Three Jewels and Three Roots

Last updated
Symbol of the Three Jewels Three Jewels symbol colour.svg
Symbol of the Three Jewels

In Buddhism, the Three Jewels , Triple Gem, or Three Refuges are the supports in which a Buddhist takes refuge by means of a prayer or recitation at the beginning of the day or of a practice session.

Contents

These Three Jewels are:

The Three Roots (Tibetan: tsa sum) of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are the lama (Sanskrit: guru ), yidam (Sanskrit: ishtadevata), and protector, which may be a khandroma (Sanskrit: dakini ) or chökyong (Sanskrit: dharmapala ). The Three Roots are the second of three Tibetan Buddhist refuge formulations, the Outer, Inner and Secret forms of the Three Jewels. The 'Outer' form is the 'Triple Gem', (Sanskrit:triratna), the 'Inner' is the Three Roots and the 'Secret' form is the 'Three Bodies' or trikaya of a Buddha.

The additional refuge formulations are employed by those undertaking deity yoga and other tantric practices within the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana tradition as a means of recognizing the universality of Buddha Nature. The Three Roots are commonly mentioned in the Nyingma and Kagyu literature of Tibetan Buddhism. Unlike most aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, which originated in India, the Three Roots may be an original Tibetan formulation from the time of Padmasambhava. [1] The functions of the Three Roots are: [2]

Individual Jewels

Veneration of the Three Jewels, Chorasan, Gandhara, 2nd century AD, schist - Ethnological Museum of Berlin Veneration of the Three Jewels, Chorasan, Gandhara, 2nd century AD, schist - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01642.JPG
Veneration of the Three Jewels, Chorasan, Gandhara, 2nd century AD, schist – Ethnological Museum of Berlin

Buddha

Lord Buddha is the Enlightened One who discovered the Ultimate Path to release clinging and craving and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth.[ citation needed ]

Dharma

For practising Buddhists, references to "Dharma" (Dhamma in Pali) particularly as "the dharma", generally means the teachings of the Buddha, commonly known throughout the East as Buddhadharma. It includes especially the discourses on the fundamental principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path), as opposed to the parables and to the poems.[ citation needed ]

Sangha

The Sangha is the third of the Three Refuges. [3] Common over all schools is that the āryasaṅgha is the foremost form of this third jewel. As for recognizable current-life forms, the interpretation of what is the Jewel depends on how a school defines Sangha. E.g. for many schools, monastic life is considered to provide the safest and most suitable environment for advancing toward enlightenment and liberation due to the temptations and vicissitudes of life in the world.[ citation needed ]

Vajrayana and Dzogchen formulations

Dilgo Khyentse, head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism until his death in 1991, explained the twilight language correspondences and meaning of the Outer, Inner and Secret aspects of the Three Jewels:

The outer three jewels are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The Three jewels have an inner aspect, known as the Three Roots: the Guru (or Teacher), who is the root of blessings; the Yidam, who is the root of accomplishment; and the Dakini, who is the root of enlightened activity. Although the names are different, these three do not in any way differ from the Three Jewels. The Guru is the Budha [ sic ], the Yidam is the Dharma, and the Dakinis and Protectors are the Sangha. And on the innermost level, the Dharmakaya is the Buddha, the Sambhogakaya is the Dharma, and the Nirmanakaya is the Sangha. [4]

Buddhist Vajrayana Refuge Formulations
Outer ('Triple Gem') Buddha Dharma Sangha
Inner ('Three Roots') Lama Yidam Dharmapala and Dakini
Secret Nadi Prana Bindu
Ultimate Dharmakaya Sambhogakaya Nirmanakaya

The Three Roots formulation also fits into the framework of the Trikaya ('three bodies') of a Buddha where they are seen as equating to the following forms: the protector is the body, the yidam is the Speech and the lama is the mind. According to the Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols:

The trinity of body, speech, and mind are known as the three gates, three receptacles or three vajras, and correspond to the western religious concept of righteous thought (mind), word (speech), and deed (body). The three vajras also correspond to the three kayas, with the aspect of body located at the crown (nirmanakaya), the aspect of speech at the throat (sambhogakaya), and the aspect of mind at the heart (dharmakaya). [5]

Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo also identifies the seed syllables corresponding to the Three Vajras as: a white om (enlightened body), a red ah (enlightened speech) and a blue hum (enlightened mind). [6]

Three refuge motivation levels are: [7]

Happiness is temporary, lifetimes are impermanent and ultimately refuge is taken until reaching unsurpassable awakening. [8]

Individual Roots

Lama

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the teacher is a valued and honoured mentor worthy of great respect and a source of inspiration on the path to Enlightenment. [9] In the Tibetan tradition, however, the teacher is viewed as the very root of spiritual realization and the basis of the entire path. [10] Without the teacher, it is asserted, there can be no experience or insight. The lama is seen as Buddha. In Tibetan texts, emphasis is placed upon praising the virtues of the lama. Tantric teachings include generating visualisations of the lama and making offerings praising the lama. The lama becomes known as the vajra (literally "diamond") guru, the one who is the source of initiation into the tantric deity. The disciple is asked to enter into a series of vows and commitments that ensure the maintenance of the spiritual link with the understanding that to break this link is a serious downfall.[ citation needed ]

In Vajrayana (tantric Buddhism) the lama is perceived as the way itself. The lama is not an individual who initiates a person, but the person's own Buddha-nature reflected in the personality of the lama. In return, disciples are expected to show great devotion to the lama, whom they regard as a Bodhisattva. A lama is one who has not only mastered the words of the tradition, but who has an intense personal relationship with the student; thus, devotion is the proper attitude toward the guru. [11]

The Dalai Lama, speaking of the importance of the lama, said: "Rely on the teachings to evaluate a guru: Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism." He also observed that the term 'living Buddha' is a translation of the Chinese words huo fuo. [12]

The lama, who in Tibetan Buddhism is generally the lama, is considered to be the most important of the 'Three Roots' since the lama embodies enlightened mind and without their personal guidance, the student cannot progress. "The living teacher proclaims to the student through his or her very existence that awakening is not only possible but immediate for every living being". [13] Through guru yoga practices, the Vajrayana student becomes familiar with the refuge tree and lineage within which the lama is teaching. The tsawe lama ('root guru') with whom the student has a personal relationship, is visualised at the root of the tree, channeling the blessings of all the branches of the refuge tree to the student. The blessings are accessed through the practitioner's devotion.

Yidam

The second root is the meditational deity or yidam. The iconography of the yidam may be 'peaceful', 'wrathful' (Tibetan tro wa) or 'neither peaceful or wrathful'(Tibetan: shi ma tro), depending on the practitioner's own nature. [14] The yidam represents awakening, so its appearance reflects whatever is required by the practitioner to awaken. The lama guides the student to the yidam appropriate for them, then gives them initiation into the mandala of the yidam. In essence, the mind of the lama and the yidam are one. The yidam is considered to be the root of success in the practice.

Dakini or dharmapala

The third root is the dakini or dharmapala ('dharma protector'), the root of action or the enlightened activity of realized beings.

In the case of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism the protector is the dakini. The dakini is guardian of the secret oral or 'whispered ear' tradition and so always serves as the third root.

In the other 'Sarma' schools, the protector may be a dakini, a dharmapala, or other Buddhist enlightened beings. There are many different forms of protector. The protector in these schools may be a dakini or any of a variety of oath-bound protectors, subdued by the tantric yogi or yogini.

Judith Simmer-Brown points out that:

The dakini, in various guises, serves as each of the Three Roots, and may be a human guru, a vajra master who transmits the Vajrayana teachings to her disciples and joins them in samaya commitments. The wisdom dakini may be a yidam, a meditational deity; female deity yogas such as Vajrayogini are common in Tibetan Buddhism. Or, the dakini may be a protector; the wisdom dakinis have special power and responsibility to protect the integrity of oral transmissions. [15]

In specific traditions

Yangzab

In the Yangzab compilation of Dzogchen texts the 'Yangzab Three Roots' is the primary deity yoga practice. The Three Roots in this cycle are: Padmasambhava (the lama), Hayagriva (the yidam), and Vajravarahi (the dakini). This empowerment is required for the practitioner to study the Yangzab Treasure teaching cycle. The three roots are symbolized in the Gankyil.

Related Research Articles

Tibetan Buddhism Form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Bhutan

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Bhutan, where it is the dominant religion. It also has adherents in the regions surrounding the Himalayas, in much of Central Asia, in the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva, and in Mongolia.

Padmasambhāva 8th-century Buddhist Lama

Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche and the Lotus from Oḍḍiyāna, was an tantric Buddhist Vajra master from India who may have taught Vajrayana in Tibet. According to some early Tibetan sources like the Testament of Ba, he came to Tibet in the 8th century and helped construct Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. However, little is known about the actual historical figure other than his ties to Vajrayana and Indian buddhism.

Wrathful deities Enlightened beings in Mahayana Buddhism

In Buddhism, wrathful deities or fierce deities are the fierce, wrathful or forceful forms of enlightened Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or Devas. Because of their power to destroy the obstacles to enlightenment, they are also termed krodha-vighnantaka, "Wrathful onlookers on destroying obstacles". Wrathful deities are a notable feature of the iconography of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. These types of deities first appeared in India during the late 6th century with its main source being the Yaksha imagery and became a central feature of Indian Tantric Buddhism by the late 10th or early 11th century.

Buddhism includes a wide array of divine beings that are venerated in various ritual and popular contexts. Initially they included mainly Indian figures such as devas, asuras and yakshas, but later came to include other Asian spirits and local gods. They range from enlightened Buddhas to regional spirits adopted by Buddhists or practiced on the margins of the religion. Notably, Buddhism lacks a supreme creator deity.

Tara (Buddhism) Female Bodhisattva

Tara, Ārya Tārā, or Shayama Tara, also known as Jetsun Dölma is an important figure in Buddhism, especially revered in Tibetan Buddhism. She appears as a female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, and as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. She is known as Duōluó Púsà (多羅菩薩) in Chinese Buddhism, and as Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩) in Japan.

Yidam is a type of deity associated with tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism said to be manifestations of Buddhahood or enlightened mind. During personal meditation (sādhana) practice, the yogi identifies their own form, attributes and mind with those of a yidam for the purpose of transformation. Yidam is sometimes translated by the terms "meditational deity" or "tutelary deity". Examples of yidams include the meditation deities Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra, Hevajra, Yamantaka, and Vajrayogini, all of whom have a distinctive iconography, mandala, mantra, rites of invocation and practice.

Dakini Type of sacred female spirit in Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism

A ḍākinī is a type of female spirit or demon in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism

The Nyingma school is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also often referred to as Ngangyur, "order of the ancient translations". The Nyingma school is founded on the first lineages and translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Tibetan in the eighth century, during the reign of King Trisong Detsen.

The True Buddha School is a relatively new Buddhist sect, that includes practices and deities from Taoism, and thus could arguably be defined as a new religious movement. Its headquarters are in Redmond, WA, USA, and the school has a large following in Taiwan and East Asia. There are also many temples and chapters worldwide, except in Mainland China where the sect is among those persecuted.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Ngöndro refers to the preliminary, preparatory or foundational practices or disciplines common to all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and also to Bon. They precede deity yoga.

Vajradhara Buddha

Vajradhāra is the ultimate primordial Buddha, or Adi Buddha, according to the Sakya, Gelug and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Vajrayogini Tantric Buddhist female Buddha and ḍākiṇī

Vajrayoginī is a Tantric Buddhist female Buddha and a ḍākiṇī. Vajrayoginī's essence is "great passion" (maharaga), a transcendent passion that is free of selfishness and illusion—she intensely works for the well-being of others and for the destruction of ego clinging. She is seen as being ideally suited for people with strong passions, providing the way to transform those passions into enlightened virtues.

Trikaya Three Bodies concept in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism

The Trikāya doctrine is a Mahayana Buddhist teaching on both the nature of reality and the nature of Buddhahood. The doctrine says that Buddha has three kāyas or bodies, the Dharmakāya, the Saṃbhogakāya, and the Nirmāṇakāya.

Tibetan tantric practice tantric practices in Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan tantric practice, also known as "the practice of secret mantra", and "tantric techniques", refers to the main tantric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. The great Rime scholar Jamgön Kongtrül refers to this as "the Process of Meditation in the Indestructible Way of Secret Mantra" and also as "the way of mantra," "way of method" and "the secret way" in his Treasury of Knowledge. These Vajrayāna Buddhist practices are mainly drawn from the Buddhist tantras and are generally not found in "common" Mahayana. These practices are seen by Tibetan Buddhists as the fastest and most powerful path to Buddhahood.

The samaya, is a set of vows or precepts given to initiates of an esoteric Vajrayana Buddhist order as part of the abhiṣeka ceremony that creates a bond between the guru and disciple.

Lama Title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism

Lama is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru, meaning "heavy one", endowed with qualities the student will eventually embody. The Tibetan word "Lama" means "highest principle", and less literally "highest mother" or "highest parent" to show close relationship between teacher and student.

Vajrakilaya Tibetan Buddhist wrathful deity

In Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrakilaya or Vajrakumara is a wrathful heruka yidam deity who embodies the enlightened activity of all the Buddhas. His practice is known for being the most powerful for removing obstacles and destroying the forces hostile to compassion. Vajrakilaya is one of the eight deities of Kagyé.

Refuge tree

The imagery of the Refuge Tree, also referred to as Refuge Assembly, Refuge Field, Merit Field, Field of Merit or Field of Accumulation is a key part of a visualization and foundational meditation practice common to Tantric Buddhism. Based on descriptions in the liturgical texts of various traditions, Refuge Trees are often depicted in thangkas employed as objects of veneration, mnemonic devices and as a precursor to the contents being fully visualized by the Buddhist practitioner during the Refuge Formula or evocation.

Karmamudrā is a Vajrayana Buddhist technique of a union practice with a physical or visualized consort. When the consort is a visualised one they are known as the jnanamudra.

In the Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist Dharma teachings faith's essence is to make one's being, and perfect dharma, inseparable. The etymology is the aspiration to achieve one's goal. Faith's virtues are like a fertile field, a wishing gem, a king who enforces the law, someone who holds the carefulness stronghold, a boat on a great river and an escort in a dangerous place. Faith in karma causes temporary happiness in the higher realms. Faith is a mental state in the Abhidharma literature's fifty-one mental states. Perfect faith in the Buddha, his Teaching (Dharma) and the Order of his Disciples (Sangha) is comprehending these three jewels of refuge with serene joy based on conviction. The Tibetan word for faith is day-pa, which might be closer in meaning to confidence, or trust.

References

Citations

  1. Simmer-Brown (2002), p. 327, n. 51.
  2. Kalu Rinpoche (1995), p. [ page needed ].
  3. Kalu Rinpoche (1995), p. [ page needed ].
  4. Ray (2004), p. 60.
  5. Beer (2003), p. 186.
  6. Pabongka Rinpoche (1997), p. 196.
  7. Patrul Rinpoche (2011), pp. 176–177.
  8. Dorje (2014), pp. 224–227.
  9. de Saram (2003), p. [ page needed ].
  10. Dreyfus (2003), pp. 61–3.
  11. Gross (1998), p. 184.
  12. "The Teacher - The Guru". Archived from the original on 2008-05-14.
  13. Simmer-Brown (2002), p. 139.
  14. Palmo (2002), pp. 229–231.
  15. Simmer-Brown (2002), pp. 139–40.

Works cited