A very warm welcome!

Thanks for visiting this, my second blog! You can visit Heart and Soil to see what I get up to on our 40 odd acres of land in Exmoor, basketry, crafts and general things and stuff.

I thought I would start this blog off by doing a day by day diary of my 2008 solitary retreat. You can find my posts on the preparation for this retreat over at Heart and Soil on this link:

Many people have said to me that they wish they could do a solitary retreat, because 'they really need one'. That's why I decided to share one of my retreat experiences, to hopefully make going on retreat alone, a bit less mysterious and a bit more 'doable'.

Offered with much love for your continued happiness!

Solitary Retreat Diary

Please remember that in order for the diary section of this blog to make sense you should start from Day 1 and work your way through. At the moment the best way to do this is by using the labels list on the right.

I will compile a links list to make this easier when I have posted the last day... and when I have a minute!


Saturday, 28 February 2009

Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels

I was inspired to post this by G over at Buddha Space.  His post Buddhism and Science: Superstition brought to my mind many things which culminated in my revisiting what it means to me to be a practicing Buddhist.   So I've stripped back how I practice Buddhism to it's basics.


Buddhists go for refuge to the Three Jewels.  It is this that seperates a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist.  It means we have decided to follow in the shoes of Buddha Shakyamuni, as we believe the teachings he gave, 2500 years ago, are relevant to our attainment of happiness now.  The core teaching of Buddha Shakymuni is the Four Noble Truths -

All existence is dukkha. 
(un-satisfactoriness, suffering). 

The cause of dukkha is craving.

The cessation of dukkha comes with the cessation of craving.

There is a path that leads from dukkha.  The Noble eightfold path.

It is important to understand that going for refuge does not mean 'an escape to anyone', or a 'giving in to' anything.  We are each responsible for our own practice, our own happiness.  The Buddha himself pressed the point that we should not just take his word for it, but test his teachings against our own experience.

The physical and mental act of going for refuge to the Three Jewels (outlined at the bottom of the post), can offer supreme inspiration and support to our practice.  It is a daily reminder of our decision to study the teachings (Dharma Jewel) of Buddha Shakyamuni (Buddha Jewel) and join with others practicing the same spiritual path (Sangha Jewel). 

The Buddha Jewel

Buddha Shakyamuni was a real person, like you or me. He lived 2500 years ago and it was he who, after he attained enlightenment and became an 'awakened one' or 'Buddha', chose to share his wisdom with us.  The Buddha jewel reminds us that we too can be awakened, that it is possible to be released from cravings and end our suffering.  

Going for refuge to the Buddha Jewel is a reminder of what we are aiming for and a motivation for achieving it.

The Dharma Jewel

After Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment he wasn't sure if others would understand him, if he tried to teach them what he had learned.  He meditated on this and had the vision of a bed of Lotus flowers...  

They were growing out of sticky, wet mud.  Some of the buds were still under the mud pushing their way up to the light.  Some buds were just bursting through the mud, not yet opened.  Some were above the mud, untouched by it, petals clean and open to the sun.  He knew this meant that each of us have the potential to attain enlightenment, but we are all at different stages of ability to accept the Dharma.  So he gave teachings.  It is from this core of teachings that Buddhism as a practice was born.  

Studying the Dharma, and practicing it, is what Buddhists believe will help them to attain enlightenment, this is why we go for refuge to the Dharma Jewel.

The Sangha Jewel

Sangha is the spiritual community that practices the Dharma.  As I said at the top of this post, it is our own responsibility to practice.  The Dharma is there for the taking.  Nobody will force us to practice it, noone can wave a magic Dharma wand and free us from suffering, it's down to us.  However, being with people who have the same aim as you, who are trying to learn what you are learning, who may have had the same difficulties as you, or who may be more experienced than you, can be of great support and inspiration.  

Guidance from a spiritual teacher that you resonate with, someone who is further down the Dharma path than you, can be the key to success in your practice.  This is why we go for refuge to  the Sangha Jewel.

Going for Refuge Mantra

Reciting the mantra's below can help to deepen our experience of going for refuge to the Three Jewels.  It is normally performed everyday and is associated with prostration.  If you would like to prostrate while reciting these mantras you can simply bring your hands together mindfully at your chest and bow deeply.  This can be done in front of a shrine, which can have a Buddha statue on it or something that represents your Buddhist meditative practice.  I often prostrate to a tree or beautiful view.  If it is more appropriate I prostrate in my mind by immersing myself in the visualisation of prostrating and mantra recitation.

I go for refuge to the Buddha Jewel
I go for refuge to the Dharma Jewel
I go for refuge to the Sangha Jewel
repeat 3 times

Alternatively you could recite this Sanskrit form of the mantra -

Om Namo Manjushriye, Namo Sushriye, Namo Uttama Shriye Soha
repeat 3 times
(trans.  I pay homage to the Buddha, I pay homage to the Dharma, I pay homage to the Sangha)



sarah said...

An insightful post thanks Hen

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful Mantra. I believe when we fully embody the Words we evoke, we enter into that realm of existance. It is through feeling the Moment Fully that we can direct our Consciousness to any frequency of experience.

PeterAtLarge said...

Our little sangha in Laguna Beach, California, is indeed a jewel. We meet every Sunday, sit for an hour, talk dharma for an hour... Once a month out teacher, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, comes to visit. Come join us, one time. We have a regular from Aberdeen!

Elizabeth said...

Came to your blog via Gretel!
What a wonderful and different life in the country.
Wonderful reflections on nature and the world and spirit.
I'm a transplanted English person living in, of all places, Manhattan. (Just got back from Rajesthan..)
I miss the countryside terribly.

Kirigalpoththa said...

Great post! Thanks for posting!!

Wendy said...

Hen, I love your blog. I'd like to share mine with you. It is:

I am also a practicing Buddhist and I am a writer. I live in the Deep South of the U.S. I am a professor, but looking for something else to do with my life. I'd love a simpler life of simple work, writing, and my practice, outside of the city.

Please drop me a line if you have the time or desire.


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