What is the Triple Gem?


The term ‘Triple Gem’ is a Buddhist formula that refers to three key elements commonly found in Buddhist traditions today; the Buddha, the Dhamma (or Dharma) and the Sangha. This formulation is also known as the three jewels and the three refuges.

Taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha is often regarded as what makes one a Buddhist. Although the formulation is widely considered to refer to devotion to the memory of the historical Buddha, his teachings (the Dhamma) and the community of practitioners (Sangha), and this is a traditional interpretation, the three jewels can also be directly related to our current experience.

In the ‘present moment’ interpretation of the triple gem, the Buddha refers to present awareness or knowing – mindfulness and clear comprehension- the Dhamma refers to the way things are in their present unadorned reality, and the Sangha is that within awareness which is wholesome or skilful. This is the formulation that can be directly applied in every waking moment and which motivates the use of Triple Gem as the name for this web site and venture.

The only reliable refuge is in that awareness that knows the conditioned world, rather than the conditions themselves. Conditions are impermanent and unreliable, they are inherently unsatisfactory and they are impersonal forces or aspects of nature.

Learning to abide in mindful awareness gives us a perspective on the conditions we are experiencing which gives us the freedom to choose if, or how, to engage with them. We can also gain a perspective on our intentions which enables us to more reliably engage from motives of generosity, kindness and intelligence rather than their opposites.


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