There are numerous benefits from taking refuge in the Three Jewels which can be reaped in present and future lives and can ultimately lead to the happiness of full liberation. These benefits can be divided into eight categories:
1. Becoming a follower of the Buddhas
2. Establishing a firm basis for receiving precepts
3. Diminishing karmic obstacles
4. Potential to accumulate a vast amount of merit
5. Avoiding rebirth in lower forms of existence
6. The quality of not being disturbed by humans and non-humans
7. The ability to accomplish all virtuous deeds
8. Ability to become a buddha
There are also many stories and parables in Buddhist scriptures that detail these benefits. For example, it is said that if you take refuge in the Three Jewels, you will acquire an inexhaustible amount of merit in the future. It is like a great repository of wealth. Even if everyone in a nation were to make withdrawals for seven consecutive years, there would still be considerable wealth left. The merit derived from taking refuge in the Three Jewels is thousands and millions of times greater than all the wealth in such a repository. (From the Scripture of Lay Bodhisattva Precepts )
There was once a celestial being in the Indra heaven whose lifespan was approaching its end. His celestial body began to deteriorate and he had only seven days to live. He had a vision that he would be reborn as a boar and he became distressed. Then he asked Indra, the celestial king, to help him, but even Indra could not do anything. Indra asked him to seek out the Buddha for help. The Buddha bestowed the refuges upon him. He was reborn as a human and later met and received teachings from Shariputra (one of Buddha’s principle disciples, renowned for his wisdom), and, consequently, reached full enlightenment.
Taking refuge in the Three Jewels is something precious. The Buddhas have stated that once you take refuge in the Three Jewels, you will be protected by the four guardian gods who protect the four quarters of the universe. the east Dhrtarashtra; in the south, Virudhaka; in the west, Virupaksha, and in the north Vaishravana. These four guardian gods send thirty-six guardian angels to protect the recipient from harm. Each prevents different kinds of harm. Some prevent sickness, hunger, delusion, aversion, greed, thievery, fear, and so on.
Lastly, I must stress that taking refuge in the Three Jewels is only the first step in becoming a Buddhist. Once we have taken refuge, we must embark on the path of spiritual cultivation, which involves finding a teacher and developing a regular practice. Doing so will decisively set you on the Buddhist path of awakening to wisdom and compassion.