Taking Refuge Multiple Times

Hi all

Bit of a weird question (I think), I’ve heard of Buddhists who took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha more than once, does this make sense? Is once not enough? Reasons, as far as I could see, seemed like taking refuge from different teachers or sometimes plain because the ceremony is being held.

My mind might be a bit stuck in the Christian way of thinking here - on the one hand, as I understand it (please correct me if I’m wrong) taking refuge and precepts is almost like converting to and officially becoming a Buddhist; so, secondly, in that sense if someone becomes a Christian they do not have to be baptized more than once (at least where I came from).

Am I thinking wrong about this? Would once be enough? And, if more than once is allowed or acceptable, what reasons would be sufficient?

No it doesn’t and it indicates a superficial understanding. Taking refuge in the Dhamma means abandoning the security afforded by conventional reality and gradually transferring trust away from it. You only need to make that commitment once, the important thing is to implement it. But many cannot countenance releasing the grip on conventional values and stepping into a realm of their own making.

For those who go further it’s necessary to understand recognition of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha has the result of gaining a sense of the Dhamma:

“There is the case where you recollect the Tathagata: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Tathagata, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Tathagata. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma.”—AN 11.12

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Hi @Avadhutananda,

I guess it can be confusing. There is deciding to go for refuge, which of course only happens once, and there is the repeating and reinforcing of that commitment that Paul describes. Some traditions do make an occasion of people doing it for the first time, but that is very variable.


Thank you for your kind reply.
Let’s say, for instance, someone would like to belong to the Theravada branch but took refuge with a Chan master. If I understand you correctly, the taking of the refuge once was still enough? Forgive my ignorance

I think it is similar to people that are married to marry again after many years. It’s a deepening and kind of celebration.


Theravada is a self-contained system leading to results, a fact which has been proven over the centuries. Other systems with different emphases such as Chan cannot be successfully combined with it. The problem with taking refuge in another system yet practicing Theravada is it is duplicitous. Such a practitioner should when the opportunity is available, take refuge a second time in Theravada. An example is Bikkhu Bodhi, who first ordained in the Vietnamese tradition, then later as his knowledge developed, in Theravada.

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I take refuge in the Buddha Dhamma Sangha every day. Typically, a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni can ordain a total of 7 times with certain qualifiers - as understand it.

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Enough for what?

Enough to call yourself “a Buddhist?” Sure, once is enough, as long as you’re still (working at) keeping the five precepts.

Enough to get enlightened? Probably not.

To wear away our habit of taking refuge in worldly things (work, drugs, popularity, YouTube videos of cats, etc, etc) usually takes repeatedly reminding ourselves: “No! My real refuge is the Dhamma.”

Remember that monotheism is very different from Buddhism. Professing faith alone is thought to have salvific power in Christianity. But to the Buddhist, professing faith is merely one way to train the mind.

Does that help clarify?


It depends, I think.
As for me, I take refuge in 3 gems and keep 5 precepts at least twice a day- when I wake up and when I go to bed- both times before meditation.
During the day time, I may recite 3 refuges if I feel like it as it makes me calm and relaxed.
It’s like F5 (Refresh) in computers.

Thanks and regards,

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While I’m sure there are people who think this way, I don’t believe that this is the lived practice for most Buddhists. Because most Buddhists in the world are “born” Buddhists and so they have been reciting the refuges and doing it with various levels of sincerity their whole lives.

And you aren’t taking refuge “in another system” really. Unless that system had a profoundly different concept of the Triple Gem. For example, in many modernist Buddhist groups, their triple gem is

  • The Buddha: your own enlightened nature
  • The Dhamma: whatever is true in the world
  • The Sangha: the people you meditate with on Tuesday nights

Ordaining is another matter completely and should not be conflated with going for refuge.

So if we are strictly talking about going for refuge, we take refuge in the Triple Gem. It doesn’t matter who the person is that we recite after.

The question of going for refuge really only comes up, at the practical level, for us converts. In Sri Lanka, and I’m guessing Thailand and Burma, people go for refuge every time they go to the temple, and often on their own at home. This is not really the same kind of existential going for refuge that @paul1 is talking about though.

But I would even say that the going for refuge at the deepest level is not something done a single time for life. Rather that it is a perpetual thing that we must cultivate at all times. It’s not like the baptism by the holy spirit that born again Christians talk about. There is no sanctification going on. That’s why I think the daily/frequent going for refuge is a good practice, even if it is sometimes (often?) superficial.