Buddhism is essentially an education – some have called it an 'educational system' – as well as a praxis consisting of various ideas, teachings, practices, activities and ways of understanding ... as opposed to ‘beliefs’ ... for Buddhism is not a 'belief-system.' Shakyamuni Buddha said, 'Do not believe, for if you believe, you will never know. If you really want to know, don't believe.'
A Buddhist is said to ‘take refuge’ in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, but what does it mean to ‘take refuge’? Well, let me start by telling you what the words do not mean.
Taking the Three Refuges means experiencing ‘a feeling of being at home in the universe,' which was Professor William James' definition of 'religion.' Wonderful words – a feeling of being at home in the universe. Taking the Three Refuges is not something you do just once, although in order to become a Buddhist it must be done – that is, affirmed – with deliberate intent and with some formality (even if it be done privately by you alone) on the very first occasion. (Undertaking the Five Precepts is also part of Buddhist 'initiation' and practice.) No, taking the Three Refuges is something you do on a daily basis and from one moment to the next ... mindfully.
Now, as Richard Nixon used to say, let me make one thing perfectly clear. You do not need to become a Buddhist to ‘wake up.’ Any person who is prepared to ‘come home’ in the sense described in this blog is, for all intents and purposes, a 'student of the Triple Jewels,' and is able to find within their own personhood all they need to become free from the bondage of self. So, come alive, wake up ... and stay awake ... mindfully.