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Location: Northern California Shambhala

Refuge & Bodhisattva Vows

IN-PERSON only AT the Berkeley shambhala center with the teacher Presented by Northern California Shambhala

This June, we are delighted to announce that there will be an opportunity to take the Refuge Vow & Bodhisattva Vow with preceptor Gaylon Ferguson in-person at the Berkeley Shambhala Center.

This June, one week before leading our Northern California Shambhala Summer Retreat, Gaylon Ferguson, as the preceptor, will offer the opportunity to take the Refuge Vow and the Bodhisattva Vow. These are two formal commitments along the Buddhist Path.

Current Refugees and Bodhisattvas are welcome to register to retake the vows, as well as those taking the vows for the first time. Current Bodhisattvas are also welcome to attend the Bodhisattva vow ceremony and the entire community as well as families and friends are warmly invited to attend the Refuge vow ceremony and reception.


The times below are to provide an idea of the weekend for planning purposes, and we will confirm the precise times soon.

Saturday, June 22

  • Refuge Vow
    9:00 – 11:00 am:  Practice, contemplation, and formal request
    11:30 am:  Interviews begin
  • Bodhisattva Vow
    2:00 – 4:00 pm:  Practice, contemplation, and formal request
    4:30 pm:  Interviews begin

Sunday, June 23
A morning for practice and contemplation for all, with the vow ceremonies in the afternoon

  • Bodhisattva Vow Ceremony
    2:00 – 2:45 pm:  {Preceptor bodhisattva gift}
  • Refuge Vow
    3:00 – 3:45 pm
    4:00 pm:  Reception Celebration

Below is information about each vow, as well as details about preparation and requirements:

The Refuge Vow

Open to anyone who wants to make a formal commitment to the Buddhist Path, the refuge vow marks the decision to commit oneself wholeheartedly to the path and to further one’s practice and training. It is the formal commitment to being a Buddhist by making a lifelong commitment to and taking refuge in the example of the Buddha Shakyamuni (the Buddha), his teachings (the dharma), and in the community of fellow practitioners (the sangha).

As this is a major commitment, individuals planning to take the vow are strongly encouraged to undertake an exploration of what it means to take refuge, and whether it is right for them. Two opportunities to do so are being offered:

  • Gaylon Ferguson’s Shambhala Online program, Being Buddhist: Exploring the Refuge Vow, a two-hour class held on three Saturdays, beginning April 6;
  • A local online book study group that will be forming to contemplate and discuss related readings. More details about the book study group are forthcoming.

Although there is no fee to take the vow, there will be a modest materials fee (for your Refuge Name Calligraphy), and it is traditional to offer a Heart Gift to the preceptor.

Also highly recommended for study and contemplation are the following two books, both available for purchase online:

The Bodhisattva Vow

The Bodhisattva vow is the commitment to put all others before oneself. It is a statement of willingness to give up one’s own well-being, even one’s own enlightenment, for the sake of others. A Bodhisattva is simply a person who lives in the spirit of that vow, perfecting the qualities known as the six Buddhist Paramitas (virtues or perfections) — generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental wisdom — in their effort to liberate all sentient beings.

Although there is no fee for this program, there will be a modest materials fee (for your Bodhisattva Name Calligraphy), and there is a preceptor’s heart gift as well as a Bodhisattva gift that is given to the preceptor during the vow ceremony.

Bodhisattva vow candidates are also encouraged to participate in the local online book study group mentioned above (details to follow).

photo of Gaylon FergusonVows Preceptor

GAYLON FERGUSON, PhD, has led group meditation retreats since 1976. He taught at Stanford, the University of Washington, and Naropa University, where he was a Core Faculty Member for fifteen years. The author of three books, the most recent (March 2024) is Welcoming Beginner’s Mind: Zen and Tibetan Buddhist Wisdom on Experiencing Our True Nature. Gaylon’s others books are Natural Wakefulness (on the four foundations of mindfullness) and Natural Bravery (on fear and fearlessness as a path to manifesting bravery). All of these are available where books are sold. His articles have appeared in Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, and Buddhadharma magazine. Gaylon also contributed the foreword to the pioneering collection Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom (Shambhala, 2020).

Refuge & Bodhisattva Vows

June 22 to 23 • Saturday & Sunday
In-person only at the Berkeley Shambhala Center

Interested but have questions? Contact: Irv Kirschhbaum at kirschi3 [at] gmail [dot] com

Please send Irv an email expressing your interest in taking, or re-taking the vows, even if this is something you’re just considering at this point. This will really help us plan the event. Feel free to include any questions you have in your email, and if you’d like to find a time to discuss your interest and/or reservations, include what days and times would be best for you to do so.

And remember, taking Gaylon’s preparatory online class in April would be an excellent way to explore your interest further and contemplate whether taking these vows is right for you at this time:


An excellent way to continue your practice —

Summer Retreat: Mind at Ease: Self-Liberation Through Mahamudra Meditation with Gaylon Ferguson

Friday – Tuesday, June 28 to July 2 • 9:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Open to all practitioners. Attend from anywhere in the world via Zoom, and if you are in proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area, you can attend in-person with the teacher at the Berkeley Center, or in-person with groups at the Davis or Sonoma Shambhala Centers.


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2024-04-24 11:30:21