Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem

Each Sunday our Dharma Class begins with chanting in Pali, the language of the Buddha.  After giving honor to him, we chant the following:

Buddham saranam gacchami  ( I go to the Buddha for refuge)
Dhamma saranam gacchami ( I go to the Dhamma for refuge)
Sangha saranam gacchami  ( I go to the Sangha for refuge)

It's important for our children to understand what they are chanting and what it means.  What does it mean to take refuge in the Buddha?

I created a slideshow for the children to watch - 20 images of refuge.  As we watched the slideshow, they were invited to silently look for a theme or similarity that connected all the pictures together.  You can view the slideshow by clicking here.

Some of my students were quicker to pick up on the theme than others, but they all got there in the end.

A refuge is a shelter or protection from danger or trouble.  I asked my youngest children:

  • From what did the different people and animals in the pictures need protection?
  • When we take refuge in the Buddha, is that what we're doing?  Are we hiding under his statue so we don't get wet or caught by predators?  
  • No?  Hmmm.... then why do we take refuge in the Buddha?  What does it mean?

Taking refuge in the Buddha means that we understand that life has suffering and we have confidence, or trust that the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha can help us.  By following the Buddha's path we can begin to understand our suffering and eventually end all of our suffering.

So how do we take refuge?
I used a whiteboard to map out the following with my older students:

This is what we mean when we say we are taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.  

We decided to create a piece of art that each child could take home to help them remember this lesson.
Inspired by the images in the slideshow, the kids drew pictures with the words "I take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha."  A simple reminder.

May beings be free from suffering by the power of the Triple Gem!


  1. Thank you very much for these images and words. I am going to use some of these images to start talking about what "taking refuge" means in regards to the three gems with the children I am working with. We have a family service at the boundless way zen temple in Worcester, MA. You are right - it is hard to find materials I can use to teach children, so again thank you and I will be looking at more of your site in the future.

  2. Thank you so much for the encouraging feedback. Good luck with the family services!