For western lay practitioners, the refuge ceremony is an initiation with far-reaching significance. Taking refuge really starts with renouncing the conventional view that we can find true happiness in worldly concerns and adopting the view that we can achieve lasting peace and happiness by clearing our mind and heart of negativities and open ourselves up to our inherent goodness and joy.
Another term for taking refuge is taking safe direction. There is no implication that this is a passive act – that we’re turning to another and saying “save me.” What is our dharma direction? It is the state of liberation and enlightenment. Liberation is a state in which all our suffering and its causes are finished. Enlightenment is a state in which we are able to help others as much as possible and where the things preventing us from being able to help others are removed forever. We turn to Buddha, dharma and sangha and our guru/lama as our source of spiritual guidance and support.
At Lion’s Roar, new Buddhists receive a dharma name that recognizes some particular quality in each individual and reminds them of what they aspire to become through their dharma practice. Each Buddhist pledges to uphold the five precepts by reciting
I undertake the precept of refraining from killing.
I undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.
I undertake the precept of refraining from lying.
I undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.
I undertake the precept of refraining from intoxicants.
Also, each new lay-ordained practitioner takes on the obligation to recite the Refuge Prayer six times a day as part of a daily practice. Lion’s Roar Refuge Sangha members attend services as often as possible and volunteer service to the Temple as well as make a regular monthly dana pledge. There is a personal teacher/student relationship with the Lama.
Six pictures of a recent refuge ceremony are in the Photo Gallery (icon on the right).
May or June: SAKA DAWA (Full Moon Day)
Saka Dawa is celebrated all over the Buddhist world, generally for the entire month of May. The month is remembered as the time of Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana. During this special month all Buddhists observe it with the practices of accumulation and purification. To make offerings to the images or representations of the Buddha has the same merit as offering to the Buddha in person. On special occasions like Saka Dawa, the merits generated through prayers and practices such as fasting retreats, circumambulation of stupas, prostrations, and reciting mantras are multiplied 100,000 times.
June: LAMA YESHE JINPA’S BIRTHDAY
Each year towards the end of June Lion’s Roar holds a birthday celebration for our dear and precious Lama Jinpa. We his students are the beneficiaries of his inspirational teachings, his untiring work to bring dharma to Sacramento, and his commitment to his own dharma practice. Without his leadership and encouragement Lion’s Roar would not exist and we would not see the path as clearly nor practice with as much energy, joy and passion.
July 6: BIRTHDAY OF TENZIN GYATSO, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
In 2015, His Holiness celebrated his 80th birthday and the world celebrated with him. His commitment to the promotion of human values of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and self-discipline are recognized by all as essential in making life happier. His Holiness spends his life teaching these values to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as part of his commitment to promoting religious harmony and understanding among all traditions.
July: FIRST TURNING OF THE WHEEL OF DHARMA (Chokhur Duchen)
In July we commemorate the Buddha’s first teaching of the Four Noble Truths. For the first seven weeks after his enlightenment, Buddha did not teach. Encouraged by Indra and Brahma, he then gave his first teachings at Sarnath on the Four Noble Truths.
November: BUDDHA’S DESCENT FROM TUSHITA HEAVEN (Lha-Bub Duchen)
This celebrates the anniversary of the Buddha’s return to earth from the Heaven of Thirty-Three which he visited to give teachings to repay the kindness of his mother by liberating her from Samsara. This is considered to be one of the great deeds of the Buddha among eight great deeds. The effects of positive or negative actions on this day are multiplied ten million times. Thus Tibetan Buddhist engage in virtuous activities and prayer on this day.
December: ANNIVERSARY OF LAMA JE TSONG KHAPA and GREAT PRAYER FESTIVAL
Lama Tsong Khapa (1357 – 1419) is the founder of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, and is considered to have been an emanation of Manjushri. He was one of the most famous and holy of the Tibetan masters whose great service in preservation of the dharma and refining the Buddha’s teachings has inspired millions of people around the world.
The Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo) celebrated in December was established by Lama Tsong Khapa in 1409. He invited all the people of Tibet to a festival of prayer, teachings and celebrations from the first new moon until the full moon of the lunar New Year. The practices of purification and making special prayers will have increased energy in purifying karma, reviving broken commitments and accumulating vast amounts of merits.