Going for refuge is a preliminary step in our journey with Buddhism. But though it is a preliminary step, it is by no means a fundamental step. I think that going for refuge is indeed quite an advanced step, for going for refuge in the truest sense is a serious commitment to the faith that the three jewels will help liberate you from suffering.
The reason for liberation comes from a slightly different motivations in different traditions. But even among these different motivations, there is an undercurrent of a strong recognition of suffering.Though it seems like a simple enough concept, and it is – it is a simple enough ‘concept’. But to truly recognize that suffering permeates all existence, from the depth of your being is quite a rare realization among us. Although human beings and indeed all sentient beings are surrounded by dukkha, the gross desire to escape it is not inclusive of the subtle nature of suffering that cannot be avoided by such escapades.
Here is a video of a precious teaching by H. E. Khandro Rinpoche on the meaning of going for refuge.