A prayer for refuge to a light within

A student reflects on the importance of taking refuge in this very life.

Neglecting to continually reflect on death is as if already dead. Distractions usurp my mind and it wanders from dukkha to dukkha. Falling into this nightmare existence, the pangs of remaining obscured roil deep within my gut.

Jon Owen, reading a book at the Abbey.

Even attaining a small capacity for Dharma is an extraordinary feat!

Forgetting this one-shot deal was discovered by only mere chance, I waste the days away like slime mold dripping from sense object to sense object. When the illusion of pleasure has thoroughly dried out, for just a moment, when it’s already too late, the yearning for liberation rises up.

Doubting the existence of diversity of worlds, I’m blinded by appearances that come and go like ghosts. Even though within this very life I bounce from woe to joy, my fear of sinking into wretchedness is only a mouthing while my mind holds suspicion. How could one with such weak conviction feel any motivation?

Ignoring my sole beacon of hope, those most Rare and Sublime1 purveyors of freedom, I pretend as if I already reached the other shore. While anger burns in my heart, instead of relying on love, I cowardly pray to get out. Is there any hope for one so indignant?

Giving equal treatment to the Teacher, Teaching, and Students of Buddhists and to those of non-Buddhists, it becomes shockingly clear: the former is utterly purifying; the latter, fabricated nonsense. What joy to know such a pure path to bliss exists! What fright to think how easily it is lost!

Hoping to stay mindful of the guidelines that keep me in bounds, afflictions sack my mental peace and my ethics topple over. Whether or not I’m aware, actions are created in each moment. To avoid the causes of realms of terror—only one so courageous could find the vigilance needed for this!

Smiling at the foibles of lazy, self-centered mind—because frowning would be too painful—hope stays adrift alongside these turbulent whirlpool skandhas. If only I can keep my head above water, the objects of refuge stay in sight. Their qualities, entirely and forever excellent, are the most beautiful ornament when borne in mind. May this mirror-like mind constantly reflect their untarred truth.

Realizing the frailty of the beginner’s mind, I understand that even attaining a small capacity for this Dharma is an extraordinary feat! If I could recollect that the only moments of joy I know are gifts from the Three Jewels of refuge, perhaps I could throw open this gate to the Dharma with zeal. May fear and faith, the arms and legs that carry me to the path, be uncontrived.

Praying that the force of merit that causes one to hear of refuge will also result in the attainment of this unwavering mind, I recall Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Each Jewel has unique facets, bringing delight to all with eyes. May this fickle mind stand firmly in the gloom-dispelling light of their brilliance. May refuge alight within my mind!


  1. Rare and Sublime comes from the Tibetan term for the Three Jewels, kon chog. The term Jewel is a translation of the Pali and Sanskrit term ratna. 

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