To become a proper Buddhist devotee, one has to go through the ceremony of “The Three Refuges”.
Similar to that in a King’s coronation, or a president taking on office, it is a loyal vow that is based on heartfelt emotions, an earnest promise, a yearning prayer, a rebirth of life and a sincere devotion.
Hence, in the eyes of Buddhism, the ceremony is of utmost importance. Otherwise, even if one should believe in Buddhism and pay homage in the same way as others to the Buddha, they will still not be regarded as full-fledged students. Instead, they are merely seen as un-registered bystanders in class. Where one’s strength in faith or the lack of it is concerned, having been through the ceremony or not, holds a huge effect.
The Three Refuge Ceremony requires for an ordained monk or nun to be a witness, and to teach and explain the contents of The Three Refuge verses.
The contents are:
“I (the recipient states his or her name) to the end of my life, take refuge in the Buddha, to the end of my life, take refuge in the Dharma, to the end of my life, take refuge in the Sangha;
I (state your name) have already taken refuge in the Buddha. I would rather relinquish my life than to take refuge in celestial and demonic beings;
I (state your name) have already taken refuge in the Dharma. I would rather relinquish my life than to take refuge in heterodox teachings.
I (state your name) have already taken refuge in the Sangha. I would rather relinquish my life than to take refuge in heretical communities.”
The Three Refuge Ceremony is simple yet solemn. The main principle is to devote ourselves wholeheartedly and rely on the Triple Gems, to obtain a scared purity and devoted faith.
The Buddha, the Dharma which are Buddha’s teachings, and the Sangha -ordained monks and nuns who propagate the Dharma; from taking refuge from the above three items, we are able to achieve a present state of peace with our mind and body, be liberated from future rebirths and deaths, and go forth on the supreme path to becoming a Buddha. Thus, the name of these three items as the Triple Gems and devotees of Buddhism, are also known as taking refuges from the Triple Gems.
Extracted from: Venerable Master Sheng Yan《The Proper Beliefs Of Buddhism》