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"Religion and Refuge"

Venerable Nandapala

Tisarana Newsletter, April 1999

          To many kinds of refuges fright-stricken persons betake themselves- to mountains, rocks, forests, groves, etc.

         No such refuge is rescue, nor such refuge supreme. Nay, no such refuge is safe, no such refuge is supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one freed from all ill.

          He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, sees with right knowledge the four Noble Truths-Sorrow and the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to the Cessation of Sorrow.

          This, indeed, is refuge secure. This, indeed, is refuge supreme. By seeking such refuge one is released from all sorrow.

(Dhammapada, by Atula Buddha, Peerless One)

         What is a religion" There is a general acceptance, in Buddhist or non- Buddhist countries all over the world that religion is a system of belief or faith.

          How did religion come into being within human society? Talking of a human being, who is comprised of mind and matter, so long as he is able to carry on in life (samsara) without having to face the unpleasant side of the vicissitudes of life he does not get depressed and feel suffering as such. But when he experiences the unpleasant side of the vicissitudes i.e pain vs pleasure, defame vs fame, blame vs praise, loss vs gain, then in the face of such harsh unavoidable realities of life man becomes depressed, even suicidal. Some, on the other hand, try to drive out their sorrows by becoming self indulgent in sensual pleasures. However the more self indulgent a person becomes the less mental tranquillity he will attain in the end because this is not in accordance with the Buddha's right view as shown in the eightfold path where the Master categorically stated that one should avoid the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification and take the middle path of the eightfold path which comprise of right view etc.

          However, when we reflect back to the time of the utterance of the above Dhammapada, a teacher of an alien sect instructed his disciples to seek refuge in the mountains and forest to get rid of suffering. The Buddha spoke on the efficacy of the three refuges for deliverance from suffering. One's best refuge is oneself. A Buddhist takes refuge in the Triple Gem as a teacher in order to gain his deliverance from the vicissitudes and ills of life. The Buddha is the supreme teacher who shows the way to deliverance. The Dhamma is the unique way. The Sangha represents the taught who have followed the way and have become a living example. One formally becomes a Buddhist by intelligently seeking refuge in the Triple Gem (Tisarana). A Buddhist does not take refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he will be saved by a personal act of deliverance The confidence of a Buddhist in the Buddha is like that of a sick person in the noted physician or of a student in his teacher. The Buddha's teaching offers the final liberation of Nibbana to those who are anxious to gain it and it is not forced on anyone. The Master's message was (Ehipassiko) come and see. Those who come wishing to see the Buddha's teaching whether they are kings or beggars, man or woman, irrespective of their race, caste, colour, or position in society can experience the Buddha's teaching by practising morality, concentration and wisdom.

          Morality is represented by right speech, right action and right livelihood of the eightfold path. Concentration is represented by right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

          And wisdom is represented by right understanding and right thinking of the eightfold path.

          Depending on the degree to which each individual commits himself to the practice of Sila, Samadhi and Panna he will reap the benefits their from up to the state of sainthood

          After practising Sila and Samadi, it is very important to practise vipassana meditation in order to acquire wisdom. Vipassana is a specialised way of seeing through penetrating insight within each individual mind the three signs of anicca, dukkha and anatta in the mental phenomena of his mind which comprises citta and cetasika and also seeing anicca, dukkha and anatta in his bodily formation i.e (rupa) which is made up of a combination of the four elements

         The Lord Buddha having realized the four noble truths by himself for himself, then out of compassion for his fellow human beings showed by example and precept to his disciples and those who which to follow his teaching expecting nothing from them without the closed fist of a teacher.

          The Buddha is the best example of missionary work in the world after his enlightenment, at the age of thirty-five, for forty-five years he wondered from place to place bare-footed to teach his doctrine to those who wished to listen and benefit there from by their effort to realise what the four noble truths represent. The Buddha passed away at the age of eighty and just before he passed away into parinibbana his last exhortation to his disciple was vayadhamma sankhara appamadena sampadetha — All compound things are transient, work out your deliverance without delay.

May all beings attain to Nibbana

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