In Buddhism, the Three Jewels in which the disciple takes refuge (i.e., turns to for protection and aid) are the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. The Buddha is the Enlightened One; the Dharma, the Teaching of the Buddha; and the Sangha, the Community, the congregation of monks, nuns and lay devotees, the Buddha’s spiritual family.
The Three Jewels are given as a verbal formula in which each of them is preceded by the words “I take (my) refuge in the...” or “I go for refuge to the...”
In Tibetan Buddhism, the following words are added before these three statements: “I take refuge in the Lama (or Guru)” because the Guru is the one who has embodied the Three Jewels as the representative of the Buddha and the transmitter of his Teaching.
The Three Jewels are foundational to the bodhisattva path. No Buddhist ritual or function is considered complete without the “taking of refuge.”
- I take refuge in the Guru.
- I take refuge in the Buddha.
- I take refuge in the Dharma.
- I take refuge in the Sangha.
The meaning of the three jewels
It is taught that the term “Guru” encompasses not only the embodied Guru but also all Teachers who have preceded and come after Gautama Buddha. It is also taught that the Dharma is the “burden of the Lord,” and that it is the responsibility of the chelas to live (embody) the Teaching, to spread abroad the Teaching, and to defend the Teaching and the Teacher as well as the worldwide Community who comprise the “Body” of the Buddha on earth.
These three jewels represent the three plumes of the threefold flame. The Buddha is the embodiment of the Law and Lawgiver. He is the embodiment of the will of God, the divine blueprint. He is that will in manifestation. Hence, the Buddha represents the blue plume of the Father.
The Dharma is the Teaching. Out of the Father proceeds the great wisdom of the Law which becomes a body of knowledge, and the knowledge itself begets the responsibility, the duty to embody that knowledge and to propagate it. The Dharma is the manifestation of the yellow plume of the Son.
The Sangha is the community of the monks, the religious, the worldwide body who are a part of the Buddha and the Dharma. This is the Holy Spirit. It is divine love—the pink plume of the threefold flame. It is the bond of community.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 57, September 4, 1988.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, September 25, 1988.