There are seven benefits of taking refuge: one becomes a Buddhist, a follower of the Buddha; one will not fall into the lower realms; one becomes a support for all vows; one is not harmed by obstacles caused by humans and nonhumans; one has few illnesses and a long life; obscurations of actions performed in the past are purified; and one will swiftly attain Buddhahood through the completion of its cause, the two accumulations.
a. THE BENEFIT THAT ONE BECOMES A BUDDHIST, A FOLLOWER OF THE BUDDHA
By renouncing the ways of non-Buddhists, who rely on Brahma and others for refuge, and taking the Three Jewels as one’s object of refuge, one will be included in the ranks of Buddhists, as the wise have declared, for it is said: The difference between Buddhists and non-Buddhists is the refuge.
b. THE BENEFIT THAT ONE WILL NOT FALL INTO THE LOWER REALMS
Taking refuge bars the entrance to the lower realms and places one, throughout one’s series of lives, in the blissful states of the higher realms and liberation. It is said that the son of a god who was going to be reborn as a pig was prevented from doing so when he took refuge, as is related in the Tale with a Sow, which declares: Those who have taken refuge in the Buddha Will not go to the lower realms.
c. THE BENEFIT THAT ONE BECOMES A SUPPORT FOR ALL VOWS
Taking refuge reinforces our intention to attain nirvana, this being the reason for our taking vows, and it is therefore the basis of all vows, as the Seventy Stanzas on Refuge explains: A lay practitioner’s going for refuge in the Three Is the root of the eight vows.
d. THE BENEFIT THAT ONE WILL NOT BE HARMED BY OBSTACLES CAUSED BY HUMANS OR NONHUMANS
The manner in which taking refuge dispels all kinds of fear and danger is described in the Supreme Victory Banner Sutra: Monks, wherever you are—in solitary places, cemeteries, empty wastes, and the like—take refuge in the Three Jewels and you will be free from fear, suffering, and hair-raising experiences. And in the Essence of the Sun Sutra we find: Beings who go for refuge in the Buddha Cannot be killed by ten million demons. Even if they have broken their vows and their minds are disturbed, They will surely go beyond birth.
e. THE BENEFIT THAT ONE WILL HAVE FEW ILLNESSES AND A LONG LIFE
It is said that as a result of taking refuge, one will be less affected by illnesses related to past deeds and obstacles, and one will live a long life of abundance and splendor, as we find in Ornament of the Sutras: Against all kinds of negative actions, Aging, illness, and death The Buddha gives complete protection. Because he protects from all kinds of harm, From the lower realms and wrong paths, From the view of the transitory composite,n and from lesser vehicles, He is the supreme refuge.
f. THE BENEFIT THAT THE OBSCURATIONS OF DEEDS PERFORMED IN THE PAST WILL BE PURIFIED
Every single one of the obscurations from deeds accumulated in the past will diminish and be exhausted. And even those who have committed crimes with immediate retribution (as did Devadatta, Ajatashatru, and others) will, by taking refuge in the Three Jewels, be liberated from the lower realms, as has been related in the scriptures.
g. THE BENEFIT THAT BY COMPLETING ITS CAUSE, THE TWO ACCUMULATIONS, ONE WILL SWIFTLY ATTAIN BUDDHAHOOD
In the soil of faith, watered by the rain of the two accumulations, the seed of the enlightened potential grows and ripens into the harvest of Buddhahood, as the Nirvana Sutra tells us: Those who take refuge in the Three Will acquire the supreme accumulations of merit and wisdom, Propagate the Buddha’s teaching in the world, And thereby attain Buddhahood. And when the Buddha said, in the White Lotus Sutra of Compassion, Those who have entered this my doctrine, even lay practitioners or those who assume the appearance of monks, will in this same Excellent Kalpa attain the full nirvana without residue in the absolute space, without a single exception, he was referring to beings who have taken refuge. Again in the Sutra of the Immaculate he said: If the merit of taking refuge were to possess form, it would fill the whole of space and still there would be more. And in the Condensed Transcendent Wisdom: If the merit of taking refuge were to take form, The three worlds would be too small to contain it. How could one ever measure that treasure of water, The great ocean, in cupfuls? There is no end to the explanations the Buddha gave on this. Taking refuge will create the dependent connection through which you will gradually come to accomplish ultimate Buddhahood, turn the Wheel of the Dharma, and gather around you a vast Sangha of Nonreturners.
— A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom: Complete Instructions on the Preliminary Practices by Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje