The teachings of the great Buddhist masters are not random recipes. They are real guides that spring from the living experience of experts in the spiritual path, who possess extraordinary knowledge and understand clearly the mechanisms that produce happiness and suffering.
Once we have explored the previous four themes, we then discuss the concept of “taking refuge.” This does not mean invoking the protection of occult and mysterious powers but relying on the teachings that lead to enlightenment, which means true (1) knowledge of mind and (2) the nature of reality. It is that knowledge that can free us from suffering.
At first, it is essential to rely on beings that already have that wisdom and illustrate it by their actions. Their perfect representative is the Buddha.
Then come the teachings on altruism and compassion, which are the heart of the path. What is the point of freeing yourself from suffering when those around you continue to suffer? Such a limited approach would be doomed to failure because our joys and sorrows are inevitably linked to those of others. In other words, we all have to cross “the ocean of suffering” together.
Before starting a journey, it is essential to equip oneself with the things one needs to reach one’s destination and deal with the obstacles that will inevitably arise on the way. It is the same with the spiritual adventure.
We must first get rid of the mental poisons that prevent our mind from evolving and second generate the “merit,” or positive energy, that will provide the necessary momentum for the process of interior growth.
We also need the invaluable assistance of spiritual friends and especially a qualified master who, by the power of his own experience and great kindness, will be able to untiringly show us the way.
Source: Ricard, Matthieu. On the Path to Enlightenment: Heart Advice from the Great Tibetan Masters. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2013.