Most say to be Buddhist means to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Lama Yeshe says:
“Taking refuge in the Buddha involves accepting the guidance of enlightened beings as the only remedy for the confusion and dissatisfaction of our present life. The medicine prescribed by the Buddha is the Dharma. Dharma is wisdom: the wisdom that understands our own true nature and reveals our own latent power of self-liberation. Taking refuge in Dharma means using that wisdom now. Dharma means understanding reality. Meditation and prayer are not Dharma; they are merely tools for reaching this inner wisdom.”
Sangha consists of those who are endowed with wisdom. They are like the nurses and friends who help us to recuperate from an illness. Sangha is not only those who wear red or yellow robes, but also those friends who influence us beneficially. These spiritual friends energise and inspire us, and are therefore to be clearly distinguished from ordinary friends who hold us back.
However, Lama Yeshe also goes on to say:
“Being Buddhist is an inner experience and not one that necessarily can be measured by outward behaviour. I often meet people who hold no particular religious or philosophical views but who, in a quiet and simple way, take refuge in wisdom.
They are sensitive to their own and others’ needs and try to give their lives meaning by developing themselves and helping others. In my opinion, such people are Buddhists, although they may never have heard of Shakyamuni Buddha or his Dharma.”
So being Buddhist can mean different things to different people and we invite you to come and explore what it might mean for you.