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Taking Refuge In Earth

In Buddhism the pratitioner traditionally "takes refuge" in the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This act is comparable to expressing allegiance and finding ground to stand on. Cynthia Jurs suggests that Earth, as an embodiment of the three jewels, is an immediate and suitable refuge and focus of reverence.Indeed, the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment, affirmed this by "summoning the Earth to witness"--which is the Cynthia's piece, excerpted below.


by Cynthia Jurs

The following are some thoughts about how the Earth, in all it’s vastness, is like an embodiment of the Three Jewels and how we might practice taking refuge in the whole Earth.

To see the Three Jewels embodied in the Earth, we look to the natural world and see that when nature is working in harmony that is enlightened nature! And when it is not, the Earth points out what we need to learn directly--ask any gardener!

This is the Buddha, our teacher.

When we look at all the myriad systems of the Earth working together, feeding each other, informing each other, supporting each other, we see the teachings of interdependent origination and there we have the Dharma. The path of understanding, cooperation, harmony and life-long sustainability.

When we recognize all the parts of the whole Earth in community together, all the great diversity of life, all living in relationship to one another, we have Sangha right here in front of our eyes, in all the ten directions: friends, enemies, young, old, rich, poor, 4 legged, 2 legged, winged, finned and growing roots.

The three jewels of life are all around and in us.

The Earth supports all life like a great jewel in space -- and we are a part of it all.

As a guiding force, a source of refuge, the Earth shows us the way of interdependence, interbeing and it is all teachers, all life, all our precious mothers.

The Earth as Buddha,
The Earth as Dharma,
The Earth as Sangha.

The Kusali Devi, a Newari Buddhist from Nepal, considered to be an emanation of the Mother Goddess Ajama said, that in her tradition "liberation is not possible until we have had 165 teachers! Teachers can be found everywhere and exist in all directions. We need many teachers to learn all the different skills we need in life, not just one. A true teacher directs us to ourselves; to the true guru within”. What could be a better teacher, a more perfect source of refuge for our times than the whole Earth? It is, after all, a complete expression of the whole of which we are each an inextricable part. There are lessons to be found in every direction. How exciting, humbling, and magnificent is that? How empowering and how awe-inspiring? Like meeting a great Master or our true love; this Earth, our greatest teacher. The embodiment of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

Through a sense of refuge in the whole Earth, the Four Noble Truths are illuminated. We clearly see the suffering of Samsara, we awaken to the Path and understand the Way to peace and harmony through awareness.

What a profound opportunity is upon us! The realization of the bodhisattva vow now in our time. This is the realization that we cannot become liberated until we are all liberated, that every one counts, all life is interconnected. We truly do help each other by recognizing our interdependence and when we do, we see that 'I am because you are' and my survival is dependent on yours and we are all in this together. A healthy, harmonious system is in everyone's best interests. Expanding beyond the boundaries of self to embrace all life as part of what we call "ourselves". Beyond one teacher or one way to encompass the whole; vast and awe-inspiring, this self-less nature permeates and penetrates all that is, and if I am not mistaken, we are being asked by this Earth, our great teacher, to be aware of this truth now, for the sake of all life, all sentient beings, and all future generations.

Never before has the message of the Buddha been so apparent.

Embodied by the Earth, our precious teacher, who shows us the way.

This is the present moment, the only moment. Now….

Time falls away. There is only this moment stretching out for all time, infinite as space. There is space penetrating each atom and particle of matter, and there is the harmonious co-existence of all matter as it unfolds in all its great diversity. And there is the ease in knowing this is as it is--no more, no less--perfect.

And then there is the gesture to contribute to the whole that arises naturally.

Maybe if we remember the Earth as a healthy, whole harmonious system and honor her as we would our greatest teacher, a respected elder, or our beloved, we might hear her Dharma teaching now in these late days and wake up! Maybe if we take refuge in the Whole Earth and make that our practice, the Three Jewels will awaken in our hearts, come to life in us and show us the way to set aside selfishness and greed, ignorance, pride, hatred and envy once and for all.

Namo Buddhaya.

Namo Dharmaya.

Namo Sanghaya.

So. Resting attention on the breath, we participate in life, we are part of Earth's natural order. "We have arrived, we are home". Conceptualization, discursive thought, reactive emotions, drop away and we become present and experience our connection to all that is.

When we do, we see that breathing is a function of nature.

When we honor our innate knowing as if it were the Mind of Nature, cultivate it as if it were the Garden of Life, I can assure you that happiness will flower and peace will accompany each moment, rippling out beyond the boundaries of skin.

How is a walking meditation, like breathing with awareness, a way to experience being a part of nature? By resting awareness in the movement itself, going nowhere.

With attention on the movement itself, we can experience the effortless flow of nature in each step, present and alive.

Going everywhere, doing everything, going nowhere, doing nothing.

Little by little, step by step, we have arrived.

This is Earth Dharma—
a teaching from the Earth,
from the heart of nature,
from the nature of mind.