From a Believer to a Buddhist 



Upon attaining Enlightenment under Bodhi Tree, the Buddha exclaimed: “Isn’t it wonderful, all beings are gifted with the potential to attain the wisdom of a Buddha. The reason why they have yet to gain enlightenment is due to their distractions and attachments”. All being are originally equipped with the Buddha Nature and the pureness and serenity. However, along the way, we get so clouded by distractions and attachments that we have to rediscover ourselves. 

Just before the Buddha passed into Final Nirvana, he expounded to his disciples that they should only rely on themselves, the Dharma and nothing else. 

If you observe around us, you will notice the pain, suffering and frustrations experienced by beings. Even after we have pursued and realized all our dreams and aspirations, we may still not be happy. 

A person upon reaching his pinnacle will realize that life is lonely or incomplete even at the top. Health, wealth, influence and power are never sufficient for many. But whether you are traveling on land or navigating on the ocean, what you are searching for ultimately is still a sanctuary. A traveler in the night will need to rely on a lamp. A seafarer will need to rely on a compass, the young need a pair of guiding hands and the aged need the support of a walking aid, all of them are searching for their sanctuary and support. 

The Triple Gem is our only lamp and compass to reach our sanctuary.


Many people subscribe to the concept of kindness and compassion. They also try to abide by all rules and laws. But human beings are by nature not perfect and try as we might to be a good person, when in the face with temptations, if our will power is weak, we may stumble, thus hurting ourselves or even others unknowingly. 

A person who makes offerings to the Buddha conscientiously yet do not Take Refuge in the Triple Gem (also known as Taking the Threefold Refuge) is merely an observer and has not taken his first step onto the path to enlightenment. He may still lose his way anytime. 

When there are so many teachers around us, why do you still want to make the journey alone.

There is no compulsion for a Buddhist to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. Neither does being a strict vegetarian automatically makes one a Buddhist. When a person wishes to become a Buddhist, the first step is to go to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for refuge (Taking the Threefold Refuge). Since the time of Buddha, Taking the Threefold refuge identifies a person as a Buddhist.

In Singapore and a number of Asian countries, Mahayana monks keep to a strict vegetarian diet. But this requirement need not be imposed on all Buddhists. What is important is that it must come from within, whether one should keep to a strict vegetarian diet would depend on oneself. 

Buddhism is democratic. One is given the freedom to exercise one’s choice and decide whether one wants to become a Buddhist so as to change and to have control over one’s path in life. 

Those who have taken the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem can still practise ancestral worship. Honouring one’s ancestors is a way of expressing one’s filial piety and gratitude to them. Filial piety is strongly encouraged in Buddha’s teachings.


In the scriptures, there are three interpretations for the Triple Gem.
1) The original Triple Gem
Buddha Gem The physical manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha, including his 32 major and 80 minor physical marks.
Dharma Gem The discourses which the Buddha preached upon attaining enlightenment on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Karma, Rebirth, Dependent Origination, etc.
Sangha Gem The Five Ascetics, Kaudinya & others who became the Buddha’s first disciples.
2) The current Triple Gem
Buddha Gem Statues, images and pictures of the Buddha are classified as the Buddha Gem.
Dharma Gem All Buddhist scriptures and books are regarded as the Dharma Gem.
Sangha Gem All Bhikkus(monks) and Bhikkunis(nuns) who have taken the full vows and precepts are known as the Sangha.
3) Our internal Triple Gem
Buddha Gem Within each of us, we have our Buddha-nature
Dharma Gem Every one has equanimity, which is our Dharma-nature 
Sangha Gem The quest and desire for inner peace is our Sangha-nature.


Human beings are ignorant, hence we need to be constantly guided. Although everyone has a compassionate heart in them, we need to rediscover ourselves and the Triple Gem within us. We aim to do good, although we may fail along the way, there is no need to be ashamed of our failure. So long as we are pious, true and determined to cultivate, we will finally succeed.

The correct path to take is to seek refuge in the Triple Gem and be a disciple of the Buddha, Dharma & Sangha. 

Buddhist choose to take refuge in the Buddha is because the Buddha can guide our way. Out of compassion, the Buddha guide beings to liberate from their illness, sufferings and ignorance.

The Dharma is all the truth and teachings expounded by the Buddha. Buddhist seek refuge in the Dharma because it will guide us towards a clear path with directional signs along the way, stairs to move forward uphill and bridge to cross streams and obstacles.

Buddhist take refuge in the Dharma as the Dharma will lead us away from ignorance, cravings and evil thoughts, teaching us the way to liberate from Samsara and rebirth.

The Sangha refers to the Monks and Nuns who have taken up the robes and vows in the Buddhist community. The male are known as Bhikkus & female known as Bhikkunis. 

Buddhist take refuge in the Sangha because the Sangha can guide us along the right path giving us the guidance, advice, encouragement, care & concern. The are our partner along the way to enlightenment.


1. Taking the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem

The first step to become a Buddhist is to Take the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem. 

Taking the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem is like gaining a lamp to show the way in the darkest night, a rescue ship amongst the sea of sorrows, a shower of rain on a fire. 

A Buddhist performs the act of taking the Threefold Refuge as the first step on the path to Enlightenment. Thereafter, through good conduct and mental development, one tries to achieve contentment, self-control, a calm and clear mind as well as greater wisdom. Even if one does not attain Enlightenment in this life, one who takes refuge in the Triple Gem is more likely to have favourable conditions for attaining Enlightenment in a future life. 

In this life, Mahayana Buddhists believe that the act of refuge taking, especially with continuous effort henceforth to cultivate oneself, will help liberate one from suffering as well as gain the following merits:
  1. Becoming a true disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha
  2. Be protected by the Guardian Deities and Protectors
  3. Built up self-confidence and stature
  4. Liberate one from evil and greed
  5. Be Respected
  6. Establish Good Karmic links
  7. Accumulate Merits
  8. Meet with benefactors or wise advisors
  9. Built the foundation for further practice and cultivation
  10. Set foot on the path to enlightenment

2. The Meaning of Taking the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem

Taking the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem means to have the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as our guiding light in life and not idolizing of Masters. 

To some people though they have taken refuge in the Triple Gem, but in reality they have only taken refuge in one of the Triple Gem. For example, the first group may just pay homage to the Buddha but they do not want to learn about the Dharma nor do they respect the Sangha. 

The second group learn and research the Dharma like a philosophy but do not pay respect the Buddha nor the Sangha. The third type only idolise and follow members of the Sangha but do not pay homage to the Buddha or learm about the Dharma.

Those who merely idolize members of the Sangha or regard the Buddha as a deity to pray for wealth and prosperity is not a true Buddhist. A true Buddhist will place equal emphasis and value the Triple Gem, be keen and eager to learn the Dharma and regard all members of the Sangha as their teacher.

Buddhist must also have the wisdom to differentiate the difference between right and wrong, have strong faith and conviction and to do good and avoid all evil.

3. Applying to Take the Threefold Refuge

If you would like to take the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem, please complete the attached Application Form. You may also get a copy of it from the Temple. You can also call, fax or visit us at the following address for more information.

Leong Hwa Chan Si Temple
67 Shrewsbury Road, Singapore 307834

Tel : 62533532, 62531423 & 62538346 
Fax : 62510043

Threefold Refuge and 5-Precepts Taking Ceremonies are held 4 times a year. The schedule is as follows:

Fifteen of the 3rd Lunar Month
Fifteen of the 6th Lunar Month
Fifteen of the 9th Lunar Month
Fifteen of the 12th Lunar Month

The simple ceremony lasting 2 hours will commence at 9a.m. However, those we are taking the Threefold Refuge must report at 8a.m for a briefing on the ceremony, prostration, homage paying, the procedure of wearing the prayer robe (Hai Ching) and a simple discourse on the purpose of the ceremony.

No fee is payable for the Threefold Refuge Taking or Five Precepts Taking. However, one is required to purchase the Hai Ching for Refuge Takers and Kesas (brown ceremonial over-robe) for the Five Precepts Takers.


As part of their practice and cultivation, you are also encouraged to participate in :

1. Taking the Five Precepts

The Five Precepts include: 1st, To Refrain from Killing.
2nd, To Refrain from Stealing.
3rd, To Refrain from Sexual Misconduct.
4th, To Refrain from Incorrect Speech.
5th, To Refrain from Intoxicating Drinks and Drugs.

Upon Observing the Five Precepts fully, you can then progress towards taking the Bodhisattva Vows and leading the Bodhisattva Path. 

2. Eight Precepts Observance Retreat 

During the retreat, participants stay within the temple and observe a strict routine established by the Buddha for lay followers to go through renunciated life. There is no compulsion for everyone to take part in the Eight Precept Observance Retreat. It is a good test of will power and can help a lot in our cultivation and practice especially concentration, will-power and discipline.

3. Short-Term Renunciation

Unlike the Eight Precepts Observance Retreat, the short-term renunciation is more stringent as participants are required to shave their heads and lead the life of monks to the fullest for a much period as long as a few weeks to a few months. 

Buddhists who are interested in the above may apply to the temple. The Temple may assess each case individually and determine the applicant’s suitability.

We encourage all devotees to take the Threefold Refuge. They should however keep to their own pace in their practice and cultivation in view of their own family commitment. Thereafter, at your own pace progress onto 5 precepts, 8 precepts and Bodhisattva Vows. 

For a start, we can learn to observe the precept progressively. We must not push ourselves too hard. The right approach is to take everything with a serious attitude but practice and cultivate at your own pace diligently and progressively.

Should you fail, do not feel despair or be discouraged. If you feel remorseful, then you should resolve to do better next time round. No one is prefect, what is important is that you have tried your best.

Copyright (c) 2003 Leong Hwa Monastery.