To go for refuge to Buddha
A Buddha is an enlightened being, somebody who has already completed the path. Every Buddha was once just like us, an ordinary, ignorant person prone to mistakes and sorrow. They realized the nature of their problem, put effort into improving themselves, and continued to do so until they became completely free from all delusions and the imprints of their past deluded actions. Once they attained that state, the duality between them and everyone else (indeed, everything else) disappeared. They ceased to be a being somehow trapped in just one body repetitively dying and being reborn, and they transcended into a higher state that is simultaneously beyond samsara yet still active within it. Because they lack nothing, they give everything continuously.
They realize that everyone can enjoy the same blissful state and so they work tirelessly to gradually lead everyone to freedom. When someone we know dies, it feels to us as if they have left this world. When we die and are reborn, we have no recollection of our past lives and everyone seems a stranger. For a Buddha, even though their conventional emanations may cease, they never feel as if they die. They remember their relationships with every living being and work to build upon them. When somebody dies and is reborn, the Buddha just picks up where they left off with that person, just in a different karmically appearing context. They can see directly into other’s minds in exactly the same way we currently see into our own. But unlike us, they don’t judge anybody for their confusion or delusions, rather they realize all of these beings are simply confused, indeed deceived by their deluded states of mind. So they patiently try reveal the paths of wisdom while respecting everyone’s individual choice to follow it or not. They do not feel as if they are in one place and not another, but they experience themselves as simultaneously being everywhere, equally fully present for each and every living being helping in every way possible every day.
Sadly the Buddha sees (from one perspective at least) that the minds of virtually all beings remain completely closed, and indeed blind to the fact that they are suffering from a schizophrenic hallucination that they believe to be real. Driven by this confusion, living beings endlessly harm, rape, even kill one another. They constantly create the causes for their future suffering, creating false divisions and differences between people. Endlessly, they see beings being chewed up in the meat grinder of samsara, relentlessly without end.
But they also see when practitioners generate Buddhas within their own minds, such as in our sadhanas or Tantric practices, it is like a portal opens up between the infinite ocean of wisdom and compassion of the Buddha’s mind and the mind of the individual practitioner. Buddha’s blessings spontaneously pour through this opening in the same way water pours through the opening of a dam. In this way, the Buddha feels as if they are nourishing the minds of living beings, like a mother feeding her newborn baby. Gradually, over time, just like a baby growing in the womb of its mother, a living emanation takes root within the minds of some. Most of the time, the being is closed off to this Buddha within their heart, but some are making sincere efforts to align themselves further and further with the Buddha within them. They seek to stop identifying with their ordinary body and mind, and instead to start to identify with the Buddha emanating within. Gradually, the duality between themselves and the emanation ceases, and then the duality between the emanation and the Buddha themselves ceases. Then, like a magic crystal opening up, the being is able to reflect more and more purely the light and actions of the Buddha in this world.
Some very rare beings reach the stage where they can do this most of the time, if not all of the time, and their every action of body, speech and mind is actually that of the Buddha in this world. Such a being is known as a “Spiritual Guide.” A Spiritual Guide is like a sun within the darkness of the world, radiating out in all directions. Normally we think of the sun as the ball of fire in the center of our solar system, but in reality can we say the rays of sun that reach the earth are separate from the sun itself? In the same way, the countless emanations of Buddha in this world are not separate from or other than the Buddha himself.
To go for refuge to Buddha, then, means to turn to this light. To make effort to open our mind to it so that these blessings may flow down into us. It is to realize there are immortal enlightened beings standing ready to enter our life and draw us back into their bosom. It is to be inspired to become an instrument through which they work in this world. It is to aspire to become just like them. It is to long to unite inseparably with them for all time.