First, there is refuge.
Then, the lower objects of refuge are as follows. As said in the sutras:

All people who are overcome by fear will mostly seek refuge in mountains, forests, and groves of trees. Those objects of refuge are not ultimate, for in depending on them, there is no freedom from all forms of fear.

As said, mountains, trees, forests, kings, ministers, the wealthy, worldly gods, powerful lords of the earth, and so on, are the lower objects of refuge. Why is this so? This is because each one of them is still not free from their own form of fear. The supremely sublime objects of refuge are the Three Jewels. As Loppon Chenpo Padmasambhava said:

No matter how excellent a worldly leader may seem, he will deceive you.
The holy objects of refuge, the Three Jewels, are deceitless.

Thus it is said.

The main object of refuge is the pure aspect of the essential nature, which is from the beginning the stainless Dharmakaya; the pure aspect of freedom from temporary obscuration, the immeasurable appearances of the qualities of Dharmakaya, as the Sambhogakaya; and the manifestation of these Sambhogakaya appearances in the realms of sentient beings to guide them, the Nirmanakaya. These are the Three Kayas. Although these Three Kayas appear separately from the aspects of their qualities, they are actually indivisible as Svabhavikakaya, or Vajrakaya, which is the fourth Kaya.

The unobstructed appearance of all qualities of existence and enlightenment is mirrorlike wisdom.  No matter how diverse the wisdom manifestation of existence and enlightenment may appear to be, whatever arises, there is actually not even a subtle particle of goodness or negativity. Because the qualities of the nature of the basis and the way of appearing are the great nature of purity and evenness, it is the wisdom of equanimity. The appearances of the oceanlike realms of the phenomena of existence and enlightenment are nonconceptual yet simultaneously and undistortedly known. This is the wisdom of discernment.  Buddha’s simultaneous wish-fulfilling activity occurs effortlessly as whatever is needed to benefit sentient beings, pervading everywhere according to time and place without anything missing, and it is always self-accomplished. This is the wisdom of all- accomplishing activity. These are the Four Kayas and the five wisdoms.


A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar
by Thinley Norbu
Shambhala Publishing