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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
82 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2014 heads, arms, or legs may appear—especially if you are unfa- miliar with Tibetan images—these forms all have meaning. Furthermore, the meaning directly reflects qualities that you already embody. They are symbolic ways of mirroring your own realized mind. Remember, you are turning away from the refuges of samsara, toward the truest source of protection. What could be more reliable than your own buddhanature? The yidams help us accomplish our goals by taking dif- ferent forms, which are categorized as peaceful, enriching, magnetizing, and wrathful. This diversity reflects the varying needs of practitioners. Taking Refuge in the Dharma Protectors Dharma protectors are the root of activity. They are not quite completely realized buddhas, but more like the bodhisattvas of the noble sangha who genuinely aspire to help beings rec- ognize their own enlightenment. Dharma protectors are like assistants, aides, or helpers. These protectors—or dharmapa- las—include a wide range of enlightened beings such as dakas, dakinis, and mahakalas. The protectors evolved as keepers of the dharma or guardians of the Buddhist teachings. Worldly protectors are local deities or folk gods that people pray to for help with their crops or for the immediate environment to be protected from floods and storms. These are not enlightened beings and should not be confused with wisdom dharma pro- tectors, who are bodhisattvas. Conclusion With refuge practice, we cultivate protection in the reliable sources of the three jewels and the three roots. That’s what we sign up for. But we receive many other benefits: loving-kind- ness, compassion, and bodhichitta; shamatha and vipashyana; purification and merit. The main point of the entire practice is to recognize our own awareness and to nurture it. Imagination is a wonderful support for that. In the context of taking refuge, we can rest our awareness on the refuge tree or use physical sensations, the sound of the prayer, or even awareness itself as a support. By the end of the common foundation practices, we aspire to be free from suffering but we don’t have a clear sense of our destination. Once we make a connection to reliable sources of protection, our destination comes into view. We begin to discover the missing piece in our pursuit of happiness, which has eluded us because samsaric refuges do not last. This connection to Buddha, dharma, and sangha is not like a rigid, concrete bridge that connects one side of the river to the other and is designed to last for a thousand years. It’s more like an enchanted rope that slowly but inevitably draws the two shores closer together until they merge and we realize that samsara is nirvana and that the outside buddha and the inside buddha are the same. ➤ continued from page 52