Rehabilitation of a Yogi: Three, Four, Five, Refuge

May 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

You do not have to be a Buddhist to take refuge in the teachings of the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths and the Five Precepts.  These are simple straightforward concepts that serve us well in times of great strife, great pain, great joy and great equanimity.

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Three is for the Three Jewels

The three are: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.  Buddha – the heart of awakening in each one of us.  Dharma – the truth of the really real experience in the present moment.  Sangha – friends and family, fellow seekers, interconnected deeply, unity.

Four is for the Four Noble Truths

The truth of suffering – seeing it, knowing it, accepting it.  Life includes suffering.  No getting away from it.  Although we try.  Lord knows I try – running in many different directions, sometimes all at once.  Running anywhere, just to get away from what is, away from the inescapable innate truth of life.  Suffering exists.  There is pain in birth; there is pain in sex; there is pain in death.  There is pleasure in birth; there is pleasure in sex; there is pleasure in death.  All in one.  The First Noble Truth is the truth of suffering.

The root of suffering is seeking something other than what is.  On the way to work – I am reaching toward tasks at the office.  While at work – I am daydreaming about my fantasy lover in my imagined life.  On my way home – I can’t wait to get home to pet my dog.  When I’m home I worry about work, the fantasy lover, and I may remember to actually pet my dog if were lucky.  What a rigmarole!  Samsara – the habitual turning of the karmic wheel.  Each of us struggling toward something and never getting there, never arriving at that wished for destination.  Attachment and aversion.  Attraction and revulsion.  The dance of yes and no and yes and no and yes.  The Second Noble Truth is encouragement to look deeply into the root of your personal suffering, your family’s suffering, your people’s suffering, and the world suffering.

There exists a way to cease suffering.  Imagine the possibilities!  On the way to work I walk, I breathe, I see other folks on the subway train.  I smell the urine and the flowers.  At work I am focused on the tasks at hand.  On the way home I feel my body sway and shift and I see the other beings around me heading to their destinations.  At home I chill with my dog Hershey, I breathe and I smile at my fantasy lover.  The Third Noble Truth is joyful trumpets pointing the seeker to the path out of suffering.

Right view, right intention, right speech, right discipline, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right absorption are the markers of the Eightfold Path.  It all sounds pretty good except for that one tricky word, “right”.  My right effort may not be the same as your right effort.  Your right livelihood has little semblance to my right livelihood.  His right mindfulness may look quite different from her right mindfulness.  And that’s ok.  It’s a big responsibility but we each have to find out for ourselves what “right” means to us.  The Fourth Noble Truth is that there exists the Eightfold Path of the cessation of suffering.

“Buddha realized that life could be potent and delicious, positive and creative, and he realized that you do not need any concoctions with which to mix it. Life is a straight drink—hot pleasure, hot pain, straightforward, one hundred percent.”

– Chögyam Trungpa

Five is for the Five Precepts

The five precepts are like training wheels for those who are on the spiritual path.  These are rules but they are not edicts.  The precepts must be mixed with a heavy dose of prajna (wisdom or clear seeing) and not followed blindly.

  • Non-harming, refraining from killing or hurting others
  • Not stealing
  • Not committing adultery, refraining from sexual misconduct
  • Not lying
  • Not indulging in intoxicants

Nonharming is good and all but if someone is harming you please remember that the first precept applies first and formost to your own beautiful self.  Make sure you are not harmed, then you can worry about others being harmed.  The five precepts are there to help lead us out of suffering.  They are not meant to be used as tools of self-flagellation.

Refuge is for Sanity

As Buddhists we take refuge in these concepts, the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths and the Five Precepts.  Taking refuge has a quality of letting go, leaving behind our old ways of doing things.  But you certainly don’t have to call yourself a Buddhist to benefit from these teachings.

When I told my Mom that I am taking the Refuge Vows she was sceptical.  Then I explained to her what the Three Jewels mean to me.  Buddha: being awake, trusting in my innate wakefulness, and remembering that everyone has the light of buddhahood (basic goodness) inside.  Dharma: spiritual teachings of all different stripes and creeds and also reality, the truth of the present moment.  And Sangha, which some say is the brightest jewel, because we are all in it together.  And you know what Mom said? Oh yeah, I figured that all out on my own!

May my personal journey of awakening be of benefit.  May all beings come to trust our inner wisdom.  And may all beings everywhere love and accept ourselves just as we are.


rehab_logoRehabilitation of a Yogi is the story of my quest to find contentment with reality and embrace self care. Contact me with questions.

This article was originally published at The Interdependence Project Blog.

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