What if you are stranded in an almost totally frozen land, with scanty hope of any rescuers arriving? It is not at all unreasonable that there will be projections of whatever little hope remaining. Perhaps a ‘loved one’ will appear on the horizon. Perhaps imagination will even start a conversation. Yet, these sights and sounds, with yearnings spurred, are but illusions, which are potentially dangerous… as they can flip over to become negative emotions like rage and jealousy instead, under the ‘right’ conditions.
Without a higher refuge, which is spiritually noble, that aligns with the truth, that transcends this worldly and material life, when there is existential desperation, with greed and hatred, deluded hallucinations might arise — not just when living, but when dying too. Since life (and death) is unpredictable, it makes great sense to quickly seek and settle upon this high refuge, that is ideally not just higher, but the highest possible too. For Buddhists, this would be a Buddha (or Bodhisattva, who is a re-manifested ancient Buddha), who is connected to all other Buddhas.
What happens when there is sincere mindfulness of such a refuge, a Buddha? There will be increase in calmness and clarity of mind upon connection to his blessings. With this transformation, delusions will gradually (or even swiftly) clear up, (if super sincere), thus lessening greed and hatred. (Greed, hatred and delusion are the Three Poisons, that give rise to all suffering.) As mindfulness of Buddha is meritorious, there will be decrease of negative karma too. Realistic hope for actual rescue then arises. Even if death is inevitable due to severity of the conditions, one will be protected and guided by the Buddha to a better rebirth, ideally being a Pure Land, through which liberation is guaranteed!