Since hearing about it, I have always loved the Buddhist concept of taking refuge. Anyone can study the teachings and practice of Buddhism, they can be a student. But there is a point where the student formally “takes refuge” in the “Three Jewels”. In general terms, the Three Jewels are:
- the Buddha – the enlightened, awakened or omniscient One;
- the Dharma – the Buddha’s teachings as the ultimate medicine against all suffering; and
- the Sangha – the spiritual community of (at least partially) enlightened beings, often approximated to community of monks and nuns, but can mean the whole community of ordained and lay Buddhists.
The purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, in refuge “we end our shopping in the spiritual supermarket. We decide to stick to a particular brand for the rest of our lives. We choose to stick to a particular staple diet and flourish on it.”[i] It is only by taking refuge that you can fully call yourself a Buddhist.
A key point about taking refuge is that the student formally becomes a pupil of a teacher (usually a monk) to guide and inspire them along this path, which is journeyed in community but leaves the individual responsible for accepting their learning. This ancient method of passing on the teachings of the Buddha and genuinely helping others has been effective for twenty-five hundred years.
A Course in Miracles
It would seem that Jesus has outlined something similar for followers of the Course. Sure, you can be a student of A Course in Miracles without fully committing to it, and you do not have to reject other approaches. In the early years, most students mix the Course with other traditions and techniques.
But there comes a time when, to fully gain the benefits of the Course, the student could take a leaf from the Buddhist approach and take refuge in the Course’s ‘three jewels’:
- Jesus – “the first to complete his own part perfectly”[ii], the “teacher of teachers”[iii].
- A Course in Miracles – the foundational text, the practice-based workbook, and the manual for teachers of the Course.
- Community – a spiritual community that commits to A Course in Miracles as their ‘path in extending love to others’ and only that path.
Obviously, the first two are already in place, but I found it difficult to find a Course community that wanted to adopt A Course in Miracles as its only spiritual path. Yes, there is a general Course community, but it’s too amorphous and diffuse to provide the kind of tangible support I felt the need for. There are several ACIM related bodies that see the Course as a source of inspiration or as one of several paths all pointing to the same truth, and therefore find it useful to mix with other teachings. But for me, I need support from a community of people who have committed to the Course as their only path, or are at least exploring whether to do so. I want a community of people who are actively engaged with each other and actively engaged together in trying to follow this path. After a long time of wanting this kind of community, I believe I have finally found it.
Becoming part a community has helped me with the other two aspects of taking refuge: accepting the enlightened teacher and accepting the teaching. So that now I feel I have at last truly taken refuge in A Course in Miracles.
[ii] A Course in Miracles C-6.2:2.
[iii] A Course in Miracles M-26.2:2.