Tara Brach on The Three Refuges—Gateways to Belonging and Freedom

Tara Brach on The Three Refuges—Gateways to Belonging and Freedom


[Music] Namaste and welcome. I’d like to begin this talk with one of
my favorite stories from the old days. I heard it many years ago about a diamond
thief who used to hang around the diamond district to see if any big dealers were coming
in to buy diamonds. And one well-known merchant came in and bought
one of the biggest most beautiful of the gems and so this thief decided to get it from him
so he followed them onto a train and for three days there was this merchant was travelling
on a train and he did every trick in the book to try to find the diamond and steal it from
the merchant. And this is a guy who was really clever at
his craft and he was very frustrated because as accomplished as he was he could not find
that diamond. So he at the end he actually confesses. He confronts the merchant and says, “You
know I’ve been tracking you for three days and I just want to say I’m just really baffled.” And so the merchant looked at him and said,
“Well I saw you and I was suspicious and so I put it in the one place you’d never find
it – in your own pocket.” And what I love about this is as the Tibetans
put it, that “the treasure you seek… the treasure you seek is closer than you can imagine.” It’s really in the eyes that are looking,
the ears that are listening; it’s in the heart right now that’s feeling. It’s within the core of your being. And so I was interested when one gentleman
at a recent retreat came up to me and he said you know, this is towards the end of the retreat,
he said, “You know I really haven’t learned anything new at all… but he said, “I’m
remembering… he said everything that’s going is I’m remembering… and remembering what’s
most precious to me.” And so it is really on the spiritual path
we’re not getting anything new, we’re not learning, we’re not building up anything much,
we’re actually in a process of remembering, reconnecting, re-belonging to what’s always
and already here. Daily life and spiritual life is really a
process of remembering and then forgetting and then remembering again and forgetting. And you’ve probably noticed it. You’ve probably noticed how you can get really
caught up in what we call the trance – the stressed-out trance where you’re in reactivity
and just in some way moving through the day trying to get through the day. You’re on your way somewhere else and you’re
just you’re trying to kind of like in some way check things off a list or in some way
you know protect yourself, defend yourself. There’s a lot of judgment going on and forgetting
what matters. And then you know those moments where you
kind of remember. Sometimes it comes just because you’ve had
a pause to breathe or sometimes it’s because something much more poignant has happened
that has kind of shaken you. Thoreau says, “We move through our life
where it’s like we’re spending our life fishing not realizing it wasn’t fish we were
after.” So the purpose of spiritual practices and
the purposes of creative rituals and ceremonies like we’re doing together at the end of this
gathering is remembering. It’s a way that we collectively can remember
what’s really important. In Buddhism there are three classical gateways
to remembering. We’ll explore them but they’re actually archetypal. You’ll find them in most spiritual traditions;
ways that we can pay attention that bring us home. So in our ritual tonight as I’ve mentioned,
I’m curious how many of you have participated in our blessing ceremony – our refuge ceremony
– in the past, just raise your hand high. Okay good. That’s fun. If you’re listening online and you’d like
to join us and do the ritual and even if you’re listening at another time, you need a twenty
inch or so red cord or string and ideally you need another person to do it with. So the three refuges, these three gateways,
I think of them in terms of ways that we rediscover our belonging. The first refuge is refuge in the Buddha or
really Buddha-nature, which is refuge in awareness. We’re remembering our belonging to formless
pure awareness. Refuge in the Dharma or the truth – we’re
remembering or belonging to our moment-to-moment experience, the path what’s true, what’s the
reality that is arising and passing away moment-to-moment. And the third refuge, refuge in the Sangha,
or the spiritual community, is really this refuge in relationships. We’re belonging to love, belonging to awareness,
belonging to truth, belonging, to love. We’re going to take each one of them and just
to know they’re embedded in each other. When you wake up through one refuge, you discover
the others, but we each have ones that are more natural and fit more our lifestyles. So we might pay more attention to one than
another. Before we move through them I’d like to talk
about what I call false refuge. These are the true gateways to spirit but
what happens is that when we’re in trance, when we’re reactive, instead of turning to
truth let’s say, which is the present moment, if let’s say we realize that in some way we
have messed up on paying a bill and we’ve gotten penalized and this and we start going
into our stress response and we try to fix things and we start moving too fast and then
we forget something else, or offend somebody, or spill something. Instead of just pausing and even taking three
breaths and saying, “Okay… stressed.” Let’s see if I can reconnect again to a bit
of balance. Instead of taking true refuge in truth and
what’s happening, we immediately are in our trance of reactivity where inevitably we make
more of a mess of things. So just want to speak a little about false
refuge because every one of us kind of regresses into what I sometimes call it like a limbic
hijack where we take false refuge – a substitute – trying to feel better but it doesn’t work. So again a false refuge isn’t bad. It’s not like you’re doing a bad thing. It’s like you’re thirsty and you’re drinking
down salt water just because you’re trying to quench your thirst and it just doesn’t
work. So what are the false refuges? Well they come out of a sense when we’re in
trance that something’s missing or something’s wrong. In other words when you have a sense that
there’s a problem, unless you’re practicing a lot of mindfulness, the tendency is to then
go and take false refuge. Obvious examples: when we’re feeling something’s
missing, we sometimes use food to fill that missing feeling or we fixate on drugs or buying
something for ourselves. So there’s a false notion that that we just
need a fix to make us feel better. One man described going to his doctors in
his 60’s and his doctor said he was doing pretty well. The guy kind of got nervous and he said well
you think I’ll live till 80? The doctor started asking some questions. He said, “Well, do you the smoke tobacco
or drink beer or wine or hard liquor?” “Oh no, and I’m not doing drugs either.” And he said, “Well, do you eat cake, cookies,
you know?” “Oh no! Not much. My former doctor said that sugar is really
bad, so I don’t do any of that.” “Spent a lot of time the sun playing golf,
boating, sailing, hiking, biking?” “Oh no, no – sun, dangerous skin.” “Do you gamble, fast cars, have a lot of
sex? “Oh no!” He looked at me and he said, “Well then,
why do you even give a damn?” So that casts a question about what is a false
refuge but… The biggest ways false refuges I think play
out are often in relationships with a sense of something missing is something’s missing
in me. I’m not enough. And I can share in my own life I actually
became aware of the major false refuge of kind of grasping after approval. I was really aware of it when I was a teen
and became even more aware of it when I was in my 20’s that on some level I was really
attached to trying to impress people. And it didn’t really matter with what, whether
it was being knowledgeable about something or are my grades. I remember when I started doing yoga it was
like and I was in… I taught yoga… very early on. I started teaching doing and teaching it when
I was 20 like 60 and 45 years ago and I remember that a part of me always you know there’s
always a part of me watching and thinking that I’m pretty flexible. I hope they’re all noticing. We even had in our spiritual community – I
lived in an ashram – yoga Olympics that I competed in. I remember competing in doing this backstretch. It’s a wheel pose where you’re kind of
flipped over a wheel and how long could you hold the wheel pose? I remember holding it for 15 minutes. I remember just watching my mind saying you
are nuts. You are vain. You are crazy. Why are you doing this, you know? But it was the approval thing. On some level being approved of that meant
I was worthwhile which meant I was lovable. I came to two major insights around this false
refuge in my life and one is, it did not matter how much I got approval and for what, it never,
never satisfied. Even as a fix it might last you know two and
a half minutes or two and a half days but I always had to keep going for more. So it never, ever worked no matter how no
matter what it was for. Which brought up the question what is it really
mean to be enough? Which is a really interesting question because
I found there was no such thing. And the second insight was the moments when
there was an intrinsic feeling of enough – true worth and belonging – had nothing at all to
do with approval. Zip! Nothing! In fact the moments on track of seeking approval
obscured the sense of enough and it would emerge in moments of presence, of gratitude,
of intimacy, of quietness. So false refuge is not a bad thing. In fact, if I did a hand raise probably many
of us would say yeah I’m after approval. I name that one because I realize I’m not
the only person that has gotten caught in that. One woman at a retreat – elderly woman…
elderly woman… my age – [Laughter] it’s happening more and more, yeah. At the retreat she touched some moments of
really deep peace and deep feelings of just contentment – enough as I am – and she shared
really sadly. She said, “Why did I have to wait so long
to realize I didn’t need to keep proving myself? That the moments of trying to prove ourselves
actually block that intrinsic worth.” So false refuge – when there’s a sense of
something’s missing, we go grasping and it could be for food or approval or whatever
and it keeps us actually from feeling fullness. We also when we have a feeling of something’s
wrong we go into reactivity and go for false refuges and the biggest one is aggression. When we’re afraid, we blame and we lash out
and it’s either mental judgment or with words. I know one woman I was working with described
chronically blaming her partner and he was busy and he was not communicative enough and
he didn’t spend enough time with her and she didn’t feel a sense of specialness. So we did a little bit of RAIN which is recognizing,
allowing, investigating, nurturing and she found out underneath the blame when she investigated
it was fear that if I stopped blaming, he’ll never change and I’ll always feel separate
and rejected. So then I asked her, “Well does the judging
and blaming help?” And she knew right away of course not. Of course it just creates more distance, but
it had a function. This false refuge of blame helped her in the
moment. It was a temporary fix where she wasn’t feeling
powerless. At least if I’m blaming I’m doing something
to try to fix things, do you know what I mean by that? That in blaming at least we’re engaged doing
something than feeling powerless, feeling helpless, feeling like I’ll never get what
I want. So we begin the path of true refuge by honestly
and bravely recognizing where do I take false refuge? What am I habituated to that actually keeps
me from truth, love and awareness? That’s the first inquiry. If we look at it – our society, right now
– we’re watching a society that is completely caught in fear and trauma. It’s a total limbic hijack and it’s reacting…
taking all the false refuges of aggression, of destroying our earth. When human society takes false refuge it’s
in other words when we act out of unprocessed fear, it’s terrifically destructive. So the need for true refuge it’s most clear
when we’re in global crisis. We need leaders and humans that know how not
to do a flinch reaction. Know how to pause. Know how to get quiet and contact a deeper
place of wisdom so that you can find an intelligent way to try to move towards understanding rather
than disrespect, contempt and violation. We also know to note in our own lives individually
and you have probably each experiences at different times that when we hit a real wall
– whether it’s a divorce, whether something really terrible is happening to someone we
love, whether we lose somebody we love, whether our own lives are in danger, those are the
times our false refuges actually don’t work anymore. They just don’t. It doesn’t help to eat the food. It doesn’t help to buy something. It doesn’t help to get approval. Doesn’t help to blame. We’re stuck with the edginess of reality and
those are the times really when we’re facing the deepest losses. When we start naturally turning to the kind
of belonging that goes beyond time, space these particular forms, it’s when people start
facing the truth of mortality that they get serious about looking at what’s past this
changing body. One friend who’s ill… could die at any time,
has described it this way that that it’s more clear than ever how this changing life is
a dream. It’s quick! It’s passing! The Buddha has described it like a flash of
lightning in the summer night… to sense it’s a dream. And also she’s discovering that the false
refuges like – and I’ll just name gossip, war, hate – they have not so much hold because
there’s something when you realize, truly realize the truth that this life is changing,
that there’s no longer holding on to the false refuges. There’s something deeper that we seek to take
refuge in. And that was what the Buddha looked at 2600
years ago. 2600 years ago Siddhartha Gautama faced the
predicament we’re in that these bodies are going to go. These minds are going to go. Everything we hold dear is going to go. And how in the face of mortality, how in the
face of our natural wants and fears, do we find freedom in the midst? How do we find freedom in the midst? And what he then came to and taught about
were these three ways of belonging to a greater reality – through the present moment the Dharma,
that through awareness itself Buddha and through love the Sangha. So we’re going to now take each one I’m going
to start with Dharma because a lot of our meditation practice has to do with taking
refuge in the Dharma. When we take refuge in the Dharma and again
Dharma means “truth or path” we’re talking about taking refuge in presence. Now with each refuge is an outer refuge and
there’s an inner refuge and I’ll name both of them and reflect on what of this touches
you in your life because when we do the ceremony it’ll be an opportunity to deepen your intentionality,
because intention is what’ll carry you. It’s a beautiful thing to do at the beginning
of a new year, or at the beginning of any day, or moment in your life. In an outer sense taking refuge in the Dharma
or the path means any activity that helps you to wake up to presence. So for some of you it would mean signing up
for a retreat, for others coming regularly to a class, doing an online class. For some it’s books. It might be reading a very certain book right
now that you’re feeling called to and I’m being [Laughter] but I put aside the commercial
business here. I’ll share with you that actually for me I
am reading a book for like the 20th time right now and it’s called “I Am That” by Sri
Nisargadatta. Literally, I have almost every page marked,
but part of my sadhana or my practice right now is before I go online, before I do anything,
I do my exercise and meditation and I read something from that book, because every time
I read from that book, it helps me remember I’m not exclusively identified with this living
form personality – that there is a timeless beautiful presence that is really true nature. It just helps me remember it. That’s taking refuge in the Dharma – in an
outer sense. So again it’s whatever is serving you to
wake up on the path. Experiment and find what serves you. In an inner way it’s the practice of presence. Taking refuge in the Dharma is paying attention
to what’s right here and now and learning to stay. The whole deal is we are deeply conditioned
to leave the present moment. We are either trying to chase after something
more – the next moment that we hope will contain what this moment does not or we’re pushing
away what we don’t like. We mostly want life different. We’re very restless as a species and in each
body. So Charlotte Joko Beck a one Zen teacher says,
“Return to that which we have spent a lifetime hiding from to rest in the bodily experience
of the present moment. Return to that which we spent a lifetime running
from that vulnerability that quakiness, that restlessness, the fear, the feelings of loneliness,
to be brave and willing to be with that. That’s taking refuge in the Dharma and part
of that is recognizing how much we have in some way a problem with how it is in the moment. One of the classic stories is a novice entering
a monastery and she’s introduced to her cell and she’s told this is silent practice. There’s no talking here. Once every five years you’ll have an interview
with Mother Superior and you can only say three words. All right? See you later. I don’t think they lock the door but you know…
so five years go by. Mother Superior says, “How are you doing,
my child?” And the novice answers, “Bed too hard.” “Keep practicing and praying,” says Mother
Superior. Five more years pass again the question, “How
are you doing?” And novice says, “Food is bad.” This time Mother Superior says, “Well keep
practicing and praying and practice and pray. You know more.” 15 years. Next interview Mother Superior asks how she’s
doing and the novice responds, “I quit now.” And Mother Superior looks at her and says,
“I’m not surprised. You’ve been doing nothing but complaining.” So it’s fun and the truth is how many of us
know that much of the time there’s some whine or complaint going on in our mind that in
some way life isn’t matching how we want it in the moment. We have indigestion and we don’t like it. Somebody else isn’t behaving the way we want
them to. So taking refuge in the Dharma is bearing
witness to that that it’s going on and having the courage to stay – to be with those waves. It’s as – Swami Satchidananda says and there’s
a poster where you see him – a guru with a long beard and everything – and he’s on
a surfboard. He’s in tree pose riding the waves on the
ocean and the by-line underneath says – the caption, “You can’t stop the waves but you
can learn to surf. Come meditate with Swami Satchidananda every
Tuesday.” You get the idea? So we train to take refuge in the Dharma and
we often use the practice of RAIN that we learn here with that acronym because it’s
a way of bringing mindfulness and compassion – nurturing to the present moment to really
stay. For one woman, she entered a new job, highly
qualified, really skilled in her profession. She found the CEO really harsh. He was the kind of “take no prisoners”
critical guy and she was really intimidated. So every week she’d go to the meetings with
him and kind of go into brain freeze and really couldn’t contribute. So that’s when we talked and I asked her some
questions. I said, “Well before the meetings, what
do you do?” And her false refuge was to get over-busy
and organize her papers and try to write little messages to herself. And of course it didn’t work. It didn’t help her really bring what she could
to the meeting. So I invited her to do RAIN instead. So when we practiced you know as if and she
imagined going into the meeting. She imagined beforehand and she recognized,
okay, anxious… anxious… “A” is Allow, which means you don’t try
to fix it or get rid of it, just let it be there. You’re just kind of pausing with it for the
time being. She allowed it then she started investigating
and feeling where it was in her body, which is the most important thing of investigation
and feeling the clutch of it. She asked the question that is so powerful
when you investigate which is, “How does this want me to be with it – this anxiety?” And the response she got really surprised
her which was that this part of her wanted to be okay that it was there just to let it
be okay – not to try to get rid of it. So that’s what she did in nurturing and as
nurture she just said, “Okay, this is okay. This belongs.” That was her language “this belongs.” It’s like saying you know in the ocean this
wave belongs okay it’s here it belongs. And what she found was when she nurtured with
it’s belongs, she was still anxious but there was more space. It was like she instead of fighting the wave,
she became the ocean that included the wave, which is the whole idea here. And that leads to after the RAIN which the
big mistake is to skip after the RAIN where you pause and you just sense that increased
sense of space and freedom – that you’re no longer the anxious self. You’re more of the space that is aware of
that. This is refuge in the Dharma. So she practiced it and it she found she went
into the meetings and even in the meetings she’d feel tight and inside herself she’d
be going okay this belongs it’s okay, you know and the anxiety was still there, but
she had a little more space. She started becoming more resourced – more
able to contribute, more able to be part of things. So I share that story because the essence
of refuge in the Dharma is to let what’s happening here be okay. Just be with it and in that being with you
discover a presence that really has room. As the saying goes, “If you trust you’re
the ocean, you’re not going to be afraid of the waves. But if you don’t, you’ll be seasick every
day because you’ll be fighting the waves.” Elizabeth Lesser has a beautiful prayer she
says, “My prayer to God every day – remove the veils so I might see what is really happening
here and not be intoxicated by my stories and fears.” That’s refuge in the Dharma. Refuge in the Sangha and that’s refuge in
the field the relationships. Traditionally refuge in the Sangha meant the
spiritual community of a particular spiritual faith, but it’s expanded, so really refuge
in the Sangha gives all those that we participate with. And it’s in widening circles, so the outer
refuge is where we very consciously participate with groups and communities that help us wake
up our hearts – that help us get in touch with truth. So it might be a spiritual friends group. We and many of the vipassana communities have
spiritual friends groups – maybe eight people and they’ll meet every other week and sit
together and then talk about what’s going on in their lives – the divorces or the addiction
are their fears for the world, but it comes from a place of presence. I think we have about thirty-six of them now
or something here in Washington. Affinity sanghas – groups of people that have
natural interests or identify in a similar way. We have our people of color group, LGBTIQ. We have therapists you know people that have
different commonalities. We have people that do RAIN together – RAIN
partners and that’s a beautiful way. So it’s finding people that you can wake up
with. It’s also the outer refuge in Sangha means
intentionally waking up with the beings of your life that you’re living with even if
they don’t feel like your formal spiritual friends. One woman described time with her dying father. He had been a larger-than-life figure. He was a well-known architect and designed
buildings and urban centers and so on. They’d had a distant relationship through
most of her life because he was very work-focused and that had caused her a lot of pain. She had to do a lot of inner work around that
but towards the end of his life they were spending more and more time together. One night she asked him to recount what of
his accomplishments he felt most proud of. There was a long pause and then with tears
in his eyes he looked at her and he said, “Why you, of course.” Which of course for her were the words she
always wanted to hear, but at this point in his life he was learning about refuge. He was learning that maybe his chasing after
the next gold ribbon wasn’t as valuable as the love with his daughter. So the message for many of us as we go deeper
on the spiritual path is not to wait – not to wait, but to remember that if we’re at
the end of our lives looking back, love is going to matter – not to wait with those that
are close in, even if they’re edgy relationships. So how do we deepen our conscious relationships? I’ll just name a few things and as you listen
even bring one person to mind that’s part of your circle that you’d like to have more
of an awake relationship with. The first step is the intention – to know
that you want to connect and understand more fully with them. The second is to commit to listening – to
listen with the same interest and passion that you want to be listened to – that you
want others to listen to you. Try that. It’s really powerful but the same interest
and passion that you wish others would listen to you. Listen like that. Pay attention and sense where does it hurt? To see the vulnerability and pay attention
and see the goodness. The last piece is taking the risk to be vulnerable. This is Mark Nepo. He says, “We waste so much energy trying
to cover up who we are, when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved and beneath
every anger is a wound to be healed, and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will
not be enough time.” When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly
slip something on – some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world and often
that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which if not put down diminishes our chances
for joy. It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch
something and then forgetting we chose to put them on. We’d complained that nothing feels quite
real. “In this way our challenge each day is not
to get dressed to face the world, but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold,
the car handle feels wet, and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being – soft
and unrepeatable.” Taking refuge in the Sangha – taking refuge
in loving relationship – means the risk to be vulnerable and it also means intentionally
widening the circles. And by that I mean going beyond those that
we’re comfortable with – easy with. You know most people spend time with the people
that are like them. Most people spend time with people that vote
like them and our world will not begin to heal until those that have a longing to wake
up, widen the circles to spend time with and to sense our relatedness with widening circles
of beings. I often use the phrase “we are friends”
in my own life whether it’s out on walks. I’ll stop in front of a tree and just say
“we are friends” because something in it wakes up my relationship with the tree. And I do it out in the world when I’ll see
somebody that’s just I don’t know and it’s a stranger but let’s say somebody behind a
counter at a retail store or whatever because it brings up a truth that was already there
– that I wasn’t paying attention to. That in some deep way “we are friends.” I do it with people I disagree with in the
political world – people even who get me scared and angry – because ultimately it’s our capacity
to include others in our hearts that’s going to help our world find its way to more peace. We’ve got to do it by widening the circle. St. Teresa of Avila says, “Only at the shrine
where all are welcome will God sing loud enough to be heard.” “Only at the shrine where all are welcome
will God sing loud enough to be heard.” So we let that try and be our hearts. And again I mentioned earlier the Radical
Compassion Challenge. And for those online, come to my home page
to find out about it. One of the goals was I wanted to do something
to start this year and decade, where we could together try to widen circles. And that’s one of the goals of it is each
day, has in the outer way, has a way to do things. It has assignments or tasks you have to do
each day to widen the circles, including the circle of including your own being. Now the inner gateway of Sangha is any reflection
or meditation that helps to soften and open your heart – anything that helps to bring
a sense of loving-kindness, care, forgiveness, tenderness. So taking refuge in the Buddha and Buddha
nature – the outer way is often that we bring to mind a being – could be a living human
being in a form that’s right now, or a human from the past, or it could be a non-human
being, or it could be a spiritual figure, but we bring to mind some being that expresses
the qualities of Buddha nature, that expresses compassion and wisdom and freedom. And by bringing that being to mind that helps
us remember that the diamond that we seek is right within us. Just by bringing that being to mind we get
into that resonance field. We’re going to do a little reflection that
gives you a sense of that as a way to close, but just to say that the outer way of taking
refuge in Buddha nature is any expression of Buddha nature in this world to reflect
on it and that helps to bring it in. And the inner approach is to turn our attention
back on our own mind and heart to bring awareness to awareness itself. So we begin to look back at what’s looking
through our eyes and what’s listening through these ears. Look back into that stillness that’s aware
right now of all that’s happening. So I invite you to close your eyes for a moment. We’re going to reflect a bit and we’re going
to touch on each of the refuges and then we’re going to begin our ceremony together. We begin by taking refuge in the Buddha, and
again the Buddha means the awakened nature within our own being, but we’ll begin with
an outer refuge. Invite you to call on some figure that to
you expresses the qualities of an enlightened heart-mind. It might be the historical Buddha or Jesus,
Mary, might be Divine Mother in some other form. It might be the natural world. You might sense that in. Might be the Dalai Lama. You might have some figure that really represents
or somebody that’s alive that has those qualities. You might have a grandmother, or teacher,
healer, and see if you can – whoever comes to mind – and can be semi-enlightened. It does not have to be fully enlightened,
but whoever has those qualities living through them. Imagine the mind of this being. Just sense the vastness of it – the lucidity,
clarity. Imagine the heart of this being, that tenderness,
sensitivity and the warmth. And imagine and allow that loving presence,
that wisdom to surround and soak into you, just be available. And takes a certain kind of courage and interest
just to let it soak in… be bathed in it. Direct your attention inward to see how that
tender, radiant awareness lives inside you. Feeling your body and heart and mind light
up as if the sunlight sky is diffusing every cell of your body and shining through the
spaces between the cells. Sense the presence, tenderness, openness of being. In
some traditions they call this the clear light. In the Tibetan tradition, the guidance is
this, to remember the clear light, the pure light, the pure clear white light from which
everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns, the original
nature of your own mind, the natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light. Trust it. Merge with it. It’s your own true nature. It is home. No matter where or how far you wander, the
light is only a split second, a half-breath away. It’s never too late to recognize the clear
light. So we sense with this Buddha nature – awareness
– taking refuge in that. And we sense the Dharma from this awake awareness
we can become aware of the changing experience. It’s like the ocean aware of the waves on
the surface. What’s happening now? Aware of the sounds. Aware of the vibrations, sensation, energy
in the body. This is taking refuge in the Dharma – fully
allowing and inhabiting this whole river of changing experience. Refuge in truth of the moment – true belonging
to the life that’s right here. And we open to refuge in the Sangha – bringing
to mind someone in your life who is easy to love – who you care about – not complicated. And from this awake presence, sensing as if
you could see their eyes right close in the goodness of that being – what you love about
them… brightness, creativity, humor, how they love
you. Just imagine letting them know their goodness,
letting them know your love. Now as you do, sense in a visceral way the
feeling of belonging, of connection, the warmth and openness of heart space. And know that in these moments this is Sangha. This is the gift of taking refuge in Sangha. So we look at our life and know it’s natural
to forget and that these three pathways of homecoming, of remembering awareness, truth
and love – give us the grounds for living in an aligned way, that our actions, our life
emerges out of this presence. This presence is what allows us to live in
the world in a loving, creative, kind way. And with that we will do the formal practice
of taking refuge – of the blessing ceremony. And want to invite you all to stand up. And take your string – hold your string
each edge like this. Now what will be important is to have somebody
that you can, when you’re ready, help with tying them around their wrist or their neck. So if you will identify somebody nearby that’s
going to be your refuge partner and if everybody nearby has turned to somebody else, then form
a threesome, because threesomes are fine too. So holding your string, holding either edge
like this and for a moment you might close your eyes and just listen to the background. In Buddhist Asian and Hindu countries this
thread is a symbol of blessing. It’s red. It’s a thread from supposedly the robe of
a monk and it’s a protection cord. That’s what they’re called. And one teacher was asked, “Well what do
they protect us from?” And the response was, “Why yourself, of
course,” because it’s protecting us from our forgetting – from our false refuges. One friend describes it that that you are
now a monk that’s back in the marketplace – a monk or a nun in drag – and you’re back
in the marketplace. And you’ve got a way to remember with this
cord. You might choose to keep it on you as long
as you’d like. We’re going to reflect on each refuge and
then reflect on bringing them into our lives and each time we’ll tie a knot into the cord. So the first again this is to reflect on taking
refuge or belonging to Buddha nature – to our awareness. And you might ask yourself in the kind of
outer realm what will help remind you? Is there a figure that inspires you in this
world? Is there a Buddha or a spiritual figure? Maybe it’s your own high self – your future
self? And you might sense as we did before that
you could just let that be a mirror – that being to the light and the love that’s right
here inside you that diamond in your own heart. So that even now in these moments you sense
the silence that’s listening inside you – the stillness that’s feeling, the openness that
everything is happening in, the light of awareness. And as you feel your longing and dedication
to wake up to that awareness, to be at home in that awareness, in that mystery, please
tie the first knot into your cord. Taking refuge in Buddha nature. The second reflection is refuge in the Dharma
– the path. And you might sense for a moment as you deepen
your dedication, what will most support you taking refuge in the path? Does it have anything to do with classes or
books or podcasts or trainings? For some it’s deciding to teach what they
love. And for most taking refuge in the Dharma is
a deepened dedication to our own practice of presence – that inner refuge, bringing
attention and you can do it right now to this moment, opening to the waves that are right
here – the breath, the sounds, to sensations. Letting everything belong. This is refuge in truth – sensing who you
are when you are totally letting the moment be as it is. Sensing that diamond, open-hearted awareness
and as you feel your dedication to take refuge in the Dharma – in the path – to deepen that
– to let it be your true belonging, please tie your second knot in the cord. The third reflection – refuge in the Sangha
– spiritual community and you might sense in an outer way, ways that you might deepen
that. Conscious relationship with people in your
immediate circle, ways you might widen the circles very consciously, so that you’re not
pushing anyone including yourself out of your heart. And as you feel that dedication to refuge
in Sangha – to deepening your caring, to deepening love, please tie the third knot into your
cord. The cord is now alive, but it needs a final
energizing knot to bring it fully to life and this is the final reflection that when
we’ve taken refuge in the truth of the moment, and in the awareness that’s here, and in the
love that’s here, that enables us then to move through the world and live from love,
live from compassion, live from a creative and generous heart. So as you feel your dedication – this is the
life of the Bodhisattva, to really live from that sense of belonging to each other in our
world, to serve our world, please tie the final knot in your cord and then it’s fully
charged and fully energized. Now in silence if you will you can help your
partner get their string on them. And you can choose between your wrist or around
your neck – either way. First wind it around if it’s your wrist wind
it around a few times and so that the ends are available and then your partner can help
by knotting it – similarly on the neck. Show your partner where you want
the knot. Buddham saranam gacchami. Dhammam saranam gacchami. Sangham saranam gacchami. Dutiyam pi Buddham saranam gacchami. Dutiyam pi Dhammam saranam gacchami. Dutiyam pi Sangham saranam gacchami. Tatiyam pi Buddham saranam gacchami. Tatiyam pi Dhammam saranam gacchami. Tatiyam pi Sangham saranam gacchami. Namaste and thank you [Bell]

9 thoughts on “Tara Brach on The Three Refuges—Gateways to Belonging and Freedom

  1. It’s magical how you always speak to where I am at.

    So useful to hear that the stress over mistakes further inhibits our ability to fix it

  2. It's all fun and games until the refugees' become numerous enough they feel emboldened to follow their religious teachings that require they kill everyone not in their religion.

  3. Lots of coughing in the audience which made it difficult to focus. What would Buddha say to deal with this problem?

    I know if I was in an audience and started coughing nonstop I would leave the room out of consideration for others. If walking around, drinking some water, etc. made the cough go away I would rejoin the audience.

  4. “Remove the veils so I might see what is really happening here and not be intoxicated by my stories and fears”.

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