Why We take Refuge in the Buddha
Buddhists do not take refuge in the Buddha with the belief that He is a god or son of god. The Buddha never claimed any divinity. He was the Enlightened One, the most Compassionate, Wise, and Holy One who ever lived in this world. Therefore, people take refuge in the Buddha as a Teacher or Master who has shown the real path of emancipation. They pay homage to Him to show their gratitude and respect, but they do not ask for material favors. Buddhists do not pray to the Buddha thinking that He is a god who will reward them or punish or curse them. They recite verses or some sutras not in the sense of supplication but as a means of recalling His great virtues and good qualities to get more inspiration and guidance for themselves and to develop the confidence to follow His Teachings. There are critics who condemn this attitude of taking refuge in the Buddha. They do not know the true meaning of the concept of taking refuge in and paying homage to a great religious Teacher. They have learned only about praying which is the only thing that some people do in the name of religion. When Buddhists seek refuge it means they accept the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha as the means by which they can eradicate all the causes of their fear and other mental disturbances. Many people, especially those with animistic beliefs, seek protection in certain objects around them which they believe are inhabited by spirits.
~By Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda