Three Refuge Protection Ceremony: From two Dharma Talks by Tara Brach; January 2008 and January 2010
(Gratitude to Michelle Raymond for taking these notes. The following notes are a merging of the transcripts from two talks and so they are not verbatim)
This ceremony is a chance for you to honor your own path and really dedicate yourself, your life, to deepening on the path. It is a beautiful support for that. In Buddhist Asia and Hindu countries the red thread is a symbol of blessing. It is considered to be a thread from a robe of a monk. It is said that once you are wearing this red thread from the robe of a monk around your wrist or neck that you are actually going into the market place in drag, except you are remembering what your true home is. Some of you may choose not to wear it. Some people wear the same cord for years, others may do another ceremony and then put the previous cords on their alter. You can use it as a real vehicle for remembering. This symbol or blessing is a way of remembering what you really want to come home to.
It is called a protection cord. When Chogyam Trungpa was asked, “What exactly do these cords protect us from”? He answered, “Why yourself of course”. He didn’t mean they protect us from who we really are. They protect us from our stories, they protect us from our reactivity, and they protect us from the way this self takes false refuge. They are a way of remembering.
In the ceremony we will reflect together on these archetypal refuges, these ways of turning towards reality. With each reflection I’m going to ask you to tie a knot in the cord and then with the help of a partner have the cord tied around your neck or wrist so that you can wear it and have a way of remembering.
Take your cord and hold it in either hand by the ends and, if you’d like to, just to close your eyes and I’m going to name each refuge and as I name the refuge, and they say this refuge is where we rest our heart, as I name each refuge, sense what it means for you in your life. Make this truly a living ritual that can hold your life and help you remember what matters.
So we begin and sense what it means to take refuge in the Dharma, to take refuge in truth, to take refuge in the reality of our moment to moment experience, this aliveness, this vividness, this mystery of being here, really here. So when you take refuge in the Dharma, you take refuge in the life that is really here. The invitation is to mentally whisper the words, “I take refuge in the Dharma, in sacred presence.” And when you feel that sincerity of taking refuge in sacred presence, sense your aspiration to take refuge in truth, when you sense what that means to you, your commitment to it, please tie the first knot into your protection cord.
The second reflection on what it means to take refuge in the Sanga is to take refuge in love, what for you in your life is cherished about that, what your commitment is, what your longing is – and as you sense the meaning of refuge in love, who we are (it’s a homecoming to the truth and fullness of what we are), you might whisper the words, “ I take refuge in Sanga” and know that your intention, your aspiration is to bring your whole being awake in loving relationship. When you feel that sense of fullness, of taking refuge in the Sanga, the spiritual community, in conscious relationship, please tie the second knot into your cord.
And our third reflection, I take refuge in Buddha, refuge in Buddha nature, is ultimately taking refuge in the awakeness, in the presence that is really our source. Taking refuge is Buddha is taking refuge in awareness. So take a moment to feel presence and the cherishing of that. To take refuge in Buddha nature is to take refuge in what we are. Again sensing for yourself what this means to turn toward the awakened heart-mind, to sense how it lives in an awakened being and how this awareness shines in your own being. As you feel your dedication to taking refuge in the awakened heart-mind, when you feel that sincerity, please tie the third knot.
When you’re done, you can choose whether you want it around your neck or around your wrist. If you want it around your neck take the cord and put it so the two ends hang in front of you. If you’d like it on your arm you can just have it dangling. For this next part we stand up because it requires Sanga in order to actually manifest it. Now officially the three knots means your cord is infused. It is charged now fully. Find one other person and mostly in silence, if you can, take turns completing the cord by tying a knot. Please do have someone else do this, it is part of the ritual to have another person complete the cord and tie the knot for you.
[Followed with chanting the refuges.]
The Three Refuges >