The word we translate as refuge is taken from the Japanese term kie-ei…Kie means to “unreservedly throw oneself into” … [and] ei, literally means “to rely upon” ~ John Daido Loori Roshi
When taking refuge in the Buddha we are taking refuge in the reality that in whatever form we choose to practice; we are attempting to garner some insight into ourselves. Whether this insight is hinged upon empowerments, reflection, our own power or the power of others is not the point. The point is that we are flinging ourselves, with full force, into the moment. Like Superman standing in front of a speeding train, an oak tree in the storm, seaweed floating in a tidepool or a shutter flapping in the wind; we take the moment to present ourselves to this life – naked, bold and open. I does not matter how we identify ourselves. We can be Buddhist, Christian, Jewish or agnostic. We can identifiy with any combination of faiths, practices, religions or philosophies and it harldly matters in the least. The presentation of ourselves to this life is the great leap and not the label we use to help describe or realize it. This is the root of our practice.
When taking refude in the Dharma we are taking refuge in the fact that we stand upon the reality of the moment. Just as a shutter has a hinge that is supported by a building or seaweed is attached to a rock and the oak to a substrate of earth and soil; we take confidence and meaure in that we are firmly centered in the Dharma, in reality. This reality can be the day to day grind of an oil well roughneck, the flowing numbers of an accountant, the ticking of a clock or the ringing of a bell. It is the Hinayana, Mahayana and the Vajrayana riding on the back of a massive bird that we only fleetingly glimpse as the sun sets. It is the sound of chanting from Jerusalem to Kyoto, San Fransisco to Denmark; then to now. It is the words scribed by any number of sages as well as the words they missed. It is the ground upon which we stand that the surface upon which we are born and will die. We are the Dharma as much as the Dharma is us. We try to tease out strings but the rope only comes weaker when we do. This is the trunk of our practice.
When taking refuge in the Sangha we are taking refuge in the fact that we are not alone in this reality. That it is not a simple practice of private self-reflection but a practice of public action and blaring intent. Just as seaweed holds on to the rock so that life will take form in a tide pool, Just as a shutter of a house lets in light and protects us from the elements, Just as the oak provides shelter even long after its demise; so do we form a network of practice that is alive with movement and flux. Shimmering in the moonlight as it stretches and strains. Broken strands dangle loosely, dew gathers in the morning and disappear in the evening. We breathe the air of Buddhas and Messiahs, of geniuses and fools, of saints and sinners – we don’t stand apart even when alone. These are the branches of our practice.
The weakest branch
of a tree
is still fed
by the strongest root.