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I’ve recently taken refuge privately (in a personal ceremony that I saw on here) ahead of a more structured approach re joining up with a Sangha (which involves some not inconsiderable travelling). This has not been a rushed, impulsive thing and I’ve been reading various Buddhist books and online material for about 3 years - I don’t consider that a refuge ceremony in a temple would make me more of a Buddhist than I am now, but it’s something I am happy to do in due course and it may well develop that I want to.
A few things that keep crossing my mind and a question.....
I have read online that there are those who seem to indicate that one may not credibly call themselves a Buddhist if they have not been through a formal refuge ceremony in a Sangha / temple. Some of those environments demand a lengthy period of commitment, taking no account of a person’s attitude, knowledge, etc., before a refuge ceremony may be undertaken. An observation - If one wanted to say, become a Christian, then one would be able to convert immediately by opening their heart, etc., and could then identify themselves as a Christian and no person on this planet could conceivably question that person re their faith, only their depth of knowledge perhaps. So, are we to believe that Buddhism is more of a ‘closed shop’ and does not easily open up to new folks ? The Buddha wanted people to think for themselves and only use what made rational sense and I do struggle with the belief that a formal refuge ceremony is the only way to be a Buddhist, albeit I am in no way denigrating the value of a formal refuge. It might be a more visible way, but the only way ? Hmmmmm ? I do sometimes feel that this stance plays into satisfaction of Man’s ego within hierarchical structures. I feel that If people want to do it and it feels skilful and helpful to them, great. If they want to take refuge personally and quietly, that’s also great and no weaker or more diluted at all.
Reading the Dharma, Sūtras etc., - what is a good source of material for these please ? Any recommendations welcome ?
Thank you so much for any help you can give.