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Taking Refuge and the Mindfulness Trainings

Chinsegut Retreat

People who are committed to this mindfulness practice and wish to join the Buddhist path may receive the formal transmission of the Three Refuges and Five Mindfulness Trainings, the basic Buddhist precepts for laypeople as developed by Thich Nhat Hanh. These transmission ceremonies customarily happen on the last day of a scheduled retreat. People who wish to receive transmission are asked to submit some basic information about their goals of practice beforehand.

The Three Refuges, often called the Three Jewels, are as follows: 

  • To say “I take refuge in the Buddha”, means that I strongly believe in my ability to transform my difficulties and be free from suffering so I can be a source of joy and peace for myself and others.  To take refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in the Buddha nature in myself, the innate potential for awakening.  I take refuge in Buddha as a teacher of the way out of suffering, not as a god.

  • To say “I take refuge in the Dharma” means I practice mindfulness, which brings understanding and love.  I believe in the method that Shakyamuni Buddha offered from his own experience to me so that I can realize the path that leads to freedom from suffering. 

  • To say “I take refuge in the Sangha” means I believe in the collective wisdom of a group of friends who vow to practice as I do on our path of liberation.  We need each other for support in this wonderful practice so our collective efforts will benefit ourselves and all beings.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings, traditionally called “The Five Precepts” are guidelines offered by the Buddha to help us live in mindfulness and practice understanding and compassion, so that we  can protect ourselves, our families, society and the whole planet. They are non-sectarian in nature.

  • The First Mindfulness Training is about protecting the lives of human beings, animals, vegetables and minerals.  To protect other beings is to protect ourselves.  

  • The Second Mindfulness Training guides us to prevent the exploitation of other living beings and of nature.  It is also the practice of generosity.  

  • The Third Mindfulness training guides us to protect children and adults from sexual abuse and misconduct in order to preserve the happiness of individuals and families. 

  • The Fourth Mindfulness training is about practicing deep listening, loving and truthful speech.  

  • The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about mindful consumption.  We become what we take in, so consuming mindfully is the intelligent way to stop ingesting toxins into our consciousness, not only for ourselves but also for our children and future generations.

If interested, please also see the complete wording of The Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Frequently Asked Questions before transmission of the trainings 

“Do I have to give up my root faith in order to receive the trainings”?  
The answer is no, you should not abandon your root religion.  Buddhism is not a religion, it is a way, a path that leads out of suffering and into joy and peace.  So, in practicing the trainings with mindfulness you may come to appreciate your root faith even more. 

“Do I have to take all five trainings?”
No, you can choose to take one, two, three or even four of the trainings.  If you practice even one mindfulness training deeply, you may find that you are also keeping the other four even though you did not take a vow to do so. 

“If I take the trainings do I have to become a vegetarian and/or give up drinking alcohol?”
No.  The trainings guide us to practice mindfulness deeply every time we eat or drink.  The important thing is to become aware of what we consume and the effect that consumption has on ourselves and others.

“What if my practice of the trainings is not perfect?”
The Five Mindfulness Trainings guide us in the direction of understanding, compassion and liberation for ourselves and others.  So we practice as best we can moment-by-moment, from where we are now, knowing that even though we cannot practice perfectly we are sincerely doing the best we can, moving steadily, confidently in the direction we want to go.  Hopefully, we practice with a Sangha, a group of friends, reciting the trainings and inspiring each other to find compassionate ways out of difficult situations. 

“How often should I recite the trainings?”
The ordination ceremony is nullified if the ordinee does not recite the mindfulness trainings at least once every three months.  However, when conditions for practice and recitation improve, one may receive the transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings again.  

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