Meditation Categories 7. Taking Refuge

58. How to Take Refuge

Longchen Nyingtik Meditation 58

The Beginning

Take refuge and arouse bodhichitta.

The Main Part

Visualize in the space before you a jeweled lion throne adorned with lotus, sun, and moon cushions. On top of this sits your glorious root guru indivisible from all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. He is surrounded by inconceivable multitudes of Dharma protectors, dakinis, and yidam deities.

Visualize again that on the ground in front of the refuge field, I and all sentient beings respectively put our palms together and pray: “From now until I attain enlightenment, I take refuge in you, I have no other reliance or refuge besides you.” While visualizing this way, recite the refuge prayer in a melodious tone: “I take refuge in the Guru, I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha,” or recite it in Tibetan, “Lama la kyab su chio, Sangye la kyab su chio, Choe la kyab su chio, Gedun la kyab su chio.”

In Tibet, almost everyone can recite this refuge verse from a young age. Just like the Hans like to say “Amitoufo” all the time, Tibetans also keep this fourfold refuge prayer on their breaths, whether they are on the road or at home practicing. I would encourage you to build up this habit also.

Having recited for some time, visualize that you and all sentient beings dissolve into the field of merit, which in turn dissolves from the edge into the root guru at the center. Finally, the root guru dissolves into the basic space of phenomena free from all elaborations. Rest in this state for a while.


Some people are too busy with their jobs and don’t have time to do the refuge practice in a complete and perfect way that involves visualization and 100,000 recitations. They may therefore recite this prayer of the fourfold refuge in a simplified and hasty way. Although, this is akin to a “fast food” approach, it is still somehow meaningful if they arouse faith and devotion in the Three Jewels after finishing the recitation. Nonetheless, if one has time, it’s best to complete the requirements according to Mipham Rinpoche’s Illuminating the Path to Liberation or The Words of My Perfect Teacher. Having said that, these days, the prevailing sentiment is “fast, fast, fast” for doing anything. But spiritual growth cannot be hastened; it takes certain amount of time to mature.

While visiting the United States, our Lama Rinpoche His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok said that his terma cycle Placing Buddhahood Within Reach could be likened to an exquisite, convenient food well suited for Westerners; his audience responded with great delight and kept on clapping their hands. Indeed, for beings in the degenerate age, studying the major treatises densely packed with profound theories may cause them to doze off. It is therefore an opportune time now to confer a short and effective instruction that can be constantly practiced with ease, and I think the fourfold refuge prayer serves this purpose well.

The Ending

Dedicate all the merit of your practice to all sentient beings.