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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Nov 11, 2019

We’re always going to refuge to something to solve our problems or alleviate our suffering. We’ve been doing this our whole life. We might take refuge in drugs, wealth, another person or food. But these are ‘false refuge’ because they do not provide lasting satisfaction and can even cause more problems. Buddhism speaks of another type of refuge. Traditionally, taking refuge in Buddhism means to turn to  the 3 jewels to solve our problems and pain:

dharma (the teachings),

sangha (spiritual community) 

Buddha (the source of the teachings)


Going for refuge to the three jewels is the way one becomes a Buddhist, if they are interested in that label. In Tibetan, another term for a Buddhist is nangpa, meaning “inner being”. One becomes an inner being by creating a source of happiness inside, and they also solve their problems inwardly. I believe this means anyone, of any religion, can be an inner being. Just as someone who is Jewish or Muslim or Christian would go to the therapist and rely on their advice to solve some of their problems, anyone can use Buddhism to solve their problems and make their mind a source of happiness.


There is a three point system to check whether what you are turning to for refuge is false refuge or real refuge. Real refuge will do the following:


  1. It doesn’t create any unwanted side effects or more problems. 
  2. It addresses the real source of the problem.
  3. It creates peace in the mind.


When we engage in the mindfulness practice offered in this episode, we try to solve some recurrent problem in our life by going for refuge—putting the teachings of Buddha into practice. We might respond with real refuge by developing compassion, practicing patience, or observing how our mind is creating the problem. 


We can also check and mindfully observe when we are taking false refuge. What are we doing now that is false refuge, and does it have unwanted side effects or cause more problems? I bet it does! Each of us will have to discover the real refuge  solution for ourselves. It is always a noble response. When you identify what it is that would be true refuge, you can look the subject up in previous podcast episodes or you can message me if you have a question. Instagram or Facebook Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

But when someone going for refuge 

To the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha 

Sees, with right insight, 

The Four Noble Truths: 


The arising of suffering, 

The overcoming of suffering, 

And the Eightfold Path 

Leading to the ending of suffering, 

Then this is the secure refuge; 

This is the supreme refuge.

By going to such a refuge 

One is released from all suffering. (190–192)*

—Buddha, The Dhammapada




The Dhammapada, by Buddha. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 50. 


Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, by Je Tsongkhapa, Volume 1. Pages 297-301. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua Cutler, Editor-in-Chief, and Guy Newlan, Editor.