illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
The Karmapa offered an explanation for the specific restrictions associated with refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the saṅgha, respectively. Discussing the advice related to taking refuge in the Buddha—that of not taking refuge in mundane gods—he cautioned that Buddhists and especially Vajrayana practitioners might be in danger of violating that restriction.
“Where I think that there can be an overt contradiction to the vow of refuge,” His Holiness said, “is when someone conceives of a yidam deity as some sort of external god to whom they make offerings in order to please them, with the expectation that the yidam, the god, give them whatever they want, no matter what they do or how they behave. People who have that attitude will think, ‘It does not matter what I do; the yidam will fix it and give me whatever I want.’ That attitude contradicts the vow of refuge. The problem is that you are relating to a yidam deity as you would relate to a mundane god, which is unfitting.
“The Buddha’s intention in forbidding taking refuge in mundane gods was that when we do so, we are failing to change ourselves for the better, because we think that the god being worshipped will take care of all our needs. The Buddha’s point was that we need to take authentic refuge by gradually becoming sources of refuge unto ourselves, which requires change and development.”
~In Kingston, Karmapa Offers Refuge to those Seeking Refuge
(Art by Rabkar Wangchuk: Attachment)