The Three Jewels, also rendered as Three Treasures or Triple Gem (Sanskrit: Triratna, also Ratna-traya, Pali: Tiratna, Chinese: 三宝, Sānbǎo, Japanese: Sambō or Sampō) are the three central concepts in Buddhism.
— The Dharma (Chn: 法, Fǎ, Jpn: Hō) is the teachings or law as expounded by the Buddha.
— The Sangha (Chn: 僧 Sēng, Jpn: Sō) are the individuals comprising the: noble Sangha (Arya Sangha), those beings possessing some degree of enlightenment, and the ordinary Sangha (Bhikkhu Sangha) which refers to the community of people practicing the Dharma
Taking refuge in the Three Jewels is the formal difference between Buddhists and non-Buddhists.Briefly said, it means that one accepts the Buddha as the example of an enlightened teacher, his teachings as the guidebook on the path, and the Sangha as the supporting community who shares the same ideals.
A traditional Refuge prayer:
- Until I attain Enlightenment,
- I take refuge in the Three Jewels;
- The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The «Three jewels» are also symbolized by the triratna, composed of (from bottom to top):
On representations of the footprint of the Buddha, the Triratna is usually also surmounted by the Dharma wheel.
The Triratna can be found on frieze sculptures at Sanchi as the symbol crowning a flag standard (2nd century BCE), as a symbol of the Buddha installed on the Buddha’s throne (2nd century BCE), as the crowning decorative symbol on the later gates at the stupa in Sanchi (2nd century CE), or, very often on the Buddha footprint (starting from the 1st century CE).
The Triratna is also on the 1st century BCE coins of the Kingdom of Kuninda in northern Punjab, surmounting depictions of stupas, on some the coins of the Indo-Parthian king Gondophares, or the coins of some of the Kushan kings such as Vima Kadphises.
The triratna symbol is also called nandipada, or «bull’s hoof», by Hindus.
«ガンダーラ美術の見方» (The art of Gandhara), Yamada Kihito, ISBN 4898061060