Program Details

Refuge and Bodhisattva Vow Ceremony

with Richard John
February 10 / 6:30 PM - February 10 / 9:00 PM

To take Refuge is to commit oneself to the Buddhist path of awakening. We take refuge in the Buddha as an example, the dharma as truth, and the sangha as a community of fellow practitioners. It is the initial vow of the Buddhist tradition that marks one’s formal entry onto the Buddhist path.

The Bodhisattva Vow is an aspiration to dedicate oneself and all that one does to the benefit of all sentient beings.  It is further commitment to put others before oneself and to work wholeheartedly for their benefit--taken by practitioners who have already taken the Refuge Vow. The basis of this vow is the aspiration to develop friendliness, compassion, and genuine insight through the practices of the six Paramitas and to undertake the view and practice of a Mahayana bodhisattva.


Participation in the preparatory classes for each vow is essential for vow-takers.  The half-day sitting and interview on February 9th is also required.  Please see the website for the dates and times of those meetings

In order to take the Bodhisattva Vow, you must have taken the Refuge Vow at least six months prior. You may NOT take both the Refuge and Bodhisattva Vow at the same time. 

Heart Gifts and Bodhisattva Gifts

These offerings are traditional gestures of generosity to the Vow Preceptor.

For Refuge Vow:

  • It is appropriate to offer a financial heart gift to the preceptor. This is voluntary and with no suggested amount, and will be requested at the time of the interview.

For Bodhisattva Vow:

  • It is appropriate to offer a financial heart gift to the preceptor. This is voluntary and with no suggested amount, and will be requested at the time of the interview. Please note that this is completely separate from your bodhisattva gift to the lineage, which is an essential part of the vow ceremony.

Sunday afternoon, February 9th, Acharya John will meet aspirants for the Vow Ceremonies in individual interviews.  Full participation in this afternoon program of sitting meditation and individual name interview with the Acharya will be required for vow-takers.

Preparation for the Vow

Taking vows is an important step on your path. If you are considering taking either the Bodhisattva Vow or the Refuge Vow, it is essential to participate in the study classes to more fully understand the commitment.  Jenny Warwick will be teaching a Thursday evening class to prepare those intending to take their Bodhisattva Vow.  Shastri Jason Ruvelson will be teaching a Monday evening class for those wishing to know more about taking refuge and/or intending to take that vow.

Reading and studying the appropriate sourcebook will be part of each of these preparatory classes. The cost of these sourcebooks () will be included in the registration fee and provided when you register.

The Refuge Vow Sourcebook

The Bodhisattva Vow Sourcebook

Please see the website for registration and meeting dates.

Having a mediation instructor will also be helpful for taking this step in your path.

SCHEDULE (Tentative)

Sunday, February 9th  – Sitting and Name Interviews

1:00 pm - 1:30 am    Check-in and completion of registration

1:30 pm – 4:30 pm   Chants/Sitting & Walking Meditation/Meetings with Acharya John

Monday, February 10th - Ceremony

5:30 pm                    Sitting Meditation

6:00 pm                    Bodhisattva Vow Ceremony (Open only to Bodhisattvas)

7:00 pm                    Refuge Vow Ceremony (open to all guests and sangha members) 

8:00 pm                    Reception

Guests and family are welcome to celebrate with you.

When you register, please indicate in the "Comments" field how many people will be attending the reception (in addition to yourself). Only those who previously have taken the Bodhisattva Vow may be present at the ceremony to witness those taking the Bodhisattva Vow for the first time. However, family and friends are warmly invited to witness those taking their Refuge Vow that follows the Bodhisattva Vow ceremony, and to enjoy the reception that concludes the evening.

Please also indicate in the "Comments" field, WHICH VOW you are taking.


Re-taking the Bodhisattva Vow

It is possible to re-take your bodhisattva vow at this time as well. 

It is traditional to re-take the Bodhisattva vow many times during your life. There is a difference between just witnessing the vow and re-taking it. Anyone wishing to re-take the vow will go through the ceremony exactly like the new vow-takers. They sit with or just behind the new bodhisattvas, offer a bodhisattva gift, and recite the liturgy. The only difference is that they do not receive a name.

Acharya Richard John

Richard John

An early student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Richard was appointed an acharya (senior teacher) by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. For many years he has taught Shambhala Buddhist programs in North America, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Chile. After careers as a designer and a management consultant, he served as director of the Halifax Shambhala Centre. He completed the first three-year group retreat at Gampo Abbey, and he now teaches full time. Richard and his wife Liz reside in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Go to Bellingham's website