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Qualities of the Triple Gem
 
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Qualities of the Triple Gem
- by S. N. Goenka

(The following articles were first published in the Sayagyi U Ba Khin Journal.)

Followers of the Buddha take refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. How did the Buddha himself define these three?
Gotama Buddha once defined a Buddha as follows: "A buddha is one who, having discriminatory knowledge of the entire field of suffering, understands the arising and passing of all miseries, is completely free from mental defilements, is pristinely pure and will not be reborn."

A Buddha is always known by the following qualities:

He is an exalted one (bhagavā) because, having vanquished all craving, aversion and delusion, he lives the life of a liberated person.
He is a conqueror of enemies (arahaṃ) because he has annihilated all his enemies, in the form of mental impurities.
Having become fully enlightened by his own rightful efforts (sammā sambuddho), he is a perfectly enlightened being.
He is perfect in both wisdom and conduct (vijjā-caraṇa-sampanno).
He has gone to the ultimate truth (sugato) because he has become pure in body, speech and mind.
He is the knower of worlds (loka-vidū) because he understands them through personal experience.
He is the unsurpassed charioteer of tameable men (anuttaro purisa-damma-sārathi)
He is teacher of gods and men (satthā deva-manussānaṃ).

Anyone who acquires these qualities will become a Buddha. And whoever is a Buddha will have these qualities. Buddha is not the name of a person, community, or sect. There are many other appellations of Buddha, expressing his qualities, such as: Lord (bhagavā), conqueror (jina), valorous (mahāvīra), omniscient (sabbaññū), truth-discoverer (tathāgata), possessor of ten strengths (dasa-bala), one having exhausted all defilements (khīṇāsavo), highly compassionate (mahā-kāruṇiko), free from passion (vīta-rāgo), free from aversion (vīta-doso), free from delusion (vīta-moho), free from craving (vīta-taṇho), truth-perceiver (sacca-dassī), nibbāna-perceiver (nibbāna-dassī), Dhamma-bodied (Dhamma-kāyo), and many more.

All these names signify qualities, characteristics-the nature of Buddha. They are, therefore, universal. There is nothing sectarian about these terms. Such a person teaches Dhamma as follows:
This is sīla, this is samādhi, this is paññā.
After sīla is perfected, samādhi proves highly beneficial.
After samādhi is perfected, paññā proves highly beneficial.
After paññā is perfected, the mind becomes free from all impurities.

Dhamma taught by a Buddha has the following attributes:
It is well-explained (svākkhāto).
It can be experienced in this life (sandiṭṭhiko).
It gives immediate results (akāliko).
It invites people to "come and see" (ehi-passiko).

Every successive step takes one towards the final goal of full liberation (opanayiko). It is to be experienced by each person of average intelligence, for oneself (paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhīti).

Dhamma is not sectarian. It is called by several other names: Eternal dhamma (esa dhammo sanantano); noble eightfold path (ariyo aṭṭhaṇgiko maggo); true dhamma (saddhammo); pure dhamma (visuddhi-dhammo); dhamma leading to full liberation (vimutti-dhammo); noble dhamma (ariyo-dhammo); stainless dhamma (sukka dhammo); foremost dhamma (aggo dhammo); ancient dhamma (purāṇo dhammo).

The Sangha characterized by the Buddha comprises those who, practising Dhamma according to his teachings, have become stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner or fully enlightened ones. This is not an assembly of ordinary people.

Like Buddha and Dhamma, Sangha is characterized by universal qualities such as:
Being worthy of invitation (āhuneyyo); worthy of hospitality (pāhuṇeyyo); worthy of offerings (dakkhiṇeyyo); worthy to be saluted with folded hands (añjali-karaṇīyo); field of merit par excellence (anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ); temperate, tranquil (danto, santo); free from passion, spotless (virajo, vimalo); composed, not diffused (nippapañco).

When we take refuge in the Triple Gem, when we honour Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, let us remember their qualities, and work diligently to develop these very qualities ourselves.


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