A. To go for refuge to the ariya sangha is an important and necessary aspect of taking refuge, for it is the ariya sangha that helps teach, guide and inspire us. We study their enlightened understanding of the Dharma, and through that knowledge and the inspiration that we experience we put our understanding into practice, hopefully not falling into the trap of practising the way we think we should (or would like to) practise. So, we put our understanding into practice, but where?

Of course, we have the opportunity in our daily sitting and throughout our daily activities. But we can also extend our engagement with practice to include the sangha that we belong to. We can look upon our sangha as the vehicle for our own enlightenment and use it as a support as we open up to ourselves more and more. To be with like-minded people is such an important feature of our practice. Of course, involvement with sangha is a two-way process. We need also to contribute to sangha in order for others to benefit. See your sangha as your work area within practice – to give and to take.

You would like to have the best possible support, even if those who support you are not enlightened. You would like to draw on a consistent commitment from people, people who give you strength, support and encouragement. If you appreciate these qualities that your friends aspire to, then you too need to aspire to these same qualities so that you may help them – thus recognising the qualities of Buddha nature.

If we only take refuge in the Ariya sangha, we run the risk of living in our heads. If we only take refuge in the unenlightened sangha, we run the risk of losing direction. Combining the two should give us a well-rounded and skilful framework for the third refuge.