second of the Three Gems the Buddhists take their refuge in is the
Dhamma. When we take our refuge in the Dhamma they say: "Dhammam Saranam
Gacchami", which means:" I go for refuge to the Dhamma."
What does the word
Dhamma mean? Most people think that Dhamma means doctrine, but the word
Dhamma has many more meanings. Dhamma means everything which is real,
no matter whether it is good or bad. Dhamma comprises for example
seeing, sound, greed and honesty. We cannot take our refuge in every
Dhamma, for instance we cannot take our refuge in greed or hate. We
cannot even go for refuge to our parents, to husband or wife, because we
are bound to be separated from them sooner or later.
Can we take our
refuge in our good deeds?
The effect of a good deed is never lost, since each good deed will bring
its fruit accordingly.
Nirvana is the Dhamma
which is the second Gem. Nirvana is a Gem of the highest value, because
there is nothing more preferable than complete freedom from all sorrow.
Nirvana is real: even if one cannot experience Nirvana yet, it should be
considered the goal of life. If one follows the right Path one might
realize Nirvana even during this life time. People may think it is not
very desirable not to be born again. If we have not attained Nirvana yet
we cannot imagine what Nirvana is like. It makes therefore not much
sense to speculate about Nirvana.
What is the Path
leading to Nirvana?
Nirvana cannot be
attained merely by wishing to achieve it. Can people attain Nirvana in
doing good deeds?
Even when one
performs good deeds there can still be the idea of self. Good deeds
without the right understanding of realities cannot eradicate the belief
in a self and the other defilements. Thus they cannot lead to Nirvana.
Only meditation (Vipassana)
leads to the eradication of all defilements. One may wonder whether the
practice of insight meditation (vipassana) means that it is not
necessary to do other good deeds. The answer is that the wisdom
developed in meditation (vipassana) helps us to be kind and considerate
to other people in our deeds and speech. We learn to use every
opportunity to eradicate unwholesomeness. Every time there is awareness
of the mind or matter which appears at that moment, some of the
accumulated conception of self is eradicated. If there is awareness of
mind or matter while one is observing precepts or doing other kinds of
good deeds, one is on the Path leading to Nirvana.
The development of
vipassana is a life task for most of us, since we are not used to the
direct experience of the mind or matter which appears through one of the
five senses or through the mind.
We are used to think
of realities which are already past or which might present themselves in
the future. We should not expect to learn awareness in one day or even
within one year. We cannot tell how much progress is made each day,
because wisdom develops very gradually.
When wisdom is highly
developed Nirvana can be realized.
Dhamma is deep and
difficult to understand. People cannot understand Dhamma if they still
cling to their own views. If they would really study the teachings and
persevere in the practice of what is taught, they will find out for
themselves whether one can take one's refuge in the dhamma. When we have
experienced what the Lord Buddha taught as the reality, even if we
cannot yet experience everything he taught, we do not want to exchange
our understanding for anything else in life.
we have the right understanding of realities and if we develop wisdom,
we will have dhamma as a support. Thus we take refuge in the Dhamma.