All We Have Is This Moment
Past and future veil God from our sight;
burn up both of them with fire.
Rumi, The Masnavi
Rinzai, a great Zen Master, asked his students, “What is lacking at this instant?” Likewise, if we were to close our eyes and reflect on what is lacking at this present moment, our answer should be “nothing”. Simply being conscious of the moment makes everything perfect. The instant our thoughts stray, a lot of things seem to be missing; a lot of tasks are yet to be done.
This great Zen Master was trying to explain that in life, all that we really have is this moment. In this moment, there are no problems, no desires and consequently, no suffering. Outside this moment, the past reappears before our eyes and the future projects what lies ahead of us. This activity fuels our ambitions and desires. And as a result, our fears of possible obstacles constantly keep us on edge.
There is a saying in Buddhism: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Descartes distinctively put it, “I think, therefore I am.” If our thoughts make us who we are today, and if our mind tells us that we exist, then our existence is no less than our ego – the image we project of who we think we are – the ego of being this or that, or of having this or that.
By remembering the past and projecting into the future, by dwelling on our problems and desires through our habit of compulsive thinking, we feed and strengthen our ego.
The mind is such that it constantly thinks of the past and worries about the future. It runs in all directions away from the present moment. The truth is that the past is gone and the future is uncertain. Only the present is our reality. If we were to stay in the present moment and observe our mind, what is the next thought that would come in? We would realize that there are no thoughts, and consequently there is no image of who we are. We would be left with simply being in the present. This is where our true happiness lies. The instant we go outside this moment, all our problems begin to surface and we start to suffer.
How often have we had a meal without savouring what we were eating, or sat down to talk to our children or spouse without listening to what they were saying, or even sat in satsang having told ourselves in advance that this time we would keep our eyes open and listen attentively, and still not really absorbed anything? Our thoughts are constantly elsewhere. And yet everything happens at the present moment. Nothing will ever happen in the past; nor will anything ever happen in the future; it will always happen now – in the present.
It is impossible for us to do or to think something outside the present moment. When we remember, it is always in the now. When we think about the future, it is always in the now. When the future catches up, it is always in the present moment.
It is for this reason that the Masters encourage us to practise meditation every single day, regularly and punctually. Meditation trains us to be in the moment. It trains us to be conscious of being here and now. In this way, the mind cannot lure us into thinking meaningless thoughts of the future and thus make our lives miserable. Maharaj Charan Singh used to say:
When you close your eyes, you are normally automatically here at the eye centre … being there, you do the simran…. As long as your attention is there in the darkness, you are there, but when you start thinking about all the problems of the world, you are not there, whether you see the darkness or something else. When your attention is there, you are there. If your attention is not there, you are not there.
Die to Live
He is simply telling us that whenever we are not in the moment, when we are not ‘there’, we generally submit to problems in life. And this is because we are not in a state of being of who we truly are. When we are not there, in the moment, our ego takes over. In Living Meditation, the author explains that if we are attentive to the present moment, we become fully alive as our consciousness reaches out far beyond the limitations of our ego. The ego needs problems to exist. It needs the past and the future. So, if we stay in the present moment, the ego cannot survive, and we will naturally lead a happier life.
We don’t want to make the best use of the present moment. If we make this moment happy, our past automatically becomes happy, and we have no time to worry about the future. So we must take life as it comes and spend it happily. Every moment should be spent happily. And simran helps.
Die to Live
It is not wrong to have goals in life or to plan for the future. As seekers on this path, to experience the Shabd in this life is our primary goal. So rearranging our whole lifestyle to complement meditation is our foremost plan.
Being conscious of the moment teaches us to accept life as it comes. It teaches us to do our very best in every situation. It teaches us to be content. Gradually, we are moving out of the mind, and moving into our nature, our true being. The soul is pure consciousness. Therefore, being conscious is being who we truly are – the soul. Hence, in One Being One it is written: “The reality is, ‘I am, therefore I think’.”
So when we sit in meditation, we should try to be in the present, relish it and simply sit without any expectations. Submit to him and be with him. The idea here is to be so absorbed in the darkness that we become oblivious of our surroundings, but at the same time, conscious that Master is with us in that darkness.
A seeker once asked Maharaj Charan Singh, “What are the penalties when one misses a day of meditation?” And he replied: “We have missed the opportunity. What greater penalty can there be? When a lover misses the beloved, that in itself is a penalty; and to a real lover, it is the greatest penalty not to be able to be with the Beloved.”
Likewise, when love finally unlocks the door, would we want to miss this priceless opportunity and be elsewhere in our thoughts, somewhere around the globe, musing over our chat with a friend? Or would we want to be there, ready to be received by our Beloved? To experience an opportunity of a lifetime, all we have is this moment.