Refuge (buddhism)

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Refuge ( Sanskrit , n., त्रिशरण, triśaraṇa / Trisharana ; Pali : tisaraṇa ; "triple refuge") is a central term in Buddhism . By taking refuge in the three jewels = Buddha , Dharma , Sangha , one declares oneself outwardly to be a Buddhist. Taking refuge means letting these three jewels become the essential pillars of personal belief and life practice, i.e. to orientate oneself towards the Buddha, his teaching and the community. Refuge can take place as part of a ceremony (within the framework of a Buddhist community) and is usually linked to an obligation to the so-called Five Silas , the moral rules of practice.

After taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, one should not take further refuge in unenlightened beings (God, gods), as these ultimately do not help one to overcome samsara and attain nirvana .

Refuge takes place in the Buddha as a teacher, the Dharma as a guideline and the “awakened” Sangha as a model.


Refuge is based on the knowledge and recognition of the possibility that every living being has the potential and the possibility to completely free itself from suffering and that there are beings who have achieved this and support one on the way there. But in the end you go the way yourself, nobody can relieve you of it. Everyone bears full responsibility for their own path.


When you choose to take refuge, you commit yourself to the Buddhist path. This includes keeping the resolutions or vows, in particular the resolution not to harm any living being. This compulsory resolution is always tacitly associated with taking refuge.

The resolutions and formulations may differ depending on the tradition and teacher.

These five resolutions ( five silas ) can also be viewed as part of the refuge:

1. Don't kill : Refers to both humans and animals, both are sentient beings.
2. Don't steal : not to take anything that has not been given.
3. No sexual misconduct : Only practice sex between adult partners who are not otherwise bound.
4. Don't lie : Can be applied to all forms of lying.
5. Avoid intoxicating substances: Traditionally refers to alcohol, but any other substance that dulls the mind should be avoided.

Refuge Formulas

The triple refuge is already mentioned several times in the Pali Canon , the oldest collection of Buddhist scriptures (see " Sources for Refuge "). The refuge formula preceded by devotion, as given below, is found literally in the Shorter Compilation of the Suttapitaka . It is recited in various Buddhist traditions to this day. Often it is not recited in the local language, but in Pali or Sanskrit .

  • Worship formula ( Namaskara ), which precedes the refuge:


Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa . (3x) (dt: worship him, the sublime, the holy, the fully awakened.)


Namo Buddhāya (dt: worship be the Buddha)
Namo Dharmāya (dt: worship be the Dharma)
Namo Saṃghāya (dt: Worship be to the Sangha)
  • Traditional Refuge Formula (Pali):
Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi . (dt: I take refuge in / to the Buddha)
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi . (dt: I take refuge in the Dharma / Dhamma)
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi . (dt: I take refuge in / to the Sangha)
Dutiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi . (German: For the second time I take ...)
Dutiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi .
Dutiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi .
Tatiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi . (dt: For the third time I take ...)
Tatiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi .
Tatiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi .
Together with all living beings
I assume from today
until the essence of enlightenment is attained,
Refuge in Buddha as a teacher,
Refuge in his teaching, which consists of traditional and internally realized knowledge, and
Refuge in the community of sublime beings.

Degrees of refuge according to Atisha

According to Atisha's lamp for the way (11th century) and the subsequent Lamrim tradition, which was founded by Tsongkhapa , one can distinguish different degrees of refuge:

The practitioner's intentions are used to distinguish, using the concept of realms :

  1. Worldly realm means taking refuge in order to improve one's life (not a Buddhist)
  2. Lowest Buddhist realm means to take refuge in order to attain a higher rebirth and thereby avoid the lower realms.
  3. Middle Buddhist realm means taking refuge in order to attain nirvana .
  4. High Buddhist realm means taking refuge in order to become a Buddha.
  5. Supreme Buddhist realm is sometimes mentioned, means taking refuge in order to attain Buddhahood in this life (through the application of Buddhist Tantra techniques).

Refuge in the Guru

In Vajrayana Buddhism one also takes refuge in the gurus , the respective lamas . These represent the perfect qualities of the Buddha for the students and are mediators of the Dharma . In the actual refuge ceremony , however, mostly only refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is taken. You are not committed to a lama (teacher), a center, a tradition or a group, but only Buddha, Dharma and Sangha . Refuge in the Guru is an advanced practice ( Guruyoga ) in Vajrayana Buddhism.

Literature on Refuge


  • Ringu Tulku : Refuge - Discovering Meaning and Path. Bodhicharya Verlag, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-937457-13-5 .
  • Arya Maitreya: Buddha Nature. The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY 2000, ISBN 1-55939-128-6 (annotated by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche).

Web links

Sources of Refuge (in the Palikanon)

Links to Refuge