The three jewels is an idea central to Buddhism. The three jewels are:
- The Buddha: The actual dude from the past and the level of nibbana/nirvana.
- The Dharma: The teachings.
- The Sangha: The community that keeps the tradition alive (formally monks, nuns and cats at varying stages of enlightenment).
Being Buddhist is all about taking refuge in those three things. Taking refuge in those three things essentially means that’s where you go for guidance on your path to getting more happy, ending suffering and enlightenment. That’s what those prayer beads (called mala) are all about. Taking refuge as a reminder for your goals and the path to achieving them. It’s translated a number of ways, but here’s how I say it to myself:
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
I go to the Dharma for refuge.
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Buddhism is new to me, but I’m taking it very seriously. I’m studying the Dharma on the daily, I’m taking the precepts seriously and I get my refuge on multiple times a day. That said, I’ve been a long time fan of Daoism and I love me some science. What’s a Daoist-Buddhist-Atheist to do? Take refuge in all three, that’s what! 😀
I Go to the Dao for Refuge
When taking refuge in the Dao I’m thinking about the inexplicable “Way,” the teachings from it (Daodejing, Chuangzi, Liezi, etc.) and my community of “sages” (at least that’s what we like to think we are).
I’ve recently really been into this first line of the Daodejing. Today I’ll share R.B. Blakney’s translation of that first line (see a side-by-side comparison of 24 translations here):
There are ways but the Way is uncharted
Beautiful. Wish every religious text started like that:
- Buddhism: There are ways but the way to nirvana is uncharted
- Christianity: There are ways but the way to heaven is uncharted
- Atheism: There are ways but the way to new discoveries is uncharted
- Martial Arts-ism: There are ways but the way to mastery is uncharted
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a number of books and teachers that can help you on your way. There are. The point (to me) is that it’s YOUR way and you’re ultimately captain of the ship. Don’t follow anything blindly. Reflect on it, test it, experience it (if it makes sense to do that). The Daodejing goes on to tell you the way of the Way, but it warns you about the pitfalls of the Way becoming a way (to the Way? lol)
Live. Learn. Repeat.
I Go to the Buddha for Refuge
I love Buddhism for its structure and “tried and true” method as a vehicle for “higher states of consciousness.” Where Daoism is (purposefully) elusive and mysterious, Buddhism is clear and concise. I already wrote in more detail about why Daoism led me to Buddhism. Here’s a little on the clarity.
Buddhism is like a 12 step program for people trying to quit the bad habits of life. The first four steps are the Four Noble Truths:
- Life is guaranteed to suck sometimes
- The root of that suck is from desire/attachment
- It’s possible to get rid of the suck
- There is a path to break free from suckage
The next eight steps is that path, called the Noble Eightfold Path:
- Skillful view
- Skillful intention
- Skillful speech
- Skillful action
- Skillful livelihood
- Skillful effort
- Skillful mindfulness
- Skillful concentration
Throw a dash of meditation in the mix and you’ll be enlightened in no time flat! 😉 The other awesome part about Buddhism is you can find a community or temple to train with pretty much anywhere you go. While some places on the planet will be more steeped in Buddhism (Thailand) than others (sub-Saharan Africa), having a mobile Buddhist temple and community of your own is easy to do. There are tons of books and websites and forums and apps to fit any Buddhist’s needs. The same can’t be said about Daoism.
PROTIP: Download the Access to Insight app.
I Go to Science for Refuge
Science. I don’t really think I need to say anything about the (true, not overly used) awesome of science. I’ll most likely be preaching to the choir. That said, science has made a lot of headway in the field of happiness and I don’t think we’re far from science having more to say about meditation and “enlightenment” in general. Also, real Buddhism and Daoism wants you to be scientific in your approach to your studies. You’re not being asked to blindly meditate “just because” or do anything you don’t want to do.
I look forward to science getting more serious about the human condition, instead of doing science for the sake of doing science. It would be fun to see more countries tackle social issues with Gross National Happiness (GNH) in mind instead of product (products seem to be happiness kryptonite anyway). Some economists say we’ll be able to objectively measure happiness, if we get scientific agreement for some kind of “universal standard for happiness” perhaps GNH will be the measuring stick for all regions of the world.
An Atheist Religion
I know there are atheists that think atheism and religion are not compatible, but I disagree. I suppose what I’d like to one day see would be so stripped of all the things that are usually associated with religion that it would be hard to call it a religion. There doesn’t need to be any prayer, temples, worship of gods (or people) or any of that. Just a community of people that get together and talk about “skillful living.” I think the “three jewels” above is a good start for a miltownkult. 🙂