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Going for Refuge
by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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The act of going for refuge marks the point where one commits oneself to taking the Dhamma, or the Buddha's teaching, as the primary guide to one's life. To understand why this commitment is called a "refuge," it's helpful to look at the history of the custom.


In pre-Buddhist India, going for refuge meant proclaiming one's allegiance to a patron a powerful person or god submitting to the patron's directives in hopes of receiving protection from danger in return. In the early years of the Buddha's teaching career, his new followers adopted this custom to express their allegiance to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, but in the Buddhist context this custom took on a new meaning.

在佛教出现之前的印度, 归依意味著对某位保护者当权者或者神明宣示忠诚,服从该保护者的指示,以期换得远离危险的安稳庇护。在佛陀传法生涯的早期,他的新弟子们沿袭了这个传统,以表达自己对佛、法、僧的忠诚,不过在佛教语境之中,该传统有其新意。

Buddhism is not a theistic religion the Buddha is not a god and so a person taking refuge in the Buddhist sense is not asking for the Buddha personally to intervene to provide protection. Still, one of the Buddha's central teachings is that human life is fraught with dangers from greed, anger, and delusion and so the concept of refuge is central to the path of practice, in that the practice is aimed at gaining release from those dangers. Because the mind is the source both of the dangers and of release, there is a need for two levels of refuge: external refuges, which provide models and guidelines so that we can identify which qualities in the mind lead to danger and which to release; and internal refuges, i.e., the qualities leading to release that we develop in our own mind in imitation of our external models. The internal level is where true refuge is found.


佛教不是一个奉神的宗教佛陀不是一位神祗因此一个人归依,在佛教意义上,并非是请求佛陀亲自介入,提供庇护。虽如此,佛陀的一条核心教导是,人生布满了危险指来自贪、嗔、痴的危险故此,归依的概念对修证之道具有根本的重要性,因为修持的目的正是为了脱离这些危险。由于心既是危险的来源,又是解脱的来源,我们需要在两个层次上归依: 外在层次的归依为我们提供榜样与指南,我们得以认清心的哪些素质引生危险,哪些素质引生解脱; 内在层次的归依,则是效仿我们的外在榜样,在自己内心培育起来的趋向解脱的素质。这个内在层次才是归依的真正实现处。

Although the tradition of going to refuge is an ancient practice, it is still relevant for our own practice today, for we are faced with the same internal dangers that faced people in the Buddha's time. We still need the same protection as they. When a Buddhist takes refuge, it is essentially an act of taking refuge in the doctrine of karma: It's an act of submission in that one is committed to living in line with the principle that actions based on skillful intentions lead to happiness, while actions based on unskillful intentions lead to suffering; it's an act of claiming protection in that, by following the teaching, one hopes to avoid the misfortunes that bad karma engenders. To take refuge in this way ultimately means to take refuge in the quality of our own intentions, for that's where the essence of karma lies.

尽管归依的传统古已有之,今日它对我们自己的修行仍具相关性,因为我们面临著与佛陀时代的人们同样的内在危险。我们仍然需要同样的庇护。当一位佛教徒归依时,基本上这是对业力法则的一种归依: 之所以为遵奉,因为他承诺在人生中遵奉善业[以善巧动机为基础的行为]趋向幸福,不善业趋向苦痛的原则。之所以为庇护,因为藉著服从教导,他希望避开恶业招致的不幸。以这种方式作归依,终究意味著归依我们自己的动机的质量,因为那就是业的精髓。

The refuges in Buddhism both on the internal and on the external levels are the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, also known as the Triple Gem. They are called gems both because they are valuable and because, in ancient times, gems were believed to have protective powers. The Triple Gem outdoes other gems in this respect because its protective powers can be put to the test and can lead further than those of any physical gem, all the way to absolute freedom from the uncertainties of the realm of aging, illness, and death.

佛教的归依内在、外在两个层次上都是指佛、法、僧,亦称三宝。之所以被称为宝,既因为它们有价值,也因为在古代,人们相信宝石具有种种护佑力量。三宝于此处胜于诸宝,因其保护力可被验证,并且功效之远为矿物宝石所不及, 它能把我们一直带到彻底脱离老、病、死 之不安稳的自由境界。

The Buddha, on the external level, refers to Siddhattha Gotama, the Indian prince who renounced his royal titles and went into the forest, meditating until he ultimately gained Awakening. To take refuge in the Buddha means, not taking refuge in him as a person, but taking refuge in the fact of his Awakening: placing trust in the belief that he did awaken to the truth, that he did so by developing qualities that we too can develop, and that the truths to which he awoke provide the best perspective for the conduct of our life.

佛陀,在外在层次上,指的是悉达多-乔达摩,那位舍弃了王族头衔,进入丛林禅修,最终证得觉醒的印度王子。归依佛陀,并非意味著把他作为个人而归依,而是对他的觉醒的归依,也就是置信于: 他的确觉悟真相、他的觉醒是藉著培育我们亦可培育的诸种素质、他所悟得的真谛为我们的人生行动提供了最佳视野。

The Dhamma, on the external level, refers to the path of practice the Buddha taught to this followers. This, in turn, is divided into three levels: the words of his teachings, the act of putting those teachings into practice, and the attainment of Awakening as the result of that practice. This three-way division of the word "Dhamma" acts as a map showing how to take the external refuges and make them internal: learning about the teachings, using them to develop the qualities that the Buddha himself used to attain Awakening, and then realizing the same release from danger that he found in the quality of Deathlessness that we can touch within.

法, 在外在层次上,指的是佛陀传给弟子们的修证之道。它又分为三层: 他的教言、依此教言的实修、修成的觉醒体证。对法一词作此三部区分[1],如一幅地图,指明了从外在归依出发,将其内在化的转变方式: 即,学习教言,把它们应用于培育佛陀本人藉之证悟的诸种素质,接下来,在由他发现的、我们亦能从内心触及的不死素质之中,同样地实现解脱,远离危险。

The word Sangha, on the external level, has two senses: conventional and ideal. In its ideal sense, the Sangha consists of all people, lay or ordained, who have practiced the Dhamma to the point of gaining at least a glimpse of the Deathless. In a conventional sense, Sangha denotes the communities of ordained monks and nuns. The two meanings overlap but are not necessarily identical. Some members of the ideal Sangha are not ordained; some monks and nuns have yet to touch the Deathless. All those who take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha become members of the Buddha's four-fold assembly (parisa) of followers: monks, nuns, male lay devotees, and female lay devotees. Although there's a widespread belief that all Buddhist followers are members of the Sangha, this is not the case. Only those who are ordained are members of the conventional Sangha; only those who have glimpsed the Deathless are members of the ideal Sangha. Nevertheless, any followers who don't belong to the Sangha in either sense of the word still count as genuine Buddhists in that they are members of the Buddha's parisa.

僧伽一词,在外在层次上有常规与理想两种意义。在理想意义上,僧伽由所有修练到至少瞥见不死之法者构成,不论在家、出家。在常规意义上,僧伽指出家的比丘与比丘尼组成的团体。这两种意义有重叠,但不一定等同。有的理想僧伽的成员并未出家; 有的比丘与比丘尼尚未触及不死。所有归依佛、法、僧者,皆属于佛教四众弟子(parisa)的成员: 比丘、比丘尼、优婆塞(男居士)、优婆夷(女居士)。尽管有一种流行说法认为所有佛教徒都是僧伽的一分子,其实不然。只有出家者,才是常规僧伽的成员; 只有已瞥见不死者,才是理想僧伽的成员。不过,上述两种僧伽以外的信众,作为佛陀的四众成员,仍都是真正的佛弟子。

When taking refuge in the external Sangha, one takes refuge in both senses of the Sangha, but the two senses provide different levels of refuge. The conventional Sangha has helped keep the teaching alive for more than 2,500 years. Without them, we would never have learned what the Buddha taught. However, not all members of the conventional Sangha are reliable models of behavior. So when looking for guidance in the conduct of our lives, we must look to the living and recorded examples provided by the ideal Sangha. Without their example, we would not know (1) that Awakening is available to all, and not just to the Buddha; and (2) how Awakening expresses itself in real life.

当一个人归依外在的僧伽时,他归依的是两种意义上的僧伽,但这两种意义提供了不同层次的归依。常规僧伽协助延续著教言的生命力,长达两千五百多年。没有他们,我们不可能了解佛陀教导的是什么。然而,并非常规僧伽的所有成员都是可靠的行为楷模。因此,当我们寻找人生的操行指南时,必须以在世的和记载中的理想僧伽作为楷模。没有他们作出的典范,我们不会了解(1)觉醒不仅只有佛陀才能成就,而是对人人开放; (2)觉醒在真实生活中如何体现。

On the internal level, the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are the skillful qualities we develop in our own minds in imitation of our external models. For instance, the Buddha was a person of wisdom, purity, and compassion. When we develop wisdom, purity, and compassion in our own minds, they form our refuge on an internal level. The Buddha tasted Awakening by developing conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. When we develop these same qualities to the point of attaining Awakening too, that Awakening is our ultimate refuge. This is the point where the three aspects of the Triple Gem become one: beyond the reach of greed, anger, and delusion, and thus totally secure.

在内在层次上,佛、法、僧是我们效仿外在的榜样,在自己的内心培育起来的善巧素质。譬如,佛陀是一位智慧、清净、慈悲者。当我们在自己的内心培育起智慧、清净、慈悲时,它们就构成了我们在内在层次上的归依。佛陀藉著培育信念,精进、念住、定力、明辨,尝得觉悟之果。当我们培育同样这些素质、达到同样的觉醒时,该觉醒就是我们的终极归依。就在此处三宝的三侧面合而为一: 超越了贪、嗔、痴之所及,故此彻底安稳。在内在层次上,佛、法、僧是我们效仿外在的榜样,在自己的内心培育起来的善巧素质。譬如,佛陀是一位智慧、清净、慈悲者。当我们在自己的内心培育起智慧、清净、慈悲时,它们就构成了我们在内在层次上的归依。佛陀藉着培育信念,精进、念住、定力、明辨,尝得觉悟之果。当我们培育同样这些素质、达到同样的觉醒时,该觉醒就是我们的终极归依。就在此处三宝的三侧面合而为一:


[1]中译注:法一词的三部区分,指pariyatti,patipatti,pativedha,即,教理、实践、证得; 或学法、修法、证法。

最近訂正 1-22-2008