The first step to taking refuge within Tibetan Buddhism is to reject taking refuge into other gods.
So what does rejecting other gods truly mean? Obviously for the sake of Tibetan Doctrine you must have the ability to stand on your own and really commit to what you believe in. Taking refuge is of course a lifetime commitment to the Tibetan culture and beliefs. Therefore when you take refuge, you must be able to stick with it through the long road.
Now, the question that may appear in most minds is how can you reject these other gods in a compassionate way? Because rejection often is fierce and strong it can be taken wrongly, or misinterpreted.
Keep a pure intention and remind yourself that the religion you are rejecting is only put into your face because of what the person believes in, just as you believe in Buddhism. It is very important to remember that certain religions do state that outsiders must be converted or killed.
This fact is a harsh reality of the believer’s religion. The zealot must convert the non believer over to whatever religion he or she can to win over any one in order to gain their god’s favor. This is definitely a problem for us when we must reject their “god”. Can you really stand before death and state that you really believe in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism?
There are also those of your friends who will invite you to go to church, or their temple in hope of course to find some religious commonality with you. This is them reaching out and seeking a common bond to strengthen your relationship or friendship. I have found this to be an interesting issue in my own life. Especially, when I state to my friends that yes I will definitely go with them someday only to keep putting it off.
This “lie” breaks one of the five precepts causing us bad karma. The best way to approach the invitation is to look at your friend and say “I am sorry but I cannot. I appreciate the offer however; I will have to pass because my beliefs will not allow me to take refuge within another god’s house.”
Do not offend the person and keep it as tactful as possible. Once the offer is declined find a way to change the subject or leave so that way there will not be any hard feelings or anger and the other person can think through your answer more logical.
This is the best way to “not take refuge in other gods.” Follow one path and stick with it. Commitment often means forever. In this time, walking away from commitments is as common as changing your underwear.
Granted having clean underwear is good but changing your commitments every week based on the emotional feel good of what one religion promises is not a very good move, and that is one reason why the monastery often asks for you not to take refuge in any other god. This causes confusion within the doctrines and teachings as well as problems with changing the membership information. Think before you change.