Our reader Victoria recently asked us for help with the pronunciation of Atisha’s Refuge and Bodhicitta prayer, so we created a video in which Lobsang takes you through the prayer in Tibetan, first at normal speed, and then word by word, so that you can follow along.
First, here is the common refuge prayer written in Tibetan script, translated to English, and finally written out phonetically in Tibetan:
Until I am enlightened, I take refuge
In the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Through the merit I create by practicing giving and the other perfections
May I attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.
Sangye choe dang tsok kyi chok nam la
Jang chup bar du dak ni kyap su chi
Dak gi jin sok gyi pay sonam kyi
Dro la phen chir sangye drup par shok
Video: Lobsang shows you how to pronounce the short refuge prayer in Tibetan:
A little bit about the refuge prayer:
Generally speaking, this refuge prayer is commonly used by Tibetan Buddhists, who call it kyamdro1. Tibetan Buddhists “take refuge” in the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and the Sangha (the spiritual community of Buddhists).
The idea of “taking refuge” is both very simple and very deep.
On one level, it simply means to take shelter or protection from the danger, trouble and suffering of human life, both our current and future lives, by turning to the Buddha, his teachings, and the community of Buddhist spiritual practitioners. In a sense, the act of taking refuge is what distinguishes Buddhists from non-Buddhists.
On another levels, taking refuge is the first step on the path to Enlightenment, as taught by Atisha (982-1053 AD), a great Indian Buddhist master who traveled and taught in Tibet, and who is sometimes referred to as the “refuge lama.” The Tibetan refuge prayer is also called Atisha’s refuge prayer.
It isn’t entirely clear if Atisha actually wrote the prayer, or if it simply has become associated with him because of his devotion to teaching the deeper concepts of refuge. In his great text, the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, Lama Atisha lays out the Lam Rim tradition of the graduated stages to the path of enlightenment, including various levels of refuge.
These matters are far beyond our training and understanding, but on a very simple level we like the often-stated idea that a person taking refuge is one who wishes to attain Enlightenment, by following the Buddha as her guide, the Dharma as her path and the Sangha as her traveling companions.
While the version we are discussing today is the most common, Tibetans also sometimes use this Sanskrit version of the refuge prayer:
I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha.
- Kyamdro is the way it is pronounced, but the written form is closer to kyapdro.
Resources and More About Atisha and Taking Refuge
recently watched a detailed explanation of how this translation is ignorant of key points of Tibetan grammer, and gets much of the meaning wrong because of it. It points out how important it is for Westerners to have an understanding of the Tibetan beyond being able to pronounce it.
Lobsang and Yolanda says
You understand that Lobsang is Tibetan, right?
RENE MEINHARDT says
Hello. Thank you for this nice page. If you need the refuge prayer as a text for copying, here it is:
Tibtan (Font is Jomolhari):
@|sangs rgyas chos dang tshogs kyi mchog rnams la|
byang chub bar du bdag ni skyabs su mchi|
bdag gis sbyin sogs bgyis pa’i bsod nams kyis|
‘gro la phan phyir sangs rgyas ‘grub par shog|
Phonetics according to Internation Phontics Alphabet (IPA):
sáŋ gjɛ̀ˀ tɕʰǿˀ dàŋ tsʰó[ˀg] cjí tɕʰó[ˀg] nám là
tɕʰàŋ tɕʰúb bàr dù dà[ˀg] nì cjáb sú tɕʰí
dà[ˀg] gìˀ tɕĩ̀[n] só[ˀg] gjìˀ pɛ́ sǿ[ˀd] nàm cjíˀ
ɳʈʂò là pʰɛ́̃[n] tɕʰír sáŋ gjɛ̀ˀ ɳʈʂùb pár ɕó[ˀg]
Phonetics for Western readers:
ssáñg gyä̀ tschhö́ ḍàñg tzhó[g] kyí tschhó[g] nám là
djàñg tschhú[b] bàr ḍù dà[g] nì kyáb ssú tschhí
dà[g] gì djì[n] ssó[g] gyì pä́ ssö́[d] nàm kyí
ḍrò là phä́[n] tschír ssáñg gyä̀ ḍrù[b] pár schó[g]
Lobsang and Yolanda says
Dear Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon,
Thank you so much for your explanation of kamdro. It’s very beautiful! Now the Tibetan pronunciation is on my lips, thanks Lobsang! Practice is possible …. on the way to enlightenment … or maybe to visit you when travel opens.
May you be healthy, happy and keep sharing your joy …+ dharma tips and travel opportunities.
All the best to you and your loved one, all beings,
Lobsang and Yolanda says
What a kind message, Sandra! We are so happy that this was useful to you. 💕
Thank you so much for having your website Lobsand, many blessings to you and your wife. I have found this post very late after it was made. I have taken refuge in English already. Now I have the karma to find these wonderful words in Tibetan, and I am trying to remember them. Thank you so much for your video about the correct pronunciation. For the benefit of all beings, who are as vast as space, may you reach a perfect state of omniscient Boddhahood. : )
Can You share the Tibetan version of the
Tu Pho Lac says
The video is not working.
Please fix the problem.
Thanks for letting us know about the video link issue. We have fixed it.
Oh! Am so happy to read here all these beautiful brothers and sisters going for refuge. Really, I take refuge in all of your refuge! It really is a wonderful thing to take refuge. It is very meaningful and means that you have done a lot of merit work in previous times to get to this place. It is a great virtue and truly, I prostrate to all of you Dharma brothers and sisters. Thank you for being such wonderful beings. Am so honored to share a world with you. Keep going! May all your bodhichitta wishes be easily and quickly fulfilled and may you attain Buddhahood in an instant.
Thank you so much for this very timely post. I will be taking my Refuge Vows in a few days in fact. This post is so beautifully worded and so very meaningful as I reach this most important step in my life.
We’re so happy to hear this, Anne-Marie 🙂 May you have much joy in the dharma.
I would like to ask you something because i want to learn more about buddhism..i haven’t taken refuge yet..would be right to recite refuge mantras? thank you. 🙂
Hello, u can absolutely recite mantras without having formally taken refuge.
Yes, eforient, it is fine 🙂
Ron Fairfield says
I will practice hard, blessings
The best to you on your new journey, Ron!
Tashi delek, Lonsand,
Thank you so much for the prostration videos and refuge prayer in Tibetan. I took refuge this year in Melbourne, Australia. I travelled to Bhutan and Nepal several years ago and found my root guru Padmasambhava at Paro Taktsang.
I am so pleased to find your kind teachings!
Blessings to you and your family.
I’m so sorry for my appalling misspelling of your name, Lobsand. Please forgive me!
Lobsang and Yolanda says
It’s so nice to hear this, and no worries on misspelling my name. That happens all the time. (It is spelled like this: Lobsang) May you be well and happy in these challenging times!
David Tobey says
The main ingredient in this is as “my perception” Lord Shakyamuni revealed.
There is no I
There is no “not I”.
Rigidity and attachment are the recognition of the cause of suffering, the ignorance of this occurrence.
It doesn’t matter which Buddha/god/demon we are projecting, neither of any of them are concretely real, nor is our constantly rigid/clinging/attachment mind(s)real,
This is a compassionate distraction with self/others compassion as the realigning principal method.
Consistently but not necessarily hard, relaxed but not procrastinating, it is essential to make contact with an authentic guide, many call themselves guides (Lamas in Tibetan, Mother of Life), you must test them as if avoiding taking poison (being unable to transform their behavior once committed).
Slowly steadily please don’t renounce outward kindness gentle mutually beneficial behavior.
I am most grateful to you for creating this video. For those of us who hear the prayers said in
Tibetan and even read the translation, still a slow and clear version to listen is essential. For
myself, it is being respectful to the Buddha, grateful for the teachings and wishing all sentient
beings freedom from suffering.
Lobsand many blessings to you and your wife for the website, I have learned so much and
will continue to share everythiing on my FaceBook page…Victoria
Thanks so much Victoria! We appreciate your kind thoughts and are so happy if the posts are helpful. All the best to you 🙂
Shetrdon Hamel says
How do you write “I will take refuge in you” in Tibetian, Pali, or Sanscrit. I’m not sure which. I am going to take refuge in about a month. I want to get a tattoo in the symbol form. No one else will know what it means but I will ;-)… I already have “Om Mani Padme Hun”. It’s in the form that is found throughout Tibet. Please help me if you can.
Hi Shetrdon, There is a website — tibetanlife — which offers Tibetan tattoo services, which we think includes getting the Tibetan version of an English phrase. You can try that 🙂 All the best to you on the path.
I’ve found this lovely post rather late, but still wish to thank you, Lobsand, for giving me the opportunity to learn the correct pronunciation of the Refuge prayer in Tibetan. I took Refuge at the beginning of this year at Karma Thegsum Choling in N. Texas, and now I can say it with proper intonation. Thank you and tashi delek!
You are so welcome, Carolyn. Thanks for writing!