I take refuge in the Buddha

Which Buddha?

Down the road from where I live, an old Victorian hotel has been converted into a temple of the Amida Buddhist order. Here, the chant Namo Amida Bu (“I call out to Amida Buddha) calls upon the mercy of Amitābha/Amida, the celestial Buddha of compassion.


Amida in the Pure Land

For those not familiar with Mahayana iconography, Amida is often shown with the colour red (he is the Buddha of the setting sun). His dying vow — on this earth, or some other earth, or somewhere — was that those who call upon his name would be reborn in the Pure Land, a kind of Buddhist paradise where enlightenment is more easily obtained.

The friendly folk at the temple seem agnostic as to the metaphysics of all of this. No doubt many Amida Buddhists believe in the literal, biographical ontology of Amida. Others are content to see in Amida a kind of celestial love that accepts them just as they are. “Amida” offers grace from without and that is enough. I take refuge in that.

Or I could take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha — you know, the Buddha, the one Richard Gere likes. Myth and history co-exist in the story of Siddartha but I certainly take refuge in its splendid archetypes: innocence lost, crisis, the search for enlightenment in all the wrong places, the battle with the ego, and finally, one hopes, equilibrium. (If you want to bathe in the radiance of this story, the PBS documentary on the Buddha is the televisual-religious equivalent of what the Danes call hygge.)

Most of all I believe this second kind of “buddha” is earthly embodiment. Incarnation. It is the human form of a truth — the Kingdom is within. I take refuge here.

The Gospel of Thomas says it best:

Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will get there first. If they say, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will get there first. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you…”

At Easter, I take refuge in the buddhas.



  1. Where does the God-refuge movingly invoked in the Psalms fit in this personal reflection? Is He a ‘buddha’ as well in the senses described in the OP?

  2. If buddha means one-who-is-awake, I would hope that God counts.

  3. Jason K. says:

    I’m surprised that you got through this post about the “Kingdom within” without invoking the sangha. Good stuff, RJH.

  4. Luke 17:21 “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Because the Greek second person pronoun in this text is plural, many translations say “the kingdom of God is among you.” The implication may be that it is found in the community of believers – the “body of Christ.” Is the Gospel of Thomas text parallel to Luke on this point? or is its second person pronoun singular and English speakers are often inclined to take it? (Actually, I often do better finding the kingdom of God in singular me than in my ward or stake, but I remain curious about what it is that the Gospel of Thomas actually says best. I have neither Coptic nor enough Greek to try to figure it out from either the found text or the reconstructed Greek text.

  5. JR, I like the preface about birds and fish.

  6. Yep. I like it.

  7. “Amida” offers grace from without and that is enough. I take refuge in that.”

    I feel exactly the same way. Thank you for this!