jukai ceremony, taking the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts. I'm going to write about the precepts each of the next three nights. My teacher asked me what the precepts meant to me the other day and I said it meant to treat things with care. He suggested rather it was "caring," the gerund.
The first three precepts constitute the "Three Treasures" and are also called the "Three Refuges." They are;
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha
It certainly is not refuge in the sense of hiding behind. Rather it is the opposite—coming out. The Buddha, for me, represents the part of us that is our true nature. It is who we truly are when we shed our skin (our ego). It also refers to one who is awake and sees things as they are. It is us when we do that as well.
The Dharma, literally referring to the teachings of the Buddha, figuratively means to me what one sees when they are awake. It is the truth about things (so to speak), though constructed in our minds (and hearts).
I think the order of these is important. The Buddha are our six senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, mind(ing). It is what we "bring in" with the senses that is our dharma (teachings).
Next is the Sangha, which literally refers to a community of monks, but now refers to those with whom we practice. Figuratively, the Sangha is much broader, for we practice with all things in a shared universe. Nothing is not our Sangha. We take refuge in the Sangha in the sense that we have become cognizant of ourselves as a jewel in a web of interrelated jewels (Indra's Web).