In today's world, it is difficult to find a true BUDDHA. Although Sakyamuni Buddha, in his nirmanakaya form, entered paranirvana in 487 B.C. (the year 2013 will be 2500 years after), the sambhogakaya and dharmakaya forms are everpresent, but these forms are hidden from our ordinary eyes, and not easy to discover. Occasionaly other emanations of the nirmanakaya Buddha appear in the world, but rarely, and even then seen only by a few people.
Likewise, the true DHARMA is difficult to find nowadays. In the time Sakyamuni was roaming the Ganges valley, his followers held different opinions, right and wrong, on what constituted the Dharma, and Sakyamuni would hear these versions and either praise or correct them, sometimes by speaking, sometimes by remaining silent. In the centuries after his paranirvana, opinions diverged to the point of near-irrconcilability as the Dharma continually grew and evolved into a myriad of lineages, sects, schools of thought, and practices. Some people question whether the genuine Dharma exists at all 2500 years later. Furthermore, the words of Sakyamuni as written down have subtly shifted their meanings over time, along with being translated into a varity of cultures and languages. In any case, the true Dharma is definitely difficult to find, and not apparent on its face.
However, the true SANGHA is not difficult to find. Sakyamuni Buddha's sangha consisted of monks, nuns, laywomen, and laymen. Whether it is possible or not to practice as a monk or nun, a sangha of laywomen or laymen certainly exists and flourishes. Without a doubt vast numbers of people have taken the Triple Refuge, scrupulously keep the 5 basic precepts, and undertake practices to the point where they regularly enter samadhi, therein meeting face-to-face with the Sambhogakaya Buddhas and realizing various facets of the infinite Dharma.
The person-to-person transmissions of the Buddha's teachings have come down to us today as countless lineages and sects, some true and some false, but with enough true and genuine lineages that we can easily and confidently take refuge in the Sangha. And after taking refuge, if one studies and practices diligently and sincerely, and maintains at least the layman's five-fold morality, then inevitably with time the shining Buddha and the wonderful Dharma will both appear and become reliable refuges, combining into the Triple Refuge as we trod the happy path, opening out onto the field of Bodhisattvas. The Gandhavyuha Sutra contains the following beautiful summary of the family of the Bodhisattva in the words of Maitreya: