Tisarana (Thai: Trisaranakhom) – Taking Refuge in The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa (3 time)
Buddham saranam gacchami, Dhammam saranam gacchami, Sangham saranam gacchami,
Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami, Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami, Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami, Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami, Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
I pay homage (Namo) to him (tassa), to the Exalted One (Bhagavato), the Worthy One (Arahato), the Fully Enlightened One (Samma Sambuddhassa).
For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge. For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge. For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge. For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge. For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
The Meaning of Taking Refuge
Tisarana (or Trisaranakhom as it is known in Thailand), is a Katha recited to refuge in the Buddha, his teachings (Dhamma) and his community of monks and nuns (Sangha) who adhere to them.
Ti, meaning 3, refers to the Triple Gems (the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha) and Sarana, represents the dedication of one’s utmost devotion and conviction. If the words are recited absent proper understanding, they hold no meaning.
The Dhammapada Verse 188 to 192 states that:
‘When threatened with danger, men go to different refuge, – to mountains and forests, to parks and gardens, and to sacred trees. But such a refuge is not a safe refuge, not the best refuge. One is not liberated from all evil consequences of existence for having come to such a refuge. One, who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, sees with the Fruition of Insight, the Four Noble Truth, indeed, is the safe refuge; this is the best refuge. Having come to this refuge, one is liberated from suffering.’
The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are referred to as gems because their esteemed rarity, much like the coveted treasuries of their namesake hidden deep beneath the Earth.
The myriad religious teachings across the world, echo that salvation can only come from a higher understanding, and navigating these complexities necessitate a Creator and teachers.
Only the Buddha who taught that the salvation of man, is to be found through careful cultivation of morality and self-awareness. He came to this realisation during the third watch upon the night of his enlightenment, where he fully grasped the Paticcasamuppada. As a result of this, the teachings bestowed upon his first 5 disciples were the 4 Noble Truths. (We will discuss the details of 4 Noble Truths in a separate article, they encompass the core of the Buddha’s teachings, which are non-sectarian and may be adopted by anyone)
The three gems are referred to as a Refuge, because they provide protection. As long as the person seeking it is genuine in intent and dedication, and takes care and time to absorb the teachings and walk the right path, they provide protection to overcome all vicissitudes of life.
In a talk given by Venerable Kumara, he recounts the tale of an Indian monk, Venerable Varadhammo, and his supernatural encounter. Upon awakening from a nap one day, he felt paralysed by an intense pressure; and found himself completely immobile. Through the corner of his gaze, he spotted a horrifying entity flipping through his Dhamma books at lightning speed. When the being noticed Ven. Varadhammo looking at him, he rushed towards the monk, threatening to skewer the monk’s eye with a long, horrifyingly sharp fingernail.. Ven. Varadhammo instinctively recited “Buddham saranam gacchami!”. In a flash, the entity disappeared, and he found himself able to move again.
This account serves as a mere example of the power one’s faith in the Buddha holds. If one habitually recites the Three Refuges, then they may come instinctively to their aid in a time of need. Reciting the Three Refuges enhances our own faith. And faith is vital to dispelling fear.
True refuge and protection, however, lies in the careful cultivation of a person, and aspiring towards living the teachings of the Buddha; and his Generosity, Morality, Mental Purification and Training and Wisdom.
- Giving/ Generosity – referring to Cāgānussati, which includes giving to the monks as well as the laity.
- Morality – referring to Sila, which are the 5 precepts commonly undertaken by the laity:
- To abstain from killing
- To abstain from taking what is not freely given
- To abstain from sexual misconduct (which includes overindulgence in sex or committing sexual offences)
- To abstain from wrong speech (which includes lying and harsh speech)
- To abstain from taking intoxicants (which includes drugs and alcohol)
- Mental Purification – refers to Samadhi. There are many types of meditation, and with the current new age movement, there are even more.
The Samadhi training here refers to the Buddhist meditation on mindfulness on death, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness on the breath and mindfulness on peace.
- Wisdom – refers to the understanding of the 3 marks of existence inherent anywhere. They are Dukkha (suffering), Anicca (Impermanence) and Anatta (non-inherent self as all phenomena are composites of many factors), leading oneself to the stages of emancipation.