Those who follow the Dharma” take refuge”, formally or informally, and in this way acknowledge the spiritual protection or support offered by the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, also known as The Three Jewels and The Triple Gem.
The Buddha, by his own efforts as a human being came to realize and understand the the nature of suffering, the cause of suffering and path to the end of suffering. When we take refuge in the Buddha we reaffirm our own Buddha nature and our potential for achieving ”the sure heart’s release”.
The term refers to the Buddha’s teachings, or more specifically to “the truth” or “the way things are” (translations of the Sanskrit word). These lead us on the path of awakening.
Those who practice/live the teachings of the Buddha are members of the Sangha, or community of followers of the Buddha Dharma. It once referred only to the community of monks, but now refers, as well, to both large and smaller groups of those who follow the Dharma, as well as all who practice, world-wide, in the Buddhist traditions.