Buddhist monks

If the traveller is able to find shelter inside a building that is strong and safe, he will call out to others who are still struggling in the storm outdoors to join him in this safe refuge. Similarly, a person chooses to become a Buddhist when he understands who the Buddha is, and how the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha can provide him the way to end suffering. Out of compassion, he will also encourage others to take the same refuge.

The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are called the Triple Gem because they represent qualities, which are excellent and precious like a gem. Once a person recognises these unique qualities after careful consideration and is confident that the Triple Gem can help lead him towards happiness and Enlightenment, he takes refuge.

The Buddha
The word Buddha means the “Fully Enlightened One” or “Awakened One”. It is the title given to those who have attained supreme and perfect Enlightenment. Buddhists acknowledge the Buddha as the embodiment of the highest morality, deepest concentration and perfect wisdom. The Buddha is also known to His followers as the “Perfected One” because He has wiped out desire, ill will and ignorance, and has overcome all unwholesome actions. He has put an end to suffering and is no longer bound to the cycle of birth and death.

The Buddha is the Fully Enlightened One because He has realised the Truth and sees things as they really are. He knows through His perfect wisdom, what is good and what is not good for all beings. Out of great compassion, He shows people the path leading to the end of suffering.

The Buddha?s exemplary conduct, perfect wisdom and great compassion make Him an excellent teacher. By His use of skilful means, He is able to reach out to all His followers so that they can understand His Teaching.

The Dharma
The Buddha taught the Dharma solely out of compassion for sentient beings who suffer in the cycle of birth and death. The Dharma is therefore taught without any selfish motives. It is well-taught and completely good. It is by nature pure and bright like a light that destroys the darkness of ignorance. When the Dharma is studied and practised, it brings many benefits now and in the future.

The Dharma is the Teaching about the nature of life. This Teaching of the Buddha is contained in the three collections of scriptures called the Tripitaka or the “Three Baskets”. These consist of the sermons (Sutra Pitaka) said to have been taught by the Buddha, the rules governing the discipline of the monastic community (Vinaya Pitaka) and the philosophy and psychology of Buddhism (Abhidharma Pitaka).

A Buddhist gets to know about the Dharma by reading the scriptures. He also learns from the writings and explanations of qualified teachers of Buddhism. Once he has familiarised himself with the Dharma through reading and listening, he has to realise the truth for himself by putting it into practice. This means purifying his conduct and cultivating Mental Development until the Teaching becomes part of his own experience.

The Sangha
The Sangha that a Buddhist take refuge in is the community of Noble Ones who have led exemplary lives and attained extraordinary insight into the true nature of things. Their lives and achievements show others that it is possible to progress on the path to Enlightenment.

However, the Sangha also generally refers to the fourfold community of monks, nuns, men and women lay followers. Monks and nuns are respected for their good conduct and for their experience in meditation. They are also respected for their diligence, mindfulness and calmness. Wise and learned, they are able teachers of the Dharma. They can also be like trusted friends inspiring the lay followers along the path of Good Conduct.

The lay followers accept the Four Noble Truths and the other teachings of the Buddha and seek happiness and Enlightenment as their common goal in life. They also uphold common moral values such as avoiding injury to others in any way. Thus a Buddhist can look to other members of the lay community for help and advice in times of need.