Going for "Refuge"?
ANSWER: They are disclosed in a formula called Ti-saraṇa* (the "Three Guides"), which is, in fact, "Buddhism" (the Buddha's Dharma):
- I follow the Buddha as my Guide (Buddham saranam gacchami).
- I follow the Dharma as my Guide (Dhammam saranam gacchami).
- I follow the Sangha as my Guide (Sangham saranam gacchami).
Sâranam: Mr. Wijesinha Mudaliyar writes Col. Olcott: This word [sarana] has hitherto been very inappropriately and erroneously rendered "refuge" by European Pali language scholars, and thoughtlessly so accepted by native Asian Pali scholars.
Neither Pali etymology nor Buddhistic philosophy justifies this translation. 'Refuge,' in the sense of a fleeing back or a place of shelter, is quite foreign to true [original] Buddhism, which insists on all people working out their own emancipation.
The root sṛ in Sanskrit (sara in Pali) means to move, to go, so that saranam would denote a moving, or one or that which goes, before or with another — a Guide or Helper.
I construe the passage thus:
- Gacchāmi: I go
- Buddham: to the Buddha
- Sâranam: as my guide.
|The Awakened One (Buddha), the Path to Awakening (Dharma), the Awakened (Sangha)|
The term refuge is more applicable to nirvaṇa, of which sâranam is a synonym.
Buddham sâranam gacchâmi might thus be rendered:
- the first by his teaching
- the second by its universal truth
- the third [the monastic order and, more importantly the noble community of enlightened individuals, many of whom are not monastics] by their various examples and precepts."
Q: What does [a Buddhist] mean when repeating this formula?
A: Buddhists mean that they regard the Buddha as an all-wise teacher, spiritual friend, and exemplar.
The Dharma, or "Doctrine," is the Teaching that contains the essential and immutable principles of justice and truth and the Path that leads to the realization of perfect peace of mind in this very life.
The Sangha, or Community, are living examples and teachers of the excellent Dharma taught by Buddha.
Q: But are not some of the members of this "Monastic Order" intellectually and morally inferior men?
A: Yes. But we are taught by the Buddha that only those who diligently attend to the precepts, discipline their hearts/minds, and strive to attain or have attained one of the eight stages of enlightenment and perfection constitute the Buddhist "community."
- [The Four Stages of Enlightenment are divided into four paths and four fruits. This is explained in The Path of Purification commentarial system as only a thought-moment apart from one another. Alternatively, there is sutra evidence that the eight stages refer to those on the path (to stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arhatship) and those who have consummated each of these paths.]
The mere wearing of yellow robes, or even monastic ordination, does not of itself make a person pure, wise, or entitled to reverence.
Q: Then it is not such unworthy [Buddhist monastics, ascetics, recluses] as they, whom the true Buddhist, would take as their guides?