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The three treasures: A guided meditation

May 5, 2012

by Stephen Damon

I became a Buddhist when I took refuge in The Three Treasures: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, with a Tibetan lama. Over the years as my practice deepened and evolved and finally brought me to Zen I have continued to stay with the question of what it means to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. What started as a simple, external choice to devote myself to something higher than myself has become something much more subtle, internal, and mysterious.

While I could say that I have tried to go beyond the simple formula of taking refuge, I still recite the traditional refuge prayer when I wake up and when I go to sleep. This simple prayer has become the center of gravity of my practice as a Soto Zen priest. As such, it has brought me to the question of what are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—not from the point of view of belief, but from my own experience. To get this experience I have tried many things. Recently, I have practiced a guided meditation that I adapted from another tradition.


Take a comfortable seat, either on a meditation cushion or a chair. If you are on a cushion try to arrange your body into one of the customary postures of Zazen. If you are on a chair, be careful to keep your back away from the back of the chair and as straight as possible. Either put your hands into the cosmic mudra or on your thighs above your knees. Take three deep, cleansing breaths and then breathe naturally as your body begins to settle.

After a few minutes, try to get a sensation of your head, starting from the face and continuing to the top of the head and then the back. As you do this, keep in mind, The Buddha. Stay with this sensation for a while, keeping the Buddha in your mind. Feel free to spend as much time as you need to get a feeling of your entire head.

Now move the sensation from the back of your head all the way down your spine, keeping The Dharma in your mind. Notice how the spine supports your whole body. You might also consider how the spine sends the directions of the brain throughout the body in the same way that the dharma offers the teaching of the Buddha to all living beings.

Now sense your right limbs and bring to mind a brother or someone else you are very close to, preferably someone from your sitting group. Picture him sitting on black cushion next to you.

Now move your sensation to your left limbs and bring to mind a sister or someone you are close to. Again, picture her sitting on black cushion as if she were sitting next to you in a zendo.

Now move your sensation to your solar plexus and bring to mind your sangha—the people with whom you regularly practice. Stay with the sensation for a few minutes.

Notice how you have a sensation of your entire body. As you notice that the sensation feels warm and alive and full, remember the Buddha, the Dharma, and the sangha. Remember yourself.

You might try this three times. After that, just let everything go and sit for a while. Slowly, let yourself rise to the surface and open your eyes, taking in everything around you.

And then, if you’d like, say:

I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Dharma.
I take refuge in the Sangha.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to continue this conversation with a few words about each of the three jewels, especially the sangha.


From → Zen Buddhism

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