Buddhism Q&A (4)
By Householder Fo'en
Q15: What are the Three Gems?
A: They refer to the Gem of the Buddha, the Awakened One; the Gem of the Dharma, the teachings given by the Buddha; and the Gem of the Sangha, the order of the Buddha's monastic disciples. The three are called gems because they can lead people to cease evil and accomplish good, to free themselves from suffering and obtain happiness. They are rare and precious.
When the Buddha first turned the Dharma wheel, his five followers took refuge in him and formed a Sangha. From that moment, the Three Gems were all in place.
Q16: What is to "take refuge"?
A: Taking refuge means to turn towards and rely on completely, spirit and body. Those who have taken refuge in the Three Gems are Buddhists.
Q17: Did many take refuge in the Three Gems during the Buddha's lifetime?
A: Yes. After the Buddha's initial turning of the Dharma wheel, many people took refuge as he gave his teachings from Sarnath to Magadha State. Among them there were three brothers with the family name of Kasyapa who used to be Zoroastrians. But they abandoned their original faith and led more than a thousand of their followers to take refuge in Buddhism. After the Buddha arrived in Rajgir, the capital of Magadha, many more took refuge, including renowned disciples such as Sariputra, Maha Moggallana and Maha Kasyapa. Afterwards, when the Buddha returned to his home town, his younger half-brother Nanda, his cousins Ananda and Devadatta, and his son Rahula all followed him and became monastic disciples. The Buddha's aunt Prajapati also took refuge to become the first female monastic disciple. Even more people took refuge in the Three Gems without renouncing lay life.
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings