Turning Confusion into Clarity, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche p. 165
One Frenchman told me that his own Tibetan teacher had discouraged students from ordination. This really surprised me. He explained that his teacher had said, “Most Westerners who put on Buddhist robes take refuge in their robes, not in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” I assured him that this was not limited to the West.
p. 168 We do not practice in order to become enlightened; we practice in order to recognize hat we are already enlightened. Practice expresses the awakened self. However fantastical and extraordinary Tibetan images may seem, in every case they manifest hidden, unrecognized, or unrealized aspects of ourselves. Everything “out there” is “in here.” The entire path is a shift in perception.
We work with two kinds of refuge: outer and inner. With outer or relative refuge, we see the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as being outside of ourselves. This duality definitely offers more reliability that conventional refuges, but with limited benefits. As long as the Buddha is somewhere other than our own heart and mind, we won’t see the true Buddha—the empty clarity of our own pure awareness. The inner  refuge helps us to make the leap from the Buddha outside to the inside Buddha.
With inner or absolute refuge, the duality between outer and inner dissolves. Ultimately we rely on ourselves, on our own Buddha nature and on our own awakened qualities. Purification is the process of making these qualities become more accessible so that we can integrate them within our daily life. With practice, we recognize in ourselves the very Buddha in whom we take refuge. This is the essence of practice.
Wanting to take refuge is itself an indication of buddha nature We take refuge to be happier, to be free from suffering, an to feel more secure and stable. Why do we say that this wish itself reflects buddha nature? Because we never accept suffering as the normal or natural human condition. Whatever the degree of our unhappiness, this longing arises to be free of it. Where does this longing come from? How can we account for the intuitive knowledge that liberation from dukkha is possible? Our own intrinsic wisdom. Nothing else explains why we intuitively know that our unhappiness is off balance, that it’s not our true self, and that it can be alleviated. Our Buddha nature does that. It’s like an internal compass that keeps our direction set toward contentment, no matter how much anguish or pain we endure.
In Vajrayana practice, in addition to the three jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—we take refuge in what we call the three roots: the guru, the yidam (or meditation deity), and the dharma protectors. The guru is the root of blessings, the yidam is the root of accomplishment, and the protectors are the root of activity.