to the Three Jewels: Verses Said Before Meals

“Great compassionate Protector, All-knowing Teacher, Field of merit and good qualities vast as an ocean — To the Tathagata, I bow.” This verse pays homage to the Buddha, who out of compassion taught us how to protect our minds from the afflictions that result in karma, suffering, and rebirth. Because of his vast spiritual attainments, any actions we do in relation to the Buddha become extremely potent. Contemplating verses extolling the Buddha’s good qualities can immensely expand our selfimage and life purpose when we consider our potential to develop these qualities.

The next verse pays homage to the Dharma Jewel — the true paths and true cessations that actually liberate our mind: “Through purity, freeing from attachment; Through virtue, freeing from the lower realms; Unique, supreme ultimate reality — To the Dharma that is peace, I bow.” Purity refers to the true path of wisdom realising emptiness, which stops rebirth altogether by uprooting ignorance while creating virtue preventing lower rebirths. “Unique, supreme ultimate reality” refers to the true cessation, or nirvana, which is the emptiness of the mind that has eliminated all afflictions and cognitive obscurations.

The Sangha Jewel refers to Aryas who have realised emptiness directly and non-conceptually at the Path of Seeing: “Having freed themselves showing the path to freedom, too, well established in the trainings. The holy field endowed with good qualities, to the Sangha I bow.” Aryas can be either lay or ordained persons following any of the three vehicles: hearer, solitary realiser, or Bodhisattva. Aryas have freed themselves from uncontrolled rebirth in samsara and can lead others to freedom. The Sangha embodies the three higher trainings of ethics, concentration and wisdom, having integrated them into their mind streams.

Like the Buddha, the Sangha is a field of merit. The real holy field is the Arya Sangha who are completely reliable because of their realisations, but they are represented by a community of four or more fully ordained people. Making 466 | November November | 467 offerings to the Sangha creates a lot of merits because the monastic community has the very special role of inspiring people, protecting and preserving the teachings, and trying to embody them. The Sangha is essential to helping the Dharma become rooted, grow, and spread in any given country

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