In his last days the Buddha spoke of atadipa (the island of self). This is the refuge that each of us has when the energy of mindfulness is active in us.
Thich Nhat Hanh:
The Buddha said that every one of us has an island within, an island of peace and
stability within, and we should practice so that we can profit from the existence of
that island within ourselves. When he was eighty, the Buddha knew that he was
going to pass away in a few months, and he knew that his disciples were going to
miss him. During the last six months, around the city of Vaisali, he used to talk to the
monks and the nuns about taking refuge within yourself. The expression is atadipa.
Ata means self, dipa means island. When you go back to that island, you experience
peace and stability. The Buddha is there, the Dharma is there, and the Sangha is
We can describe the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as forms of energy.
Mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps us to be really there in the present
moment, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps us to
touch life deeply in the present moment. Buddha is my mindfulness, shining near,
shining far. So when you have the energy of mindfulness in yourself, the Buddha is
present, and light is there. With mindfulness you can see the situation more clearly,
and you know exactly what to do and what not to do. We know that the practice of
mindful breathing can maintain your mindfulness alive as long as you wish. Or the
practice of walking meditation can also maintain mindfulness alive as long as you
wish. So you might like to keep the Buddha with you, to invite him to stay with you
as long as you like, by the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful
sitting. Because that is an energy for your protection.
Buddha is not an abstract idea, Buddha is something very real. Your Buddha nature is your capacity of being mindful, calm and concentrated. So you have confidence in the Buddha, because you know that you are capable of generating the energy of mindfulness in you. What makes a Buddha a Buddha is the energy of mindfulness. Mindfulness carries within itself the energy of calm concentration, and if mindfulness is there for some time, insight is born. That is why mindfulness, concentration and insight go together.
So, in your island you have the Buddha. Visualize a beautiful island within yourself,
with beautiful trees, clear streams of water, birds, all your ancestors, spiritual or
blood, and you can encounter the Buddha, you can take the hand of the Buddha and
walk on that island. It is possible. When you are mindful you are a Buddha at the
same time. Taking the hand of the Buddha and walking is something you can do
Be an island unto yourself. “As an island unto myself, Buddha is my mindfulness,
shining near, shining far. Dharma is my breathing, guarding body and mind.” The
Dharma is there in the island, and I can deeply touch the Dharma inside of me. The
Dharma not as a talk, not as a book, but the living Dharma; because when you
practice mindful breathing, you are generating the living Dharma, the Dharma that
does not need words. When you are practicing mindfulness of breathing or walking,
you yourself become the living Dharma. When we see you, we see the Dharma. And
if you teach, you don’t teach with your mouth, you teach with your body, your
breath, your steps. So the living Dharma is something real, not something abstract.
You can afford to have the Dharma anytime you want, available twenty-four hours a
day, if you care to touch it. Dharma is my breathing, protecting body and mind.
Because mindful breathing helps mindfulness to stay alive. The energy of
mindfulness is an energy of protection. …
First of all the five elements within us — form, feelings, perceptions, mental
formations, and consciousness, the five Skandhas–may be in disharmony with each
other when you don’t practice. Illnesses, disease, are born when the five elements are
in contradiction, in disharmony. But when you begin to practice mindfulness of
breathing, the energy of mindfulness generated from the practice of mindful
breathing begins to reorganize the Five Elements. The Five Elements begin to come
together and operate in harmony, and that is a Sangha, the Sangha within. Sangha
means harmony, a community living in harmony. So we look into our person, and we
recognize the five elements of our person. The physical aspect is form, and then there
are the feelings, the perceptions, the mental formations and the consciousnesses.
Under the supervision and the guidance of mindful breathing the Five Elements
begin to come together and operate in harmony. Your territory begins to be surveyed
by mindfulness, and you know how to restore peace and harmony within your
kingdom of the Five Elements. The Sangha is inside, it is not only around you, but it
is inside. Therefore, when you go back to the island of self with mindfulness, you
have a wonderful refuge. In difficult moments, you should be able to dwell in
security in that kind of island. Make it available, learn to enjoy and to make use of
that island within yourself. That is the recommendation made by Buddha when he
source: The Island of Self