On the other hand, we take refuge in all of Three Jewels not just one or two.
Yes and no. The real refuge is the Dharma. See the following:
Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge. (DN 16)
Here we have the Buddha saying that the Dharma is your refuge and you need not seek anything else as a refuge.
“Is there, Master Ananda, any single bhikkhu who was appointed by Master Gotama thus: ‘He will be your refuge when I am gone,’ and whom you now have recourse to?”
“There is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who was appointed by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened, thus: ‘He will be your refuge when I am gone,’ and whom we now have recourse to.”
“But is there, Master Ananda, any single bhikkhu who has been chosen by the Sangha and appointed by a number of elder bhikkhus thus: ‘He will be our refuge after the Blessed One has gone,’ and whom you now have recourse to?”
“There is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who has been chosen by the Sangha and appointed by a number of elder bhikkhus thus: ‘He will be our refuge after the Blessed One has gone,’ and whom we now have recourse to.”
“But if you have no refuge, Master Ananda, what is the cause for your concord?”
“We are not without a refuge, brahmin. We have a refuge; we have the Dhamma as our refuge.”
Again, the same message.
In respect to the Buddha and Sangha, the latter refers to the ārya or noble sangha, so arhats, bodhisattvas and the like, i.e., those who have liberated themselves from saṃsāra. You don't take refuge in ordinary beings.
We don't just take vows, they are given to us.
That's an interesting point. In the literature we see examples of people basically saying to the Buddha that they take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and then swear to uphold the vows. There is no sense of anything being given or conveyed. The Buddha acts as a witness.
The convention now is to receive precepts in a formalized manner, but it seems early on this wasn't the case, even with bhikṣu status where it was possible to make personal vows and become a bhikṣu, or just be welcomed by the Buddha into the sangha with no requisite karma
proceedings. This of course changed, but still these things are not set in stone.
We don't just pick a name because we like the way it sounds, they are bestowed upon us.
You can change your Dharma name if you want. There's plenty of people, quite eminent figures too, who have done so. You can actually decide on a name as well with your refuge teacher. You don't even need a Dharma name. It is just a convention and ultimately not so important.
Nor does the difficulty in gaining status in these traditions as foreigners really something we, as practitioners, should be concerned with.
Actually it is a big problem.
Firstly, without enough social capital you will be limited in the projects you can undertake for the benefit of other beings. That might sound like opportunism, but it isn't. If nobody takes you seriously even after being in a tradition for years and years, how are you going to get the resources to do significant projects or move the organization in a positive direction? Without a voice you don't have the means to do much other than politely submit yourself to the powers that be and hope they take an interest in whatever projects you have in mind.
The other issue is that most humans will leave an organization that they don't feel a part of. You can condemn them for this as being worldly and stuck in the eight worldly dharmas, but we should show some understanding and compassion. If you want people to stick around in a community you need to provide them with some kind of fulfilling purpose and voice.
A lot of westerners inevitably fail as monks/nuns because they have no purpose or function. Even if they have sufficient material resources and no visa issues in a foreign country, they might feel after a long period of time unsatisfied staying in an organization that more or less doesn't seem to care one way or another about them. If you're a natural loner and do your own thing, then it isn't an issue because you might even be happy that you get left alone, but that won't work for everyone. We need to be understanding of others.
This was something a senior western monk told me about before I ordained. He told me that I'll have to find my own way because I probably won't get much in the way of direction or support from others.
Talent and diligence rise to the top, no matter what color you are or what your mother tongue.
Yeah, but maybe you need to work twice as hard to get half as far as the locals.
Actually that's true because to really get into these traditions requires language training, sacrifice and persistence.
Still, the fact that you have to sacrifice so much just to get your foot in the door should say something about how viable such a tradition would be when reproduced in a foreign country.
Really, though, at the end of the day we will have to create our own traditions that are raised in a new cultural environment and organically suited to the time and place. It is happening. Look at Ajahn Brahm and his organization.