The Buddha abolishes the 3 Refuges



In the Mahavagga (28/3) of the Vinaya (i.e. a late Buddhist dhamma compilation), the Tathagata (later renamed ‘the Buddha’) states unambiguously:


“Bhikkhus, I abolish from this day the upasampadà (i.e. full ordination) by the threefold declaration of taking refuge (Pali: sarana, meaning: protection, shelter, house or help; or remembrance), which I had prescribed. Bhikkhus, I prescribe that you confer the upasampadà by a formal act of the order in which the announcement is followed by three questions.”


The Tathagata/Buddha changed the admission requirement from taking the 3 refuges to agreement by the bhikkhus as to the worthiness of the individual seeking admission.


Half way through his career as an itinerant wisdom busker the Tathagata changed his mind about the 3 refuges. That’s because he had realised that taking refuge in any ‘thing’ (hence a dharma, later a sankhara = an emerged from conditions phenomenon) other than the final goal, namely the (unconditioned) deathless, was counter-productive. In other words, attaching to what would, centuries later, be deliberately euphemised as ‘The three jewels’ would seriously impede progress because both the dhamma and the sangha, arisen due to conditions, would change, decline and decay due to conditions (eventually at least 5 major schools and hundreds of sects emerged in India. All degenerated and disappeared.

In short, The Tathagata realised that the dhamma and the sangha would be corrupted by those who claimed to follow him since they would emerge from and adapt themselves to changed conditions, specifically to changed political conditions, as which happen during the reign of Ashoka, who turned the dhamma into a political agenda (operating as a national rehabilitation programme, much needed after his genocidal road to the top), the bhikkus (i.e. indeed, some of his own children) into its enforcers and, possibly, the Tathagata into the Buddha (as myth).


Note: the notion that the murderous turned pacifist Emperor Ashoka was a ‘Buddhist’ was invented by 19th century Christian, mainly Victorian amateur archaeologists and cryptologist who ‘read into’ in the Ashokan rock edicts some aspects of the later, mythological Buddha dhamma. The Ashokan rock edicts do not name either the Tathagata or the Buddha.


Had the Tathagata not stated time and again:


 “Bhikkhus, this dhamma (possibly meaning teaching, possibly law) is for giving up not for taking hold of, listen to it carefully.” Majjhima 3: 2.


Obliging both bhikkhus and puthujjanas (i.e. worldlings (i.e. lay persons or monks) bound by the 10 fetters) to taking the three refuges (= homes) served (and is still serves) to bind individuals…. into the Tathagata’s (now Buddha’s) sect, not for their welfare (enhanced by un-binding) but for the material and morale benefit of the Buddhist sect officials.


How many refuges?

Refuge? For ‘one gone forth into homeless’?

The meanings of the name Tathagata

Ganesh vers. the Buddha



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