All Humankind is my Kin

The third jewel/refuge in Buddhadharma is Sangha—the community of virtuous ones, past, present and future, who reflect, practice and live in a pure hearted way, contemplate truth and develop wisdom.

When we take refuge in Sangha, we not only belong to, a safe, vibrant, engaged and interconnected community, we also provide refuge. Whatever gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, young or old, rich or poor, educated or under-educated, each equally belongs.  It doesn’t mean that conflicts don’t arise when human beings interact.  Yet, taking and providing refuge, a ground of trust is established in mutual intentions of goodwill and harmlessness, assured that each of us takes responsibility for the impact of our thoughts, words and deeds on fellow beings.  Sangha grows through the agglomeration of our individual commitments to provide such refuge.

Committing to our part, we resolve to make our invisible prejudices and biases visible, to honestly and openly work to make conscious our unconsciousness in the spheres of race, class and  all other categories into which we compartmentalize, and ignore the uniqueness of, every being.  This is required of each of us in these times of internecine race, class and religious wars born of greed, hatred and delusion.  Uprooting these defilements, we are Sangha that provides that refuge for which every one of us yearns.

We join Thomas Paine in saying, “The world is my country, all [hu]mankind is my … [kin] and my religion is to do good.”

May we each provide peace, harmony and true refuge.

Dhamma is Everywhere

Dhamma is the second jewel, the second of the three refuges in Buddhist practice. When we take refuge in Dhamma, we seek and find safety in the truth of the way things actually are, everywhere, warts and all.

Taking refuge in Dhamma is a state of meditative relaxed alert attention, neither trying to get rid of anything nor caught in the habits of indulgence of the pleasant and suppression of the unpleasant—not trying to make things fit our idea of how they should be, but understanding, through looking deeply, how they truly are. We can open ourselves here and now to the way it is, rather than attaching to the way we romantically think things ought to be.

Meeting the flow of life as Dhamma (teaching), clarity and peacefulness emerge.

Not waiting for someone else to realize the truth for us, we see Dhamma for ourselves right here and now in this seemingly imperfect daily life, in the hurly burly of interaction and responsibilities; in mind/heart/body internal and external reality, and their relationship.  Wisdom viscerally sees the truth of the constantly changing, insubstantial, subtle, diaphonous and tenuous nature of all life; the truth of unsatisfactoriness, its cause, its ceasing and the Path to its ceasing; the inexorable law that all words and actions have consequences; and the dryness of a life lived without kindness and compassion.

Seeing, we stop.  Stopping, we find refuge in Dhamma. Wisdom opens the way to spaciousness, to living in safety.  Deep and long outbreath.



“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

Living in beautiful Westchester County, I have the privilege of choices of woodlands, riverbanks and dirt roads to walk in nature.  My backyard is a sanctuary to fauna—birds, stray cats, foxes, squirrels and deer, and abundant flora—buddleia, fungi and lichen. We are constantly reminded of how nature takes care of itself, a metaphor for cultivation of the mind: establish supportive conditions, guard young growth against damage, and attend with care.  In time, a Refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place, is discerned.

From the Buddha’s central teaching that human life is fraught with danger from greed, anger, and delusion, we realize that taking refuge is essential.  Because the mind is the source of both the dangers and their release, there are two levels of refuge: external (models and guidelines to identify which mental qualities lead to danger and which to release); and internal (skillful mental qualities, where true safety is found).

The refuges in Buddhism are the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, also known as the Triple Gem. In ancient times, gems were believed to have protective powers. The powers of the Triple Gem are even more powerful—protecting us from the uncertainties of the realm of aging, illness, and death.  Skillful mental qualities are developed internally from the external guides of the Triple Gem. For example, the Buddha was a person of wisdom, purity and compassion and Awakened through conviction, determination, mindfulness, and discernment. We, too, can develop qualities of Awakened Mind as ultimate refuge and sanctuary.  Where do you go for refuge?