For the motivation today, I would like to share some thoughts I had on how the past few days have been a great teaching for me on the meaning of refuge. As Dharma practitioners, our refuge is the Three Jewels, and the last few days have shown me that it is specifically the inner Three Jewels, which are really never separate from my mind, no matter what the circumstances around me happen to be.
With my stay coming to an end, topped with the evacuation on Friday, I could see my mind again and again grasping to things that I project to be ultimately good and secure, things that seem to be absolutely perfect for my Dharma practice—the Abbey, the sangha community, the teachings, the schedule, and so on.
But if I think about how the Abbey actually exists right now out there—beyond my mental image—I see it as deserted, without the community I am used to being there. In that state, without practitioners, there is suddenly not so much my mind wants to grasp.
The Abbey as a place is not in itself inherently Dharma. It is more about the presence of human beings who are transforming their minds, engaging in virtue, and embodying the Dharma. But these activities are not ultimately reliant on the Abbey. What brings Dharma alive is the power of the mind.
So the past few days provided a great context for me to revisit questions like, “Where is Dharma?” “Where are the Three Jewels?” and “Where do I take refuge?” The evacuation has given my reflections a new flavor.
Projecting Dharma to be up there on the hill above Newport was an obstacle for my practice following my first visit to the Abbey two years ago. I did not realize that the Dharma and the powerful objects of refuge could have been with me, wherever I was and whatever the circumstances were.
Thus, the evacuation, with all of us being here, and the Abbey being there, is a great opportunity for me to see more clearly that refuge is inner refuge, the inner Three Jewels, which we all individually always carry with us, are never deprived of, and can always always turn to.
While the Abbey, the community, the schedule, the teachings, and so forth, are all very precious and skillful bridges to the inner Three Jewels, they should not be misunderstood as objects of refuge in themselves.
So, with this in mind, may we use this day as an opportunity to turn to our inner Three Jewels, realizing that wherever we go and whatever the circumstances are, we actually never have to be parted from the core of our practice. We are never truly separate from the actual source of joy, happiness, meaning, strength, and so forth, which is our own mind.
Enjoy your practice.