His Holiness began his second day of teaching with wishes for a Happy New Year in Chinese, Tibetan, English and Korean.
“I wish you all a good heart and happiness every day, and peace and harmony in every corner of our world. May all beings on our planet live in equality and well being. “
Then he spoke on refuge and although this is the most fundamental of dharma teachings, there was a sense of freshness from the energy His Holiness put into it.
Why do we need to look for a source of refuge? From the time we are young, we rely on our parents. It’s a sign of mutual affection to look to parents and friends for companionship and happiness.
Many people come to me and tell me their woes and joys, asking for refuge and protection. We’re unable to free ourselves completely from sufferings and difficulties in our lives. But this is something I need to do this for myself, and we all need to do for ourselves.
We need to see if there is someone who can free us from all sufferings in all lifetimes. Someone who never gets a cold may not have encountered the conditions for a cold; similarly, there are not just the evident sicknesses that we show, but also those that haven’t manifested yet. Is there anyone who can protect us from this? And if so, who are they?
If we are to free ourselves from the net of suffering – birth, old age, sickness and death – then it has to be through someone who has freed himself from it. Like Prince Siddhartha, who left the Palace and saw that we have the basis for suffering in birth, old age, sickness and death, so too we have to face our fear of these sufferings. The desire to go for refuge needs to come from within.
The person who had the instructions to free us is the Buddha; he assembled all the external causes and thus taught the four noble truths to free us from samsara. Those who practise it, our companions, are sangha.
These are the three jewels and if we go for refuge we develop faith in them.
So we need to fear suffering and to have faith in the three jewels.
We can free ourselves from the ocean of samsara because we have all the inner and outer conditions. Taking the refuge vow means making a commitment to hold the precepts, according to our capabilities.
His Holiness gave refuge in Chinese, Tibetan, English and Korean.
The teaching continued.
There are things that we need to give up. The first is taking refuge in worldly deities because it won’t free us from suffering. Then we have to give up harming others intentionally. And thirdly, we have to give up harmful friends; that means those people who draw us downwards. It’s important for dharma friends to help each and maintain good connections.
We’re not saying that people who are not Buddhist cannot experience bodhicittta. There’s a story about this. The last person to take Gelong vows from the Buddha asked him if any of the Hindu traditions had the path of liberation. The Buddha didn’t answer immediately. First he taught the noble eightfold path then replied that anyone who had that, was the sangha. So we are not saying that other religions do not have love and compassion.
We also have to value everything that represents the Buddha, all the words of the Buddha and even a scrap of yellow robe.
Keep the refuge in mind and try to recite it three times a day, or whenever you remember the three jewels.
Whenever we begin any activity we should first go for refuge.
Never give up on the three jewels.