Taking Refuge, Offering Refuge

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Thich Nhat Hanh’s words, “I have arrived, I am home, in the here and in the now,” are a simple yet profound invitation to take refuge in the present moment, wherever we may be. In addition to our sitting, walking, and eating meditations, most of us have developed numerous other practices—and even places we seek out—when we need to rest and recover our equanimity. Working in the garden, hugging a friend, sipping a soothing cup of tea, and playing a musical instrument are among the many ways people take even brief moments of refuge during their busy days.

When you find yourself needing to restore yourself, where do you go for refuge?

And once you’ve re-grounded yourself, how do you extend your experience of sanctuary into your daily activities?

Thich Nhat Hanh offers us a road map for finding our way back home again by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (below is an excerpt from the Refuge Chant followed by an fuller explanation from the Plum Village website). But what does taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha mean in the context of a business meeting, hiking in the mountains, doing the laundry, or in the midst of a disagreement with a family member? And, how can we become a source of refuge for others?

This Thursday, after our usual sitting and walking meditations, we will explore what refuge means in our own lives: how we find our way to it, dwell in it, and offer it to others. I hope you will join us in sharing your experiences, questions, and insights.


Lynd Morris

The Refuge Chant (excerpted)

The Fully Enlightened One, beautifully seated, peaceful, and smiling

a living source of understanding and compassion,

to the Buddha I go for refuge.

The path of mindful living,

leading to healing, joy, and enlightenment,

the way of peace,

to the Dharma I go for refuge.

The loving and supportive community of practice,

realizing harmony, awareness, and liberation,

to the Sangha I go for refuge.

I am aware that the Three Gems are within my heart.

I vow to realize them,

practicing mindful breathing and smiling,

looking deeply into things.

Excerpted from the “Taking Refuge” page of the Plum Village Website


Taking refuge is the recognition and the determination to head toward what is most beautiful, truthful, and good. Taking refuge is also the awareness that one has the capacity to understand and love.

The Buddha is the one who shows us the way in this life. The Buddha is the historical person who lived 2600 years ago and all of our ancestral teachers who connect us to the Buddha. The Buddha is also the awakened nature in all beings. Each element in the universe that is showing us the way of love and understanding, is the Buddha. The open look of a child and the ray of sunshine causing the flower to unfold her beauty also contain the awakened nature.

The Dharma is the teachings of love and understanding. The Dharma is the teachings of the historical Buddha and his descendants in the form of discourses, the commentaries and precepts that show us the path leading to peace and deep insight, love and understanding. The Dharma is all the elements in our world and in our consciousness that guide us on the path of liberation. The living Dharma is contained in every corner of the universe. The floating cloud is silently preaching about freedom and the falling leaf is giving us a dharma talk on the practice of letting go. Every time you breathe mindfully, walk mindfully or look at another person with the eye of understanding and compassion, you are giving a silent dharma talk.

The Sangha is the community that lives in harmony and awareness. Your teachers, your friends and yourself are all elements of your Sangha. A path in the forest might be a member of your Sangha as well, supporting you on the path of transformation. You can share your joys and your difficulties with your Sangha. You can let go and relax into the warmth and strength of your Sangha. The Sangha is a river, flowing and bending with flexibility, responding to the environment in which it is situated. Taking refuge in the Sangha, we join in the stream of life, flowing and becoming one with all of our sisters and brothers in the practice. In the setting of a Sangha, you find the practice easier and much more enjoyable.