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What are the Three Refuges?

A refuge is a place where people go when they are distressed or when they need safety and security. There are many types of refuges. When people are unhappy, they take refuge with their friends, when they are worried and frightened, they may take refuge in false hopes and beliefs. As they approach death, they might take refuge in the belief in an eternal heaven. But, as the Buddha says, none of these are true refuges because they do not give comfort and security based on reality.

Truly these are not safe refuges,
not the refuge supreme.
Not the refuge whereby one is
freed from all sorrow.

But to take refuge in the
Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha
and to see with real understanding
the Four Noble Truths.

Suffering, the cause of suffering,
the transcending of suffering and
the Noble Eightfold Path that leads
to the transcending of suffering.

This indeed is a safe refuge,
it is the refuge supreme.
It is the refuge whereby one is
freed from all suffering.

Taking Refuge in the Buddha is a confident acceptance of the fact that one can become fully enlightened of the fact that one can become fully enlightened and perfected just as the Buddha was. Taking Refuge in the Dhamma means understanding the Four Noble Truths and basing one's life on the Noble Eightfold Path. Taking Refuge in the Sangha means looking for support, inspiration and guidance from all who walk the Noble Eightfold Path. Doing this one becomes a Buddhist and thus takes the first step on the path towards Nirvana.