Refuges & Precepts

The earliest Western converts to Buddhism expressed their commitments to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, as well as to the practice of non-harm in body, speech, and mind, by reciting the “Three Refuges and Five Precepts” in Pali. This recitation goes back to an ancient South Asian custom of expressing allegiance to a system of training by stating your commitment to a teacher, their teaching, and the family (sangha) of those who practice that system. When one wants to formally commit to the Buddhist path, it is traditional to ask the most senior member of your local Buddhist temple to chant these verses with you while you make offerings of flowers, incense, and candles.

Going Forth: the Preliminary to Going for Refuge

Before one can Go for Refuge to the Three Jewels (Refuges), one must first “Go Forth” from worldly preoccupations and identifications. This may mean taking visibly dramatic steps to no longer use one’s NAME and group identity; it may be a less obvious and more subtle internal revolution; or it may mean taking action in between these two poles of perception. Either way, learning the meaning and methods of Going Forth is essential prior to converting to Buddhism.

The Three Refuges of Buddhism

  • The Buddha: either historical, archetypal, or innate.
  • The Dharma: either as universal Truth, or the canonical scriptures of Buddhism; not meant as caste duty, nor as the “atoms” of Buddhist psychology.
  • The Sangha: either mundane communities of monks, nuns, and laypeople; or transcendental fellowships, with degrees of Awakening, where lifestyles are secondary to commitment.

Undertaking the five ethical precepts

  • Non-harm in body by being as kind as possible.
  • Non-harm in body through sharing as much as possible.
  • Non-harm in body by practicing contentment.
  • Non-harm in speech through speaking truthfully.
  • Non-harm in mind especially through sobriety.

The Recitation of the Three Refuges and Five Precepts

Ascetic Shakyamuni
Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha of South Asia

Ti-Sarana Panca-Sila (Three Refuges and Five Precepts)

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa.​
​(​Honour to the ​Blessed, the ​E​xalted​, the Fully-Awakened​.)​
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa.​
​(​Honour to the ​Blessed, the ​E​xalted​, the Fully-Awakened​.)​
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa.​
​(​Honour to the ​Blessed, the ​E​xalted​, the Fully-Awakened​.)​

Buddham saranam gacchami.
(To the Awakened for refuge I go.)
Dhammam saranam gacchami.
(To the Truth for refuge I go.)
Sangham saranam gacchami.
(To the Family for refuge I go.)

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami.
(For a second time to the Awakened for refuge I go.)
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami.
(For a second time to the Truth for refuge I go.)
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami.
(For a second time to the Family for refuge I go.)

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami.
(For a third time to the Awakened for refuge I go.)
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami.
(For a third time to the Truth for refuge I go.)
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami.
(For a third time to the Family for refuge I go.)

Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
(Killing, it’s opposite as a path to power, I undertake.)
Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
(Taking that which is not given, it’s opposite as a path to power, I undertake.)
Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
(Sensual misconduct, it’s opposite as a path to power, I undertake.)
Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
(False speech, it’s opposite as a path to power, I undertake.)
Surameraya majja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
(Wine, liquor and intoxicants clouding the mind, their opposite as a path to power, I undertake.)

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
(Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!)


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