Our True Refuge

19 July 2020
Adapted from Ajahn Chah’s talk
Written by Dd Lee Kok Cheng

Our True Refuge

The Buddha taught all compounded things are subject to decline and dissolution.  How do they decline?   Consider a lump of ice.  Originally, it was simply water.  People freeze it and it becomes ice but it doesn’t take long before it is melted.  Take a big lump of ice and leave it out in the sun.  We can see how it declines.  It will gradually disintegrate.  After not many minutes, all that is left will be a puddle of water.  This is an example of decline and dissolution of all compounded things.  It has been this way for a long time now ever since the beginning of time.

When we are born, we bring this inherent nature into the world with us; we can’t avoid it.  At birth, we bring old age, sickness and death along with us.  So, this is why the Buddha said, the decline and dissolution of all compounded things.  All of us without exception are lumps of deterioration.  Can you see this decline in yourself?

Look at this body.  It is ageing every day.  Hair is aging, nails are aging, and everything is aging.  We weren’t like this before.  We were probably much smaller in size than this.  Now we have grown up and matured.  From now on, we will decline following the way of nature.  The body declines just like the lump of ice.  Soon, just like the lump of ice, it will be gone.

All bodies are composed of the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire; a confluence of these four elements which we perceive to call a person.  We get infatuated with it; giving it names – he is Mr so and so and she is Mrs so and so.  We can identify each other more easily by given them a name but actually there isn’t anybody there.  There are merely earth, water, wind and fire.  When they come together in this known form, we call the result a person. Now, don’t get excited over it.  If you really look into it, there isn’t anyone there.   

Now, we tend to think these bodies are pretty, delightful, long lasting and strong.  We tend to think that we will never age, get sick or die.  We are charmed and fooled by the body and so are ignorant of the true refuge within ourselves.  Actually, the true place of refuge is the mind.  The body is only a temporary shelter.  Soon, we must leave it.   

People usually spend most of their time looking at unimportant things.  For example, when they do the house cleaning, they may be bent on cleaning up the house, washing the dishes and so on but they fail to notice their own mind.  Their mind may be disturbed; they may be feeling angry washing the dishes with the unpleasant expression on their face.  They fail to see that their own mind is not very clean.  They beautify the house but they don’t think of beautifying their own mind.  They don’t examine the mind which is disturbed or unpleasant.  

The Buddha taught the cultivation of the mind is the true refuge, nothing else. We may try to depend on other things but they aren’t a sure thing.  We can really depend on other things if we already have a refuge within ourselves; be it a teacher, family, friends or relatives.