Explore this page if you want to learn about what taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha means and how you can do it with us.
Welcome home to the Pure Land of the Present Moment.
Many people have questions about becoming Buddhist and there are many opinions about what exactly “becoming buddhist” means. In this BuddhaGang, we also have our own unique ideas about what exactly constitutes a Buddhist, so here we will describe this for you.
In short: a Buddhist is someone devoted to waking up by perfecting conduct, meditation, and wisdom (these are the three aspects of the eightfold path). It is a personal process that we’re doing together– you are more than welcome to join. It is your birthright.
The steps to taking refuge with us include:
- Come see what we’re all about!
- Ask to take refuge.
- If you like what we’re doing and want to play a part, just ask.
- You are most welcome to participate in this BuddhaGang to the extent you feel comfortable.
- Take on five mindfulness trainings, find refuge.
- Becoming Buddhist is a personal thing. You will be ‘striving from the island of your self’ (these are among the last words of the Buddha). But! Good friendship is the whole of the holy life and a person with good friends is sure to advance along the Eightfold Path (something like this is said in the Upaddha Sutta).
- We’re not playing favorites. There’s no competition. We’re not trying to ruin anyone’s day. It’s not like we’re at some ootball game where the various religions are doing battle and we’re rooting for our favorite team. Nope. Being Buddhist, according to us, means that you take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It is simple and profound.
- In addition to these three refuges, we come together to perfect mindfulness and conduct in five ways. For this, we use the language provided by Thich Nhat Hanh’s community, or “the five mindfulness trainings”, as a foundation. These five “vows” to commit to mindfulness are not like the revealed religious commandments that you may be familiar with. The BuddhaGang precepts are goals, guidelines, trainings. And! These goals are not to be pursued without understanding what they mean and why they are important.
- After you’ve followed us and decided you like what we’re doing, and after you’ve asked to join us, we can do a refuge ceremony with Facebook Messenger and, with your permission, share the video in our BuddhaGang Facebook group. You’ll need to connect with us on Facebook in order to do this, but, it is not necessary to do this. It is definitely helpful to have good friends witness this event, but you can do it at any time by yourself. And, if you’d rather not share a video of your refuge ceremony, that is okay too.
Questions and Answers
Now, we’re going to address some common questions.
Question: How do I become a Buddhist?
Answer: You take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and display this by vowing to live according to five points of mindfulness training. It is a very personal thing, but it is also very useful to take refuge within the context of a larger community (we can be “alone” together 😉 ). But yeah!! You can go out, now, and take refuge in the Triple Gem all by yourself! No problem! BuddhaGang is freestyle Buddhism. Flexible Buddhism. Modern Buddhism– but not ‘secular’. Follow us on Facebook to get a feel for our style. In sum: you don’t need us to become Buddhist, you don’t need the permission of any particular sect! Just do it!
Question: What’s the point of BuddhaGang refuge? Answer: Community witnessing! We will watch you while you take on these vows and we will be with you into the future. You’ll get direction (which can be useful if you feel that you are simply floundering) and you’ll get more admirable friends. So, if you would like, we can witness that with you. It is our opinion that having a community that is aware of your vows, and is there to support you in maintaining those aspects of mindfulness training, is super valuable. “Friendship is the whole of the holy life.”
Question: There are no Dharma centers or Buddhist monks near me, can I still become a Buddhist?
Answer: Yes. We can help you. The Dharmachakra (Dharma Wheel) is rolling all around the world. The Buddha’s fire is engulfing the world. The internet is helping! People are encountering the teachings of the Buddha, they are aware of the power of these teachings and they are seeking community. And yet, unfortunately, there are still many places where there are no established Dharma Centers. We got you.
Do you have a question? This page is a work in progress.. as is the BuddhaGang! It is all, always, changing! Dharmakaya is alive, we go with the flow without becoming addicted to any particular configuration of this samsaric mind-system. 🙂
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
These trainings are outlined by Thich Nhat Hanh’s community. It’s difficult to express it more clearly than they do, so, instead of making up some new thing, we’re just going to share that here. To read more about the Plum Village Community (Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic community), and these trainings, please visit their website. But, if we just point our friends to these trainings provided by Plum Village, why don’t they just go to Plum Village and join there? Why not!? Do it! Go to Plum Village. Engage Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Explore everything. Nothing is off limits (welll, we do take Right Conduct seriously, so yeah.. certain behaviors are indeed considered unskillful, but you know what I mean. No teaching is off limits). We are just one more Buddhist Community. There are certain aspects of our style that make us unique, though. You’ll see what those are if you watch our activity and or join our group. But!! Enough babbling! Here are the five mindfulness trainings engaged by the laypeople in our BuddhaGang community (as well as the community surrounding Thich Nhat Hanh):
The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.
Reverence For Life
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and stop contributing to climate change.
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Nourishment and Healing
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.