Why do we take refuge? We take refuge because in samsara, there is no one who can help us to be Enlightened, to have liberation mind. We take refuge not only to overcome difficulties in our daily life but specifically to finish the causes of these problems so we will have liberation.
Who do we take Refuge in? We take refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Great Sangha. In Tantra, practitioners also take refuge in the Four Roots. The Four Roots are the Guru, the Deva, the Dakini and the Protectors. The Guru is the teacher. They introduce students to the nature of mind as well as transmit the Buddha’s teachings to students. Devas are realized beings in male and female form. They are deities and they are the pure nature of every human being. The Dakinis are realized beings in female form who are also holders of the teachings. As the name implies, protectors protect practitioners and the teachings.
When you take refuge, you should have confidence in the Three Jewels and the Four Roots as these are the path to liberation. If you don’t, it is important to develope your confidence.
In Buddhism, it is essential to have the right motivation for doing any practice. Therefore, at the beginning of every practice, we always check our motivation and adjust it as we need. The right motivation is that we not only do practice and wish for our own liberation but we also wish that all sentient beings, regardless of who they are, become liberated from the cycle of suffering. This wish for the liberation of all sentient beings is known as Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the heart of an awakened being.
As you begin every practice, take refuge and enter the teachings with Bodhicitta, the great motivation to benefit yourself and all sentient beings.
We do dedication at the end of every practice. In dedication, we offer all the virtue accumulated from doing the meditation to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Great Sangha. We also dedicate this virtue not only to our own liberation but also to the liberation of all sentient beings. By thinking in this larger way, we also enrich our own life.
To review, there is a structure that we use in every practice. As we begin, we take refuge and check that we have Bodhicitta. Then we do our practice. We finish every practice with dedication; that is, we offer all virtue from doing this meditation to the Three Jewels and we dedicate this virtue to the enlightenment of our self and of all sentient beings.