Ti Sarani

Organ
8 minutes
2015

Program Note

This work is an homage to the chorale-preludes of Bach; the cantus firmus, in canon in the pedals, is theTi Sarani, or Refuges, as chanted in Pali, the language used by the historical Buddha; it is printed for reference on the next page.The work has almost no marks of performance—it should be played as one would play the large stile antico chorale-preludes in Bach’s Clavier-Übung III,(the three Kyries, BWV 669, 670, 671; and the Aus Tiefer Not, BWV 686), although in a somewhat old-fashioned style, inclining towards minimal separation between notes and possibly even legato, and using more rubato than would normally be used in Bach. The tempo is flowing, but with a broad, spacious feeling; quarter = c. 60 works well.

The Three Refuges, also called the Three Jewels, are the Buddha (the teacher), the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community of practitioners). The ceremony of taking refuge in the three treasures is central to all Buddhist traditions. The refuges are also considered the first three ethical precepts, and the ceremony of taking refuge can include formally accepting the precepts as the guide to one’s life.

The chant with the original Pali text is:

Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

A literal English translation would be:

I take refuge in Buddha.
I take refuge in Dharma.
I take refuge in Sangha.

For a second time, I take refuge in Buddha.
For a second time, I take refuge in Dharma.
For a second time, I take refuge in Sangha.

For a third time, I take refuge in Buddha.
For a third time, I take refuge in Dharma.
For a third time, I take refuge in Sangha.

I am fond of the more poetic translation by Suzuki Roshi:

I take refuge in Buddha.
I take refuge in Dharma
I take refuge in Sangha.

I take refuge in Buddha as the perfect teacher.
I take refuge in Dharma as the perfect teaching.
I take refuge in Sangha as the perfect life.

Now I have completely taken refuge in Buddha.
Now I have completely taken refuge in Dharma.
Now I have completely taken refuge in Sangha.

In the second three lines, I understand “perfect” more as “complete” or “all-encompassing” than “perfect” in the usual sense of “without flaw.”