In the Ekottaragama Sutra it says:

Beings who take refuge in Buddha
Do not fall into lower rebirth
They cease from excess and dwell with humans and gods
And will arrive at nirvana

The essence of Buddhism is refuge.

Dogen Zenji says:
“What the Buddhist patriarchs have authentically transmitted  is reverence for Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. If we do not take refuge in them, we do not revere then and if we do not revere them we do not take refuge in them.” - Kie Sanbo in Nichijima & Cross 1999 Shobogenzo, book 4

Many people these days think that Buddhism is a form of personal growth or a methods of self enhancement. This is in order that one can protect oneself. However, the main thing in Buddhism is to give up protecting oneself and take refuge in Buddha. Then one can go forth with open hands and an open heart and no matter what befall, one will arrive at nirvana in the end, not by one’s own power, but because those who have such faith naturally receive boundless grace.

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