Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Faith & Refuge (Buddhism)

Faith | Abstract Concepts Glossary

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Faith & Refuge Description (below)
- Refuge Field
- Guruyoga
- Confusions
- Others...

Topics of Faith:
- Types of Faith
- Objects of Faith
- Mechanism of Faith (theory)
- Action/Exercise of Faith (mental process)
- Recitation of Faith (activity)
- Rituals of Faith (supplemental activities)

Faith is an abstract concept often characterized or described by terms such as confidence, belief, devotion, aspiration with an element of tradition and shared community. The activity or corresponding action that accompanies faith is refuge, or rather the action or activity of ‘going for refuge.’

Foundational Buddhism has three objects of refuge which are understood to be the principal focus for the mental state of having belief or faith. They are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In Mahayana Buddhism the historical Buddha is joined by additional Buddhas, additional Dharma theories and subsequent literature, and the Sangha (community of followers) is divided into an enlightened group (bodhisattva) generally non-monastic, and a worldly monastic group. The Buddha is represented by a two or three dimensional figure based on the appearance of the historical Buddha with the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks of a chakravartin king. The Dharma is represented by painted or physical sutra books. The Sangha is represented by painting or sculpture depicting enlightened bodhisattva followers and, or, monastic followers.

To the Buddha I go for refuge.
To the Dharma I go for refuge.
To the Sangha I go for refuge.

Vajrayana Buddhism adds the teacher (guru) to the three basic objects of refuge. In some traditions the meditational deity (ishtadevata) and enlightened protector (dharmapala) are also added and along with the teacher are given the name the ‘Three Roots.’ A Tibetan version of a Sanskrit reading is as follows:

Guruam sharanam gacchami.
Buddham sharanam gacchami.
Dharmam sharanam gacchami.
Sangham sharanam gacchami.
Mandaladeva sharanam gacchami.
Dharmapala sharanam gacchami.

With visual culture the objects of faith and a standard ritual support of faith are represented as the Field for the Accumulation of Merit paintings, commonly referred to as a Refuge Field and often incorrectly called a Refuge Tree. Tantric Buddhism has the added practice of Guruyoga which is specifically designed to increase devotion towards the teacher and in general to support faith.

Jeff Watt 12-2018