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What Is a Buddhist Practice?


Following in the Buddha’ Footsteps

Volume 4 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Ven. Thubten Chodron

Wisdom Publications

What makes our spiritual practice Buddhist?

It is not merely doing practices taught in Buddhist scriptures, for some of those practices—such as refraining from harming others, cultivating love and compassion, and developing concentration—are also found in other religions.

Doing these and other practices with a mind that has taken refuge in the Three Jewels is the key that makes these practices Buddhist.

Taking refuge means we entrust ourselves for spiritual guidance to the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha. Based on knowledge of their qualities, we choose to follow their guidance.

The Entrance to the Buddhist Path

Our ultimate goal is to become the Three Jewels ourselves. To do this, we need to rely on the guidance of the Three Jewels that already exist.

To actualize the Dharma Jewel—which, as true cessation and true path, is the ultimate refuge—in our own mindstream, we take refuge in the Buddha as the one who taught the Dharma and in the Saṅgha as the ones who have actualized some true cessations and true paths in their mindstream.

Taking refuge is not simply reciting “I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha” with our mouths. It involves an internal commitment to our spiritual practice that motivates us to humbly seek spiritual guidance.

Refuge is to be lived each moment, so that all the practices we do are directed toward actualizing the Dharma Jewel in our mindstream.

When we have done this, we will have genuine, lasting joy and fulfillment, and our lives will have become highly meaningful.

To attain nirvāṇa, we must start practicing now.


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