Sometimes, when I am trying to understand the advanced Mahayana teachings, I need to re-ground myself in the basics. This applies to our investigation of the types of refuge one can take. Recently, I came across a basic prayer of refuge in the Buddha by Geshe Lhundub Sopa that just filled the bill.
Basic Prayer of Refuge in the Buddha
Extracts from Steps on the Path to Enlightenment by Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Editors David Patt & Beth Newman, Vol. 1, page 176, (2008) Wisdom Publications: Boston
Actually taking refuge in the Buddha from your heart means that when you say, “I take refuge in the Buddha” you are thinking,
I consider you, the Buddha, to be the perfect teacher. So from now on, I will rely only upon you as my spiritual guide. You are my saviour because if I follow what you have taught I will definitely be freed from all fearful things. I will be freed from temporary fears and from the unfathomable fears of samsaric life. Becoming free from all this depends on the path you have taught, the Dharma. I will hold it in my heart and follow it from now on. These teachings have no fault because they were taught by you, who has no flaws. With this understanding, I take refuge.