The Triple Gem of Buddhism: The Buddha, The Dharma & The Sangha

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  • 0:01 Three Jewels
  • 0:46 The Buddha
  • 1:45 The Dharma
  • 2:44 The Sangha
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the Buddhist belief in the Triple Gem. Explaining the concepts of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, it will also highlight the Four Noble Truths.

Three Jewels

When publicly professing conversion to the Buddhist faith, one will often proclaim, 'I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.' In fact, so important are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, they're referred to as the Triratna, or the Triple Gem of Buddhism. To proclaim devotion to these three things is to be a Buddhist.

In order to remember these rather Eastern terms, we're going to take the first letter of each and link them to Western words. These words are 'Buddhist Devotion Summarized.' With this little ditty in mind, let's get on to our Buddhist jewels.

The Buddha

The first jewel of the Triratna is the Buddha. Being rather easy to remember, this first jewel doesn't merely signify the founder of the Buddhist faith. Yes, it has him at its basis. However, it goes a step further.

Since Buddha is believed to have been the first man to truly understand wisdom and the way to enlightenment, this jewel also signifies the fulfillment of enlightenment. Therefore, when a Buddhist claims to take refuge in the Buddha, he's also saying that enlightenment, in itself, is his refuge. In other words, to be enlightened is to be truly safe and secure.

Although this one is pretty easy to remember, I'll go over our little mnemonic device again. Buddha is the first gem, and we're linking it to the 'B' in Buddhist Devotion Summarized.

The Dharma

The second jewel of the Triratna is the Dharma. Stated very simply, these are the teachings of Buddha. To Buddhists, these are the ways to truth. To follow them is to be on the path to enlightenment. Being based on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, or the four core beliefs on which Buddhism is based, the Dharma is symbolized by the Buddhist wheel.

Again merely scratching the surface, the Dharma teaches that following the Four Noble Truths will release a person from fear and ignorance when, and only when, they follow them in their daily lives. In other words, if you follow them, they'll give you refuge.

To again Westernize it, we can remember the Dharma as the 'D' in our little memory aid, Buddhist Devotion Summarized. This is especially handy because the Dharma requires everyday devotion to the teachings of Buddha.

The Sangha

This brings us to our third and last jewel of the Triratna, the Sangha. In the original teachings of Buddhism, the Sangha was a very exclusive term used to denote monks, nuns, and teachers of Buddhism. However, as the faith aged, the term broadened to include any group that joins together to practice or meditate on the teachings of Buddhism.

Sort of like the Western idea of a congregation, the Sangha holds an important part in the Buddhist faith. In fact, Buddha himself taught that interactions with fellow believers play a pivotal role in a person's spiritual maturity. In other words, if you want to be enlightened, it's a really good idea to hang around people who have the same goal in mind. In short, Buddhists believe the Sangha is one of the best places in which to take refuge.

Being the last of our jewels, the 'S' in Sangha fits ever so nicely with the third and last word in our little mnemonic device, Buddhist Devotion Summarized.

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