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Refuge and Lay Vows, and Bodhisattva Vows

7:00 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

On this auspicious holy day, Saka Dawa, Geshe-la will offer Refuge, the Five Lay Vows, and Bodhisattva Vows. It is especially wonderful to be able to take these vows on a Buddha holy day, when the karmic effects of our actions increase exponentially!

Taking refuge vows is making a commitment to Buddhism as one's spiritual path. It also creates a karmic bond with the teacher who offers the vows. When you take refuge in the Three Jewels, the refuge master conferring the vows will also give you a refuge name in Tibetan.

The Five Lay Vows are a set of basic ethical principals, vows not to kill, take what has not been given, lie, take intoxicants or commit sexual misconduct (that is, have sex with someone else's partner)

Bodhisattva Vows are a set of 18 principals that areguides to which actions to practice and which to abandoned in order to be of greatest benefit to others, develop compassion, and overcome selfish ways of being.

You can learn more about these vows in this Mandala Magazine article. The Five Lay Vows are lifetime vows, so they only need to be taken once, and should be taken with the confidence you will keep them.

Those who have already taken refuge are welcome to attend and renew their vows.

Geshe Gelek recommends anyone interested in taking refuge should read the refuge section in the book Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand (available in our bookstore). He also taught a class on refuge in 2013 for students interested in the ceremony - you can listen to it in the recordings section of our website.

The ceremony will likely be in Tibetan, but it is first explained in English what you are saying. Please arrive by 6:30. At the end of the ceremony, it is traditional to offer two katas (white offering scarfs, available in the bookstore) - one to the Buddha statue on the altar, and one to the teacher giving the vows, who returns it by placing it over your head as a blessing. While we often have spare ones to lend, it is best to buy them so you are actually making an offering of your own. It is also auspicious to give the teacher a gift, typically money (any amount) in an envelope, in appreciation for the incredible gift he has just given you with this opportunity. The center will also be giving you a copy of the FPMT booklet on refuge and how to practice it daily. 

Lay Vows and Bodhisattva Vows

Following the refuge ceremony, Geshe-la will offer the five Lay Vows and the Bodhisattva Vows.

Thanking the teacher

If you take any vows with Geshe-la, it is auspicious to thank him by offering and kata and a small gift, typically money (any amount) in an envelope. 

As with all our programs, we offer the Dharma and many resources freely to the community, and rely on your donations to cover the costs involved. Please consider supporting the center by making an offering in the donation boxes, through the bookstore, online, or by mailing a check.

If you have any questions, please email Donna at

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