refuge prayer: “… At the foot of the Bodhi tree, beautifully seated, peaceful and smiling, the living source of understanding and compassion, to the Buddha I go for refuge …” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

refuge prayer buddha at bodhi tree thich nhat hanh

“… From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. 

The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life …~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Indeed, His Holiness is suggesting a simple behavior that helps deepen peace and cultivate equanimity for an individual. Of course, such individual behavior – if/when practiced by many (all?) – would naturally result in deeper peace and equanimity for humanity.

Kindness is another quality that is also a key to peace and equanimity … as underscored by these luminaries of wisdom:

“… After 45 years of research & study, the best advice I can give is to be a little kinder …”  ~ Aldous Huxley

“… The Golden Rule found at the heart of the world’s spiritual traditions …”  ~ Peter Russell

“… The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth …”  ~ Albert Einstein

“… My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness …”  ~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama

refuge prayer kindness butterfly thich nhat hanh

At Stillness Speaks, in addition to sharing commonalities in different traditions, we also, always, encourage such qualities and reminders.

In that spirit, today, we offer Thich Nhat Hanh’s  Refuge Prayer (excerpted from his book Call Me by My True Names)… where he seeks “refuge” in the Three Gems of Zen & Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) and in that process vows to cultivate these essential qualities …

Refuge Prayer

At the foot of the Bodhi tree,
beautifully seated, peaceful and smiling,
the living source of understanding and compassion,
to the Buddha I go for refuge.

The path of mindful living,
leading to healing, joy, and enlightenment,
the way of peace,
to the Dharma I go for refuge.

The loving and supportive community of practice,
realizing harmony, awareness, and liberation,
to the Sangha I go for refuge.

I am aware that the Three Gems are within my heart.
I vow to realize them.
I vow to practice mindful breathing and smiling,
looking deeply into things.
I vow to understand living beings and their suffering,
to cultivate compassion and loving kindness,
and to practice joy and equanimity.

I vow to offer joy to one person in the morning
and to help relieve the grief of one person in the afternoon.
I vow to live simply and sanely,
content with just a few possessions,
and to keep my body healthy.
I vow to let go of all worry and anxiety
in order to be light and free.

light free thich nhat hanh

I am aware that I owe so much to my parents,
teachers, friends, and all beings.
I vow to be worthy of their trust,
to practice wholeheartedly,
so that understanding and compassion will flower,
and I can help living beings
be free from their suffering.

May the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha support my efforts.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Of course, Thay encourages the cultivation of compassion in poems other than this Refuge Prayer, e.g., in his A Prayer for Peace (from the same book as this poem): “… Help us rekindle our compassion and brotherhood, and transform our separate interests into loving acceptance for all …”  – yet another way to deepen peace for humanity.

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As to offering joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the grief of one person in the afternoon

Here’s a gentle reminder to help those in times of extreme need … to that end we highlight two “hubs” of giving from which you can select your desired recipient(s) …

1) Direct Relief, which is “… a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay …” … and since 1948, it “… has worked to help people who confront enormous hardship to recover from disasters and improve the quality of their lives. The tradition of direct and targeted assistance, provided in a manner that respects and involves the people served, has been a hallmark of the organization since its founding …”

2) Go Fund Me continues to be a platform (amongst many others) for exercising – and deepening – our kindness and compassion. To this end, we have selected a few “pertinent to this time” campaigns that bring relief … for animals during natural disaster (like the llming IDA Hurricane) … for a family that lost the father – a marine in Afghanistan – while expecting a new baby … for small businesses … for restaurant workers – the world over …

Also, … here’s a GoFundMe blog post Fundraising for Coronavirus Relief: How You Can Help the Fight that offers a very comprehensive map for the COVID relief efforts including how you can help, what to give to, and lots more … We are supporting some of these campaigns personally and also as Stillness Speaks (through donations).

— — — —

We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then please do so …

Of course, there are many more worthy and noble efforts – the ones highlighted here are simply suggestions that may inspire you to donate to whatever effort you are drawn to …


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May you    practice this refuge prayer  … in your everyday life … and …

Enjoy/live the resulting fruits: compassion, kindness, joy, and equanimity   … and …

May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.


Opening Dalai Lama quote (in the blockquote section) from Compassion and the Individual.
All Thich Nhat Hanh quotes and the entire p
oem are from Call Me by My True Names by Thich Nhat Hanh.
The other quotes on Kindness (except Dalai Lama’s – see next line for its attribution) from our earlier post: Kindness and Compassion: A Recap amid COVID.
Dalai Lama’s quote on kindness from our earlier post: Compassion: Dalai Lama & Robert William Service.
Images: (edited and logo added): Featured and 1) Snapshot from our Zen and the West Film, 3) Peace Around the World by justinkendra, 4) Happy jump jumping on beach by Photocreo. All except 2) purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post), 2) Butterfly in Hand by Ethan AblemanCC BY 2.0.


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