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Always Abide by the Three Basic Principles | Reflections

April 16th

#23 – Always abide by the three basic principles.
Pema: The three basic principles are: Keeping the promises you made if you took refuge vows and bodhisattva vows. When we take the refuge vow, we vow to take refuge in the Buddha, as an example of how to open and let go, the dharma (Buddha’s teachings) as instructions on how to do this, and the sangha, the community of those who are also on this path. When we take the bodhisattva vow, we vow to awaken in order to help others to do the same. Refraining from outrageous conduct or not engaging in what is sometimes called “bodhisattva exhibitionism.” Developing patience in both difficult an delightful situations.

A few years back, I was moved to take the refuge vows. Tara Brach shares them as: 

  • Refuge in the Buddha (an “awakened one” or our own pure awareness)  
  • Refuge in the dharma (the truth of the present moment; the teachings; the way)  
  • Refuge in the sangha (the community of spiritual friends or love) 

Simply, they are awareness, truth and love. These three hold the key to how I live my life. When I thought about these during the day, I was keenly aware. I was finishing up our taxes probably like many were this weekend. I had other situations that took precedence over the last few months, but the day was here to do finish what I started. Isn’t that a promise in itself? 

Monitoring how I felt at different times during the day was vital. At one point patience did escape me as I waited for my husband’s records for his business. But by my taking measures to recenter, like stepping away, even several times over the course of the day made the process easier and peace to us both. 

The awareness of what is and knowing that being in the present moment will only bring me to where I want to be and that is to look on all things with equanimity. By joining together, we were able to achieve our end goal of filing by 5:00 pm. When we join together, that is the love, the sangha, even if shared by two in this case. Being at odds will not bring progress to any task at hand. 

While walking the path of mindfulness, certainly side trips can be taken into distraction, aversion and grasping, and any of the other obstacles to our practice. This is not just in our meditation practice but in life. 

I can achieve my intention by opening up to what is and acknowledging that this is what it is. I do not have to dive into the drama of the moment, which can happen in reacting with a knee jerk response, but respond with calm and nonjudgment. This is not an easy task to say the least, however, it can be done, of course with practice.  

I find appreciation for my practice, even the times I lose my patience because it provides an opportunity to learn more about myself.  

I recall an anecdote that I would tell to my spiritual classes. This occurred probably about 25 or more years ago. I was in a local shop where I lived at the time. Back then, I decorated my home with terracotta pieces that I would find. This time I found the perfect vase to place on my dining room table. It had the Chinese character for patience written on it with the word “Patience” written underneath. As I took the vase and a few other items to the front counter, I had joy within my heart of my find. Even then I knew that patience was a virtue I needed a little more work on.  

I arrive at the counter waiting in line, still happy about my find. I step to the cashier and as the items were being rung up, lo and behold, there was no price tag sticker on my precious vase. She had to call for assistance and as it took time to occur and other people were waiting to check out, my joy started to wane and my irritation commenced. The thoughts of impatience came to mind, “What is taking so long? How could they let this happen?”

Then I glanced at the vase. It was a shining beacon before me. I chuckled to myself at the irony, and the fog lifted and the light of calm touched my heart. Not long after that point, the price was found and I took my treasure home. A year or so after that, my precious vase broke. I managed to glue it back together because I remembered how dear this lesson was for me that day. I may no longer have this symbol of my mind-training, but it is still held in my heart. 

The next card for 4/17 is #25 – Don’t talk about injured limbs.


Pema Chödrön’s Compassion Cards – This practice is lojong (mind-training slogans) and they are powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts. They are also found in “The Compassion Book.” You choose the cards at random, read the commentary, and then try to live by the meaning of the slogan throughout the day.

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