The Refuges are where stability, security can be found. That’s why they are called Refuges. Like this Temple – it’s a warm, secure, still place while the storm rages outside, wailing winds and snow. On a physical level, this Temple is a refuge. On the internal level, the contemplative mind, the templum of wisdom, of vijjā, clear awareness, that is the refuge.
Just as sitting here in the Temple, we hear the winds howling and the snow blasting at the windows, but inside it is warm, still, peaceful. In exactly the same way, when the heart takes refuge in awareness, is attuned to the reality of the way things are, to Dhamma, then there is stillness, ease, security. Just as the weather can do whatever it likes outside the Temple, similarly, when the heart abides in the Triple Gem – tisāranā, the Three Refuges of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha – then the world of the senses, thoughts, feelings, the body, can do what it likes. It can rage away. Let the rain fall, the wind blow. Rain if you like, because the heart is the greatest shelter. That is why it is a refuge. It is reliable.
When we establish the Refuges in this way, we begin to trust more and more. The trusting heart can adapt to changing circumstances, to gain and loss, sickness and health, praise and criticism, happiness and unhappiness. And that adaptation is built around the attitude of ‘this is the way things are.’ The heart does not create a perception of wrongness. Even when what is perceived, the sense object, might be painful or ugly, unwanted, shocking; the heart does not add the feeling of wrongness to it. It does not create the idea that it shouldn’t be this way: ‘It’s not fair. Why is life doing this to me?’
When the heart takes refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, there is no feeling of wrongness. Everything belongs. Still, bright days belong. Wild and stormy days belong. Kindness and generosity belong. Violence and selfishness also belong. To be adaptable, then, is to be openhearted, to acknowledge that this is the way the world is. And on the basis of that acknowledgement, when the awake mind knows the way things are, when the Buddha sees the Dhamma, what arises is the Sangha, wholesome activity. Dhamma is the substance, Buddha is the function, Sangha is the manifestation. When the awake mind sees the way things are, it responds with wholesome action, unselfish action.
This is how the Triple Gem works as a single unit.
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the Dhamma article, “Every Thing is Uncertain,” Amavarati Dhamma Articles.