The Triple Gem (The Threefold Refuge)
The Triple Gem or Gems, in Buddhism, are sometimes called the Three Jewels. They are referred to when one takes the Threefold Refuge, which every serious follower of the teachings of the Buddha (dharma, dhamma) can take. When taking such refuge, the individual puts his whole trust in the Buddha, the dhamma and the sangha.
The Buddha, or the Enlightened One, is the teacher who discovered, realized and proclaimed to the world the law of deliverance, which is the rescue from one’s own enslavement, danger and ignorance. The dhamma is the law or truthful and practical deliverance, and the sangha is the community of the disciples or followers, who have realized or are striving to realize the law of deliverance.
A deeper meaning or interpretation of these Three Gems is that when one takes refuge in
them, he/she is calling upon one’s own buddhanature, the potential buddha
within each one of us, to dominate when deciding our intentions, choices and
actions. He / She also is taking refuge in truth and enlightenment and in those who are or who seek to be enlightened.
The Threefold Refuge or pledge, when given or taken in the ancient language of Pali, still used in the Theravada tradition, is a beautiful sounding chant than can be heard in temples throughout the world. It is easy to memorize, because there are really only five words to remember. Then you can chant it along with the temple monks.
Buddham saranam gacchami. I take refuge in the Buddha.
Dhammam saranam gacchami. I take refuge in the dhamma.
Sangham saranam gacchami. I take refuge in the sangha.