Robert Thurman, a Tibetan Buddhist and Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, said of the Three Jewels,   "Remember that awakening, freedom from suffering, salvation, if you will, liberation, omniscience, Buddhahood, all come from your own understanding, your insight into your own reality. It cannot come just from the blessing of another, from some magical empowerment, from some sort of secret gimmick, or from membership in a group."  Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen said, "The genuine Three Jewels, in essence, are none other than the enlightened Buddha nature that is already inside you."  Studying the Buddha's teachings -- one definition of  dharma  -- is important, but to  take refuge in the Dharma  is much more than just trust and acceptance of teachings. It's about trusting mindfulness, the present moment, right here, not putting faith in something far away.

Robert Thurman, a Tibetan Buddhist and Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, said of the Three Jewels, 

"Remember that awakening, freedom from suffering, salvation, if you will, liberation, omniscience, Buddhahood, all come from your own understanding, your insight into your own reality. It cannot come just from the blessing of another, from some magical empowerment, from some sort of secret gimmick, or from membership in a group."

Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen said, "The genuine Three Jewels, in essence, are none other than the enlightened Buddha nature that is already inside you."

Studying the Buddha's teachings -- one definition of dharma -- is important, but to take refuge in the Dharma is much more than just trust and acceptance of teachings. It's about trusting mindfulness, the present moment, right here, not putting faith in something far away.

Dharma "Dharma is our own reality that we seek to understand fully, to open to fully. Dharma, therefore, also consists of those methods and the teaching of those methods that are the arts and sciences which enable us to open ourselves. The practices that we do, which will open us, which follow those teachings, which implement them in our lives, in our practice, and in our performance, which deploy those arts-they are also Dharma."

 Sangha  A sangha is a community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness.

The importance of sangha cannot be overestimated. Trying to achieve awareness or enlightenment  by yourself and only for yourself is like trying to walk uphill during a mudslide. Opening yourself to others, supporting and being supported, is critical to loosening the fetters of ego and selfishness.

The Triple Gem

We get this language "dharma talks" and the concept of coming together for them, from some roots in the concept of the "triple gem". This is an age old concept and has the ability to describe the aim for talks such as these. In our modern time, we could drop the language, understanding this universal concept of coming together to learn and grow in a topic as a group and how this can expand our thoughts and approach and provide a sense of excitement, learning and growing in a shared interest or practice.

The Three Jewels or Triple Gem. The Three Jewels are: the Buddha; the Dharma, the Sangha. 

"Taking refuge in the Buddha, we learn to transform anger into compassion; taking refuge in the Dharma, we learn to transform delusion into wisdom; taking refuge in the Sangha, we learn to transform desire into generosity."

The Buddha as the embodiment of a teacher. "We turn to the teaching of the reality, the teaching of the method of achieving happiness in whatever form it comes to us, whether it comes as Christianity, whether it comes as humanism, whether it comes as Hinduism, Sufism, or Buddhism. The form doesn't matter. The teacher is "Buddha" to us, one who can point the way to our own reality for us. He could be a scientist; she could be a religious teacher."