The first step to becoming a Buddhist is obviously one that takes research. It is a big decision that can affect the rest of your life. Once you have read some books, and you discover that Buddhism truly is something that you want to do, then you can begin to take steps towards “taking refuge”.
Once you have found the monastery, or Buddhist center that you really relate to and you find karmic connections with then you can decide to talk with leaders, Rinpoches, and others within the Sangha about taking the important ceremony that can change your life for the better of all sentient beings.
Reasons for taking Refuge:
There are three reasons why many human beings take refuge with the three jewels of Buddhism. The three jewels of course is The Buddha, The dharma (teachings) and the Sangha ( monastic’s and teachers). These are spiritual treasures within Buddhism, hence the name.
Many develop this fear of being trapped within the realm of suffering which is called Samsara. There is also the development of fear of ignorance desire and aversion. Then of course there is the third reason which is faith in the three jewels. Then there is a motivation for compassion, benevolence and desiring to end all suffering for human beings.
A teacher such as a Lama, monk or nun leads the Ritual. It is important that the body, speech and mind are engaged during this formal ceremony because this ritual is a step closer to enlightenment. However, this is a possibility that you must realize for yourself.
The four Seals:
There is a profound realization of four conditions of existence. These truths open a person up to detachment and renunciation. It makes the realization of Nirvana a possibility, and removes delusion.
These four seals are such: All products are impermanent. All contained objects bring suffering. All phenomena are selfless. Nirvana is peace. These four seals all concern the nature of reality.
During the refuge, the student will be in front of the three jewels: As the student sits in front of a high member of the Sangha, seeing books, and visuals of the Buddha that one taking refuge will say three times: “I go for refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the dharma, I go for refuge to the Sangha.”
During this ceremony a lock of hair will be cut in representation of what the Buddha himself did as he let go of the world. You as the one taking refuge will also receive a dharma name that the Rinpoche or leader sees fit for your personality.
At the end, the prospective enlightened being will then make three prostrations before the Buddha symbolizing devotion to the three jewels.
Once you have taken this step then your practice as a Buddhist will truly begin. Go to classes and listen to the Sangha and the dharma as you take steps towards enlightenment. If being a Buddhist is important to you, then this ceremony will not be intimidating to you. It will be something you will look forward to with a great sense of purpose.