The first big event to which we will be throwing open our new doors is Refuge Day on December 30th. To my mind, this is one of the best days of the year especially when it is the exciting first big event in a brand new meditation center! With refuge we find deep inner peace and protection by coming under the care and guidance of the Three Jewels -- Buddha, Dharma (the teachings and experiences of the teachings), and Sangha (our spiritual community).
Everyone is warmly invited! There is something for everyone. The morning is divided into two parts. First there is a teaching on refuge. After a break comes the actual Refuge Ceremony, a ritual guided meditation dating back to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni; and of course it will be up to you whether you use this to start traveling the spiritual path as a Buddhist or simply as a powerful blessing and inspiration on your spiritual journey. As well as drawing us closer to the love and protection of all Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – the Ceremony also serves as a powerful method to purify a lot of negative karma and create great good karma.
This will be followed by delicious lunch with all our Sangha.
Refuge is what we turn to in order to get rid of our suffering. We go for refuge because we need refuge, or protection, from our various problems, big or small. We arguably spend all day going for refuge, trying to get rid of one thing by turning to something else.
If we are feeling unwell, we turn to medicine; if we’re lonely, maybe we turn to friends or Tinder; if we’re hungry, we eat something if we can; if we’re frustrated, we write comments on social media; if we’re bored, maybe we surf; if we’re uncomfortable, we shift our body into another position. Etc.
Those are relatively tame things to do – we also have a large variety of more suspect things we turn to, such as opioids or the pursuit of power, status, and more and more and more stuff.
Watching sped-up movies, we can see how we’re always on the go — getting up, sitting down, propping ourselves up, lying down, walking around, sitting down again. Each day is a constant pursuit of little relief hits from what are basically physical or mental aches and pains. And we’ve been doing this our entire life. In all our lives, since beginningless time.
But the interesting thing is that we have just as many problems to solve as ever, don’t you find? We have just as many physical aches and pains, quite possibly more given that this body doesn’t get more comfortable as it gets older. Not to mention the near-constant mental aches and pains. So, we’re turning for refuge to other things all the time, but they are clearly only providing some temporary relief at best.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t eat, drink coffee, get a job, surf the internet, etc. That’s not Buddha’s point. His point is, are we finding the lasting happiness and freedom that we all long for? Are these temporary refuges sufficient for us, or could we actually be doing more? Could we be getting rid of our aches and pains more effectively? Could we be bringing real refuge into the lives of others?
And this is not even talking about those BIG problems — namely ageing, sickness, major loss, catastrophes, and death — just the run of the mill irritations and discomforts. Coffee, the internet, power/status, and hot dates don’t even touch the big problems. Right now the world is in a horrible mess. There is so much hatred and division, not to mention poverty, anxiety, and depression. We need an effective way to protect our loved ones and everyone else. Refuge provides that. It is through seeing suffering that Buddha decided to leave his cushy life in the palace and attain enlightenment, then showing the rest of us how to do the same. Instead of missing the wood for the trees, Buddha has invited us to broaden our perspective and understand the whole context, see the whole forest. Why? Because all these problems have a deeper cause, one that only Dharma can touch, that Dharma DOES touch.
The three things I am really hoping everyone can take away with them are: (1) at heart you are sane and have huge potential, and nothing can take that away. (2) Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are actual sources of protection, and the closer you get to them, the safer and happier you will become. (3) We can become sources of refuge ourselves, bright lights and shelter in this dark and confused world.
Basically Buddhist refuge means that instead of turning to worldly solutions, or sense pleasures, or indeed anything outside our mind, we turn inside to the practice of Buddhadharma. The main object of refuge in Buddhism is our own efforts in practicing Dharma: such as increasing our inner peace, getting rid of our delusions (sometimes known, with good reason, as “afflictions”), practicing patience, love, compassion, and wisdom. We turn to Dharma experience because we appreciate that it is the effective and lasting protection from our problems.
There would be no Dharma without Buddha Shakyamuni -- he taught it in our world, and Buddhas also emanate as various Spiritual Guides who can guide us and bless our minds. Without Buddhas, or enlightened beings, it would be impossible to practice Dharma. And we also turn to Sangha, such as our fellow Dharma practitioners – others who are also interested in solving their problems from the inside out. One of the best things about our new Center is that it will be a beautiful gathering place for Sangha. Our spiritual friends can support us and inspire us in profound ways encouraging us in our meditations and giving us good advice and support when we have problems in life. One thing Sangha demonstrate is real hope that we can, after all, solve our problems and find lasting happiness.
See you soon. I can’t wait!
4840 W.29th Ave., Denver, CO