Skip to main content



At the beginning of virtually every Buddhist ritual performed in South and Southeast Asia, whether public or private, the following Pali invocation is chanted:

Buddhaṃ saranaṃ gacchāṃi.

Dhammaṃ saranaṃ gacchāmi.

Sanghaṃ saranaṃ gācchami.

The translation is:

I go to the Buddha as a refuge.

I go to the dhamma as a refuge.

I go to the saṅgha as a refuge.

Taking refuge in the triratna (triple gem) is usually first chanted by a monk and then repeated by the laity. It is a collective confessional statement in which the three "jewels" of the śāsana (tradition or teaching) are publicly affirmed, a declaration that the Buddha discovered the truth and made it known to the saṆgha, who have preserved and embodied it.

Taking refuge in the triratna is often a prelude to the acceptance of basic precepts. Observing the pañcaśīla (fivefold morality) is regarded as normative for all pious Buddhists. Indeed, it is an ancient moral formula shared with other Indian religious śramaṇa (renunciant) and Brāhmaṇa (priestly) traditions and comprises the cardinal principles encoded within the monastic Vinayapiṭaka (Book of Discipline). This code includes prohibitions against taking life, against taking what is not given, against lying about spiritual achievement, against engaging in sexual misconduct, and against imbibing intoxicants—five basic precepts for Buddhists. Aṭṭhaśīla, the taking of eight precepts by laity on full-moon days, includes observing the five precepts plus three more: not taking solid food after noon, wearing only white clothes without ornamentation, and sitting and lying only on mats.

See also:Ordination; Vinaya


Carter, John Ross. On Understanding Buddhists: Essays on the Theravāda Tradition in Sri Lanka. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Gombrich, Richard. Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

John Clifford Holt

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Refuges." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . 23 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Refuges." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . (January 23, 2019).

"Refuges." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.