'In the beginning, we may think that the Buddha is someone other than ourselves - another person. There are people who may think that the Buddha is a God, and there are those who know that the Buddha is a human being like us but one who has practiced and reached a very high level of enlightenment, understanding and compassion. However, we think that person is someone that is not us, and we have to go to him for refuge: Buddham Saranam Gacchami. I go to the Buddha for refuge.
If you dwell in that practice, some day you will come to understand that the Buddha is not really another person. The Buddha is within us, because the substance that makes up a Buddha is the energy of mindfulness, of understanding, and compassion. If you practice well and you listen to the Buddha, you know that you have the Buddha nature within you. You have the capacity of waking up, of being understanding and compassionate. Therefore, we have made progress and now we are seeking the Buddha from within. The Buddha ceases to be the other. The Buddha can be touched everywhere and especially within yourself. Unless you touch the nature of the Buddha or Buddhahood, you cannot touch the Buddha. If Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, has Buddhahood, you yourself have your own Buddhahood. That is something that we have to arrive at.
In the beginning, we say, “I take refuge in the Buddha.” Later on we say, “I take refuge in the Buddha within myself.” That is how the Chinese, the Japanese, the Vietnamese, and the Koreans chant when they recite the Three Refuges, “I take refuge in the Buddha within myself.”
"I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life." The "one" who shows me the way in this life begins by being Shakyamuni the Enlightened One. But if you practice well, you might progress. Then you know that he is not so much another person, because you have the Buddha nature in you, and you take refuge in that nature within you. It becomes a direct experience, and the object of your faith is no longer an idea about a person named Shakyamuni, an idea about Buddhahood, an idea about Buddha nature. Now you are touching Buddha nature not as an idea but as a reality. Buddha nature is the capacity of being awake, of being mindful and concentrated and understanding. And you know very well by yourself that it is a reality that you can touch within yourself at any time.’
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers.