Taking refuge is the first formal step on the Buddhist path. This concise text explains that what is meant by refuge is protection and eventual freedom from the confusion and suffering of cyclic existence (samsara). Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche describes the genuine sources of spiritual refuge, which are called the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. He explains the importance of receiving refuge from an authentic and unbroken lineage of transmission, the role of faith and trust, and how to relate to the refuge ceremony itself. Rinpoche emphasises the importance of taking refuge with the motivation to practice the path until we reach full spiritual awakening -- and to do so t just for ourselves, but for the benefit and enlightenment of all beings.
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche was born in Rabshu in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet. He was born at sunrise on Mahakala Day, the twenty-ninth day of the second month in the Year of the Wood Mouse, 1924. On this day, very early in the morning, Rinpoches mother went to fetch water from the stream, carrying the full vessel of water home. Rinpoche was then born with no pain to his mother. According to Tibetan tradition, all of these special circumstances show a very auspicious birth. When Rinpoche was quite young, his father taught him to read and write, as well as study and memorize Dharma texts. Rinpoche decided at a young age to follow the path of his older brothers, who were both monks. At the age of twelve he entered Thrangu Monastery in eastern Tibet. After completing a yearlong and a three-year retreat, Rinpoche expressed the heartfelt wish to stay in retreat for the rest of his life.