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How to Say the Refuge Prayer in Tibetan

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:

Refuge Preyer inTibetan
Refuge Preyer inTibetan

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:

Refuge Prayer: How to Say it 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:

Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dharmaya
Namo Sanghaya

I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha.

Footnotes

  1. Kyamdro is the way it is pronounced, but the written form is closer to kyapdro.

Resources and More About Atisha and Taking Refuge 


Comments

32 responses to “How to Say the Refuge Prayer in Tibetan”

  1. 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.

    1. Lobsang and Yolanda Avatar
      Lobsang and Yolanda

      You understand that Lobsang is Tibetan, right?

  2. RENE MEINHARDT Avatar
    RENE MEINHARDT

    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):
    ༄༅།སངས་རྒྱས་ཆོས་དང་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་མཆོག་རྣམས་ལ།
    བྱང་ཆུབ་བར་དུ་བདག་ནི་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆི།
    བདག་གིས་སྦྱིན་སོགས་བགྱིས་པའི་བསོད་ནམས་ཀྱིས།
    འགྲོ་ལ་ཕན་ཕྱིར་སངས་རྒྱས་འགྲུབ་པར་ཤོག།

    Wylie-Transliteration:
    @|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]

    1. Lobsang and Yolanda Avatar
      Lobsang and Yolanda

      Thank you!

    2. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

  3. 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,
    sandra

    1. Lobsang and Yolanda Avatar
      Lobsang and Yolanda

      What a kind message, Sandra! We are so happy that this was useful to you. 💕

  4. James Avatar

    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. : )

  5. Can You share the Tibetan version of the
    Namo Buddhaya
    Namo Dharmaya
    Namo Sanghaya
    mantra?!
    Thank You!

  6. Tu Pho Lac Avatar
    Tu Pho Lac

    The video is not working.

    Please fix the problem.

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for letting us know about the video link issue. We have fixed it.

  7. […] and reciting mantras (such as the refuge prayer, for one example, the om mani padme hung mantra, or the Buddha Shakyamuni […]

  8. Vanessa Avatar

    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.

  9. Anne-Marie Avatar

    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.

    1. We’re so happy to hear this, Anne-Marie 🙂 May you have much joy in the dharma.

  10. eforient Avatar
    eforient

    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. 🙂

    1. Hello, u can absolutely recite mantras without having formally taken refuge.

    2. Yes, eforient, it is fine 🙂

  11. […] Helpful Resources Refuge Prayer: How to Say it in Tibetan – YoWangdu.com […]

  12. Ron Fairfield Avatar
    Ron Fairfield

    I will practice hard, blessings

    1. The best to you on your new journey, Ron!

    2. 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.
      Jenna

      1. I’m so sorry for my appalling misspelling of your name, Lobsand. Please forgive me!

      2. Lobsang and Yolanda Avatar
        Lobsang and Yolanda

        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!

    3. David Tobey Avatar
      David Tobey

      The main ingredient in this is as “my perception” Lord Shakyamuni revealed.

      ཡོད་པ་མ་ཡིན།
      There is no I

      མེད་པ་མ་ཡིན།
      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.

  13. Victoria Avatar

    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

    1. Thanks so much Victoria! We appreciate your kind thoughts and are so happy if the posts are helpful. All the best to you 🙂

      1. Shetrdon Hamel Avatar
        Shetrdon Hamel

        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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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!

      1. You are so welcome, Carolyn. Thanks for writing!

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