Taking refuge in myself/ coming back to myself/ I am free. That was the Buddha hours before he died. Buddha, it is said, called an assembly of monks and nuns and told them about the essence of enlightenment. He told them it was one's inner-self that one had to seek and realise its importance. And that it is the inner-self that gives one the ultimate shelter and liberation from the never-ending pangs of life.
Last Sunday, I happened to visit a monastery where a spiritual Lama tried to dispel misconceptions we lesser mortals hold. The Lama told the gathering about the importance of undertaking pilgrimages, visiting places of worship, listening to sermons, doing prayers and meditation. These are the tools for the common man to make him realise who he is and what is the ultimate purpose of life.
Meditation after listening to a religious discourse can lead one to self-discovery and the rich inner world. Meditation is a tool that helps one become humble and pushes him towards the ultimate goal of liberation.
That is why Thich Nhat Hanh stresses that meditation helps one water the seeds of joy and happiness in our garden (my word) of consciousness. "Joy and happiness are the food of a Zen monk. Before eating, we say, may all beings be nourished by the joy of meditation?"
The inner world is one's ultimate destination where joy and happiness are like the fruits in an orchard. When you are one with yourself, it is then that you can see yourself in everything around you — be that your worst enemy or the starving souls in your surroundings. It is at this point that the real you awakens and tries to make your life purposeful and useful.
It is at this stage that you become a blessed being.
Your mission is complete and the tree of life that you have nourished so well bears fruits.