Refuge refers to a place of shelter and protection from danger. What danger? ‘Buddhists’ and ‘non-Buddhists’ alike seek shelter from the challenges of life – the passions that jerk us around, from feeling distressed and broken, from pain and suffering, from the fear of death. We seek shelter from the wheel of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. In our desperate search for shelter, we are inclined to erect barriers to the pain by resorting to false refuges such as material wealth and addictions to activities and substances. While distractions such as these may afford us some temporary relief, the gnawing pain and our sense of isolation persists.
To become a Buddhist is to take refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. In taking refuge in the Buddha, the depth of our awareness grows, enabling us to really savour the deeper dimensions available in every experience. Life then feels more “alive” making it possible for us to transform anger into compassion. Taking refuge in the Dharma, the true nature of reality, we learn to transform delusion into wisdom. Taking refuge in the Sangaha, the community of fellow seekers of the truth, our capacity to love grows and we learn to transform desire into generosity. By taking refuge in the Three Jewels, we can open up to and be with difficulties rather than erect barriers and in doing so close down.
In this weekend retreat we will have the opportunity to gently explore the rocky terrain of life, noticing with curiosity our reaction to the ups and downs we encounter. We will be invited to take a fresh look at the Three Jewels and in doing so, perhaps come to realise that the Jewels are none other than the enlightened Buddha nature that is already inside us. The retreat will be held in an atmosphere of silence and introspection.