I am coming to understand Refuge. When we take refuge as Buddhists, we take refuge in the Buddha as the teacher, the Dharma as the teachings, and the Sangha as the community of practitioners. I had only the Dharma in the form of books, magazines, and the what is available on the internet, which is really quite a lot.
In these books, the importance of finding a teacher is emphasized. At first I felt I was perfectly capable of learning on my own, as has been my way for a very long time. However, the more I learned the more adrift I felt. It was not so much that I did not understand the teachings, for intellectually I think I understand them rather well, but that I had no one to share them with, no sounding board, and no one to point me in the right direction. Part of that need I tried to meet by placing my thoughts on the internet, for others to see, hoping that if I blundered too deeply someone would notice and pull me back.
I found I needed a teacher in many more ways than one. I needed not only a Buddhist teacher, but teachers in the other subjects I studied. I wanted someone to encourage and value me and be a true mentor, not just a professor I had for this class or that.
I found this is abundance. I found a friend at Shambhala Mountain Center who I can ask questions of and who I can see as a living example of the practice, but we also share other critical interests and values which make our interaction much more multi-dimensional - Dickie. Here at school I have finally found a faculty member I can respect as an individual and who pushes me to grow - Brito. I have a boss now who is more of a mentor in my academic career than I have ever had and who can guide me as a young woman as well - Sandi. In these three remarkable people, I have found good teachers all.
A year ago I cemented my aspiration to take Refuge, without really having anything to take Refuge in. Since them, those things which are central to the vow of Refuge have come into my life. Now I am making arrangements to make that vow official and hopefully by this time next year, I will look back on my Refuge ceremony with satisfaction.
Before I was only taking Refuge in myself – that I had the inherent wit and wisdom to find my own path and that even if I stumbled I would eventually figure it out. That was not truly Refuge. Now I take Refuge as it was meant – in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it.