For all Buddhists, taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha is the first and most elemental act on the Buddha’s path to freedom.
The Buddha is the ideal of spiritual perfection, and the teacher of the true path to attain it. By taking refuge in the Buddha, you take that ideal as your teacher. You also pledge not to seek false spiritual ideals.
The Dhamma is the true path to spiritual perfection, and the essence of that perfect truth. By taking refuge in the Dhamma, you take that truth as your goal. You also pledge to avoid wayward paths and false teachings. The Sangha is the embodiment of that essential truth in those who walk the path to attain spiritual perfection.
By taking refuge in the Sangha, you take the Buddhist community as your safeguard. You also pledge to avoid the company of fools and wrongdoers. In this way, taking refuge in the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha involves a commitment to proper spiritual ideals, as well as a fundamental sense of restraint.
The Triple refuge is the foundation to genuine freedom. The training rules create the conditions and set the parameters for walking the path that leads to liberation. Maintaining them religiously frees the mind from guilt and remorse, and has a strong protective quality, warding off danger.
This advice by Ajaan Khamphan given to Mae Chee Kaew is from the book, Mae Chee Kaew, (pdf) pp.77-78, Compiled from Thai sources & written by Bhikkhu Dick Sīlaratano.