Three Jewels

Category: Religion

The ideals at the heart of Buddhism are collectively known as the ‘Three Jewels’, or the ‘Three Treasures’. These are the Buddha , the Dharma and the Sangha . It is by making these the central principles of your life that you become a Buddhist

The Buddha

The Buddha refers both to the historical Buddha and to the ideal of Buddhahood itself. The whole Buddhist tradition derives from the historical Buddha and all schools regard him as their root founder, guide and inspiration. Going for Refuge to the Buddha means seeing him as your ultimate teacher and spiritual example. It also means committing yourself to achieving Buddhahood – Enlightenment for the sake of all beings – which means that you aim to become someone who sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision. This is the goal of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the end of suffering for anyone who attains it.

The Dharma
The Dharma primarily means the teachings of the Buddha, or the truth he understood. The word ‘Dharma’ has many meanings but most importantly it means the unmediated Truth (as experienced by the Enlightened mind). As a term it also encompasses Buddhist teachings as that same Truth mediated by language and concepts. In this second sense, Dharma is the teaching that was born when the Buddha first put his realisation into words and communicated it to others at Sarnath in Northern India. The occasion is traditionally referred to as ‘the first turning of the wheel of the Dharma’, and the eight-spoked Dharma wheel is a common emblem of Buddhism.

As well as this, Dharma refers to the entire corpus of scriptures which are regarded as constituting the Buddhistcanon. These include records of the Buddha’s life (known as the Pali Canon), scriptures from a later date, and the written teachings of those people who have attained Enlightenment over the centuries. The whole canon is many hundred times as long as the Bible and it represents a literature of unparalleled riches. It includes works such as The Dhammapada, The Diamond Sutra, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Another meaning of Dharma is the practices which are outlined within the scriptures. Despite the wealth of its literature the essence of Buddhism is very simple: it is finding ways to transform oneself. It could be summed up as ‘learning to do good; ceasing to do evil; purifying the heart’ (as The Dhammapada says).

Regarding the Dharma as a refuge means seeing these teachings as the best guide to reality, and committing yourself to practising them. The Triratna approach emphasises the central teachings that are common to all the main schools. These teachings emphasize the development of mindfulness and kindness, examining our actions in the light of our ethical values, and seeing how our thoughts condition our lives.

The Sangha

All of us need other people to learn from. If we are to practise the Dharma we need the example and teaching of others who have done so before us, especially those who have gained insight into the nature of reality themselves. So the third of the Three Jewels is the Sangha or the spiritual community.

More broadly ‘sangha’ also refers to the people with whom we share our spiritual lives. We need the guidance of personal teachers who are further along the path than we are, and the support and friendship of other practitioners. This is very important because Buddhism is not an abstract philosophy or creed; it is a way of approaching life and therefore it only has any meaning when it is embodied in people. And in the broadest sense the Sangha means all of the Buddhists in the world, and all those of the past and of the future.


   Create a account
No review available