The Three Refuges
In Buddhism, taking refuge has two meanings: to return and to rely. By taking the Three Refuges, we acknowledge that we have been deluded and erroneous in our ways; now we wish to return to the purity of our Buddha Nature, and we need to rely on the wisdom and guidance of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Buddha: the Enlightened One; the guiding teacher of our cultivation.
Dharma: the teachings of the Buddha that can guide us to Enlightenment.
Sangha: the community of ordained Buddhist monks, nuns and disciples, devoted to the practice and teaching of the Dharma.
The Sixth Patriarch said, Buddha represents the enlightened mind, Dharma represents truth, and Sangha represents purity and harmony. By taking three refuges we develop our intrinsic Three Jewels.
The Five Precepts
The five precepts provide practical guidelines for our way of life, help us avoid future suffering, transform us into responsible people, and bring us happiness and peace of mind. They are:
1. No Killing: To refrain from harming or killing any sentient beings, including animals and insects.
2. No Stealing: To refrain from taking things that belong to others without permission.
3. No Sexual Misconduct: To refrain from improper sexual acts, such as promiscuity and adultery.
4. No Lying: To refrain from deceitful and other false speech.
5. No Intoxicants: To abstain from alcohol and illegal substances that can delude and muddle the mind.
Your life now is a reflection of how well you observed the five precepts in past incarnations.
The five precepts are the foundations of all virtues. One should uphold the five precepts in this lifetime to be liberated from the suffering of samsara (cycle of life and death)