The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

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The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Refugee » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:52 pm

Greetings to Venerables & Friends
:anjali:
Today, after reading the following simile regarding the Triple Gem, I spent some time reflecting on this:
The Buddha's appearance in the world is like the sun rising over the horizon. His teaching of the true Dhamma is like the net of the sun's rays spreading out over the earth, dispelling the darkness and cold of the night, giving warmth and light to all beings. The Sangha is like the beings for whom the darkness of night has been dispelled, who go about their affairs enjoying the warmth and radiance of the sun.

On reflecting, these thoughts arose in me:

1 ~ The Triple Gem, to the best of my knowledge, is always singular; it is not referred to as the Triple Gems. So, refuge in the “Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha” is a single refuge, a single safe shelter from dukkha, rather than three separate refuges. After all, wouldn't three separate refuges just confuse us? We would be running from one to the other!

2 ~ IMHO, the 'refuge' (Triple Gem) is supposed to be supreme, faultless, and complete shelter (or protection) from dukkha. If we include, in the Triple Gem, general members of a Sangha (say, monks and/or laity who assist us in some way) then we risk “contaminating” the purity of the “Sangha-component” of the Triple Gem, because we cannot be certain that these peoples' purity, compassion, and wisdom are faultless. The question arose: Are we confident of associating them (whoever we include in the Sangha) with the “Triple Gem”? If we have some skeptical doubt about this, then such doubt will naturally be a hindrance to our practice.

3 ~ On reading the simile (quoted above), I see, in the Triple Gem, the complete Path to liberation. “A peerless Teacher, teaching a sublime Dhamma, resulting in Arahants”:
    Sun ~ Buddha
    Sun's rays ~ Buddha's Dhamma
    Beings for whom darkness of the night has been dispelled (or Arahants) ~ Sangha
Seeing the Triple Gem like this, makes it a supreme refuge. It sets for us the complete “Path to Awakening”. We take refuge in this supreme, faultless path, and we travel along it as best we could in this lifetime. But when I include the Buddhist community at large in the “Sangha- component” of the Triple Gem, I feel a sense of dis-ease. It's like making a supra-mundane Gem into mundane Gem. Sorry, I can't seem to find the words to explain this any better. But I hope you get a feel of what I'm trying to say...

I make this post with the aim of listening to others more knowledgeable than me and considering their inputs to assist me in dispelling my own skeptical doubts. I mean no disrespect to the Triple Gem in particular, and, I am in no way trying to find faults with others' views or any suttas or commentaries. I'm still a beginner, with just a little more than two years' exposure to Buddhism. So, I could be way off the mark......

If any members wish to kindly share what the three components of the “Triple Gem” means to them (in their own practice – not what the suttas or teacher say), I will equally appreciate this.

Thanks & Metta to All.
My practice is simply this: Avoid evil, do good, and purify the mind.
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:30 pm

Hi Refugee,

It is entirely possible that the Sangha in which we are exhorted to take refuge is meant to be the Ariya-Sangha, or the Sangha of those who have at least attained entry into the stream. I know I have read this somewhere and, if you ask, others here much more knowledgeable than myself will certainly be able to provide you with a link or a sutta. Mettaya!

Mike
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby cooran » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:48 pm

Hello Refugee,

This might be of assistance:

The Meaning of Sangha ¬ Ajahn Brahmavamso
http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ebdha177.htm

What is the Triple Gem? by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... legem.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Refugee » Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:02 pm

Hi Mike & Chris

Thank you both for your responses. It seems to me that the "Savaka Sangha (or Ariya Sangha)" who is defined as "those attained to any of the Eight Stages of Enlightenment (the 4 usual stages divided into Path and Fruit) who are "worthy of gifts, hospitality, offerings and reverential salutations, and who are the unsurpassed field of merit in the world" is the proper "refuge" as the third element of the "Triple Gem". (from Ajhan Brahm link)

This leads me to the next question: Can a person, like me, who has no access to a Monastic Sangha take refuge in the Triple Gem? I ask this question because it feels so "fake" when I say "To the Sangha I go for refuge" when in fact I have no access to a Sangha, let alone a "Ariya Sangha". What am I to think when I say the words "To the Sangha I go for refuge" so as to make it meaningful?

I'm sorry if these questions seem somewhat improper, but this is the dilema I presently find myself in. I look forward to the kind assistance of the friends on this forum. It's getting late in South Africa now... going to bed...will log on tomorrow. Thanks all.
:anjali:
With metta
Tim
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:06 pm

Refugee wrote:This leads me to the next question: Can a person, like me, who has no access to a Monastic Sangha take refuge in the Triple Gem? I ask this question because it feels so "fake" when I say "To the Sangha I go for refuge" when in fact I have no access to a Sangha, let alone a "Ariya Sangha". What am I to think when I say the words "To the Sangha I go for refuge" so as to make it meaningful?

Hello, Refugee,
If you think of the sangha as the ideal of the sangha, you can still take refuge in it even while acknowledging that you have no regular contact with ordained sangha and that perhaps some members of the actual sangha don't live up to its ideals.
In a way, it makes it more like taking refuge in the dhamma - you don't take refuge in an individual verse or sutta but in the whole body of the teachings, which is a more abstract idea than a single sutta or book.

Hope this helps,
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Refugee » Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:48 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:.....
If you think of the sangha as the ideal of the sangha, you can still take refuge in it even while acknowledging that you have no regular contact with ordained sangha ..... ...... ..... ....

:anjali:
Thank you, Kim, for reading my post and for your kind response. Yes, I can see this making the refuge in the Triple Gem more meaningful to me. Taking your idea, I have have expanded it a bit as follows:

The ideal of the Sangha being the Buddha's monastic disciples who have practiced well. They, not only see to their own liberation, but perform the duty of preserving and spreading the Dhamma for future generations. They can be seen as the "custodians" of the Dhamma. Without them, the Dhamma would probably have faded away or become corrupted. The Dhamma was not in written form for many years after the Buddha's parinibbana. It was the monastic order who put the suttas in writing. So, the Dhamma (in our time) cannot be seen separately from the Buddha, nor can it be seen separately from the monastic order. Even though I don't have "direct" access to a Monastic Sangha to help me along, I do have access to the suttas which they have preserved for the welfare of all. And there are many written commentaries also. So, I am taking refuge in the Monastic Sangha, albeit not in the "traditional" sense. Seeing it this way, makes all three "components" of the Triple Gem meaningful to me.

But, just to be sure, do you see any "wrong views" in my thinking?

Metta & Kind Regards
Tim
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:40 am

Hello, Tim,
I'm glad my suggestion helped you. Your expansion of it makes perfect sense to me. In fact, your words are very close to the words I would choose if I had to explain it in more detail.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:32 am

Bikkhu is the term for ordained sangha. Sangha, in terms of the Arya sangha, can be lay or ordained. Believing thar such people exist, those who have 'touched' nibbana, is an essential element of Right view. This will help you in your practice, to motivate you to achieve those states yourself.

With metta

Matheesha
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Re: The Triple Gem - It's Three Components

Postby Refugee » Fri Apr 29, 2011 11:31 am

:thanks: , Kim & Matheesha

My skeptical doubts concerning the Sangha as it relates to refuge in the Triple Gem have been adequately addressed.
:namaste:
Tim
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