Take Refuge in Yourself

The Buddha teaches us to take refuge in yourself. Taking refuge in yourself gives you the strength to be just as you are, without having to impress anyone else or kowtow to anyone else. You become an island unto yourself.

Oneself is one’s own protector (refuge) indeed,
What other protector (refuge) can there be?
With oneself fully controlled,
One obtains a protection (refuge) which is hard to gain.

~ The Buddha (Dhammapada 160)

Take Refuge in Yourself

Just before the Buddha took final nirvana, which is also called his parinirvana, he advised his followers to be an island into themselves. He said,

Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. My body is like an old cart, barely held together.

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no other refuge; with the Dharma as your island, the Dharma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has a similar idea. If you go to a retreat or visit Plum Village, you are likely to hear this chant:

Being an island unto myself
As an island unto myself
Buddha is my mindfulness
Shining near, shining far.
Dharma is my breathing
Guarding body and mind
I am free.

Being an island unto myself
As an island unto myself
Sangha is my skandha’s1
Working in harmony
Taking refuge in myself
Coming back to myself
I am free, I am free, I am free.

When we become an island unto ourselves, we become capable of begin present for others. We can offer them of presence, our love, our deep listening and bring great joy to us and them.

What do you have to say about taking refuge in yourself? Please comment below and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

1Skandhas are the five aggregates of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. All everyday experiences arise from one or more of the skandhas.

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