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Refuge and Renewal
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Refuge and Renewal (11 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing and Ven. Tashi Nyima
November 11, 2012 - Dallas, Texas

Brother ChiSing: I'm so grateful, that I found this practice. I am so grateful that I found, the Dharma. I'm so grateful to be able to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

One time I had a dream, and in this dream I was in a beautiful church. And I knelt before the altar and I prayed, and I asked God, in this dream, "Dear God, if you are the perfect creator—then that means that you can only create perfect creation. So if that's the case, why do you allow me to mess up so much? Why do I mess up so much? How is this possible—how can this be!" [Laughter]

And in the dream, I heard the voice of God speaking softly in my heart, and it said "It's because, my child, I have a sense of humor!" [Laughter] Anyway, that was a wonderful dream for me.

So many times in my life, I look and I see all the different trial and error mistakes I make. And I don't know what I would have done without this practice, this refuge. So I am very grateful.

According to the Buddha's teachings, especially from the Theravadan tradition, from their point of view, there are four stages of enlightenment. The Stream-Enterer, the Once-Returner, the Non-Returner, and the Arahant; but I am not really so concerned about the last three, because, to me, they are just so far advanced.

I just want to be concerned with the "Stream-Enterer". The first stage of enlightenment, and according to the Buddha's teachings in the Theravadin tradition, it's very simple to realize the first stage of enlightenment. To enter the stream of enlightenment only requires taking refuge in the Buddha, taking refuge in the Dharma, taking refuge in the Sangha, and practicing the five mindfulness trainings but doing them fully with all our heart, with our deepest commitment, and diligently throughout our life.

So, perhaps, if you think that full enlightenment is a little bit too daunting, well how about just the first stage of enlightenment, just entering the stream of non-retrogression? Where, from that point forward, you never go backwards ever again. Just always forwards, towards full enlightenment.

So, whether you want to take that literally or metaphorically, I think the point of this teaching is that "you can do it." It's not as hard as you think. It just takes practice, and it takes the willingness to commit, and to fully receive the support of the enlightened teachers, the enlightened teachings and practices, and all those who are in the community with you, supporting you, and you supporting them in the practice.

If I didn't have refuge, I would give up pretty easily. Without refuge, you're just like a little drop of water, as I've shared before. You can evaporate so easily by yourself. But by taking refuge, you join your little drop of water with many, many, other drops of water—creating a mighty river on the path of enlightenment that cannot be stopped.

So if you're in an anxiety mind state, or a depression mind state, or a peaceful mind state, or an anger mind state, or a blissful mind state—whatever your mind state is: keep practicing and keep taking refuge, through all of it.

You know, there is so much different terrain along the way. It's not all mountain peaks [Laughs]. There are valleys and there are crags, and there are all kinds of confusing labyrinths and forests and all that just using that metaphor. There is even a plateau of dry desert on the path, but if you take refuge—you can get through it.

Especially in my life, when I have gone through the dry spots in my practice where "Gosh, there doesn't seem too much bliss right now, and there doesn't seem too be much peace, not even much wisdom." And yet I still take refuge. I take refuge. I take refuge.

That's the only way I know how to get through all the different parts of our life journey, is to just keep taking refuge.

Now in the Zen tradition and some other traditions we also say "Not only do I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha" but also "the Buddha takes refuge in me, the Dharma takes refuge in me, and the Sangha takes refuge in me". That might sound a bit sacrilegious. But the deepest truth is that who you truly are is Buddha, is Dharma, and is Sangha.

So all other beings, who are enlightened, they need you because we are all needed, all together, without one single being lost. All of us together are needed to have a full manifestation of Buddha, a full manifestation of Dharma, a full manifestation of Sangha. If even one being is left out, we are not complete. So all of us are necessary, and all of us are the Infinite Light, the Infinite Love, and the Infinite Life.

So thank you for being who you are. Amitabha.

Ven. Tashi Nyima: Just very briefly, for those of you who took refuge or renewed your refuge: This is, in the most fundamental sense, the practice, that we do throughout our entire spiritual cultivation, taking refuge.

But taking refuge, very often, we misunderstand it to be going to some external agent for protection. That is not the meaning of refuge in the teaching of the Buddha. It means going to your true self, going to your Buddha nature, going to your natural perfection for refuge.

"Going to the Dharma [for refuge]", means going to the light that is already in you. That is the nature of your mind: it is pure, it is clear, it is luminous.

"Going to the Sangha for refuge", means that you are approaching and joining the assembly of the noble ones who have already conquered the illusion and the ignorance of duality.

So this is the practice of spirituality: Going for refuge to the Buddha, to the Awakened One within; going to the Dharma, to the reality as it is, and going to the Sangha, to the community— The absolute unity of all sentient beings in one great life, one great light, and one great love.

So what you've done today is, if you pursue this fact— what you will do every day. It is no different. We are not hunting for "higher teachings". This is the highest teaching, going for refuge in your Buddha nature.


Thank you.

Brother ChiSing: I also want to say that tonight on 11/11, it is forty days and forty nights before the Winter Solstice. And many people are using this Winter Solstice as a symbolic date to make a commitment to helping to renew the earth, to help all beings on this planet to awaken. And so "practice" — I encourage you to start today, practice for forty days and forty nights. Really take refuge and really commit to helping the planet to awaken.

Let's all do this together; however you interpret the 12/21/12 date, it really doesn't matter. We are just being playful with the date. So let's use this time, this next 40 days as a deep time of commitment to the practice of our spirituality.

Thank you.

Transcribed by Mark Edwards

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